Another generation and another set of Pokemon remakes are now in our hands. Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl take the 2008 DS game and pull it into the future as it finds its new home on the Nintendo Switch. Historically Pokemon remakes have not just brought these older titles into the new generation, but also iterate on the original with additional features, updated graphics, and some have even had new storylines. Just how much is different with the release of Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl?
In Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl players set out from their hometown with a pokemon by their side and an empty Pokedex given to them by Professor Rowan. Like all other Pokemon games exploration and seeing all the pokemon the Sinnoh region has to offer is the goal. Throughout your adventure to become the very best you continue to spend time with Dawn, professor Rowan's assistant, and Barry, your named hometown rival. The destination is the same as always but Sinnoh gives quite the journey along the way.
Each town you visit along the way is bustling with life, even those towns that don't have a Pokemon Gym you'll normally find some other interesting aspect or person to talk to, like Foaroma Town's Team Galactic infested Valley Windworks. Sinnoh might have a number of smaller towns peppered between routes but for story pacing, it always helps you feel as if you're constantly finding progression.
On your journey, you'll have a number of instances encountering Team Galactic Grunts, as well as a few run-ins with Cyrus, the leader of Team Galactic. This all culminates around the sixth gym as you set out to try to protect the Lake Guardians from around Sinnoh and stop the legendary time/space pokemon from destroying the world. While Pokemon Emerald had you visiting locations like the Sky Tower to calm the rage of Groudon and Kyogre, the use of the Lake Trio and their relationship to Dialga and Palkia is a great way to involve the players deeper into the history and legends of the Sinnoh region, as well as the geography.
If you've already played Pokemon Diamond and Pearl at any time in the past 13 years though the story is identical, and there is no additional "Delta Episode" style post-game story. If you're a fan of what Pokemon Diamond and Pearl had to initially offer then guess what? You get to experience that again in higher fidelity, but if the story of the original game didn't shift you then don't expect these remakes to do much more.
The post-game content that is available is absolutely fantastic. Even after beating the game, you've got plenty still to do. You'll have a chance to experience multiple small storylines culminating in meeting legendary Pokemon, a new cave system to explore in the form of Mt. Stark, the Battle Tower, and the new Ramanas Park. These legendary Pokemon stories really stick out in my mind from the original. The addition of high-level regions and secrets unlocking around the Sinnoh Region after obtaining the National Dex is a fantastic way to push the players to explore the world. For those who enjoy collecting Pokemon, there are more to find, for those wanting to explore the new island gives more for players to see, and for those who enjoy competitive battling then the Battle Tower is just what you want.
Another original feature from Pokemon Diamond and Pearl that makes an enhanced return is the Underground, now called the Grand Underground. What felt almost like a proof of concept demo location to create a secret base, mine for stones and other shiny rocks, and play capture the flag with your friends now feels like a complete product. The Grand Underground contains within it 'Wild Area' style rooms where you can encounter different Pokemon. As you dig you can find Pokemon statues that will alter what appears in your biomes. The time that players invest in the Grand Underground exploring and digging for items is immediately refunded to the player as high-level Pokemon encounters.
The Pokemon battles are as you expect, being heavily modeled after the Sword and Shield layout. Quality of life changes like being able to see the effectiveness of moves returns and is a welcome addition. While the Exp All is always active playing through Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl you'll still end up at the elite four with a challenge on your hands. The Elite Four now have an improved strategy and use held items to give players a real challenge. Sure you could just keep leveling up your starter until they're practically invincible but these battles will leave you with a sense of pride and reward as you become the Sinnoh Pokemon league champion.
Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl has received graphical and audio upgrades but interestingly chose to stick with a chibi art style that is more faithful to the original game, as opposed to characters being full-sized humans. It does add to the nostalgia of playing that everything seems as it was but there are also some elements of this that don't work too well. The world is also 1:1 recreated but now that the player character doesn't move in a grid system getting through a 'one square' wide gap can sometimes give you trouble, leaving you caught on the lip of a pathway.
Where it also falters is in cutscenes. The effects that flow around Dialga/Palkia during their appearance scene on Mt. Coronet are gorgeous, rainbow lights in the sky, and the dominance of the legendary Pokemon's gargantuan form in the sky. Then the camera pans down to the evil, but chibi, Cyrus who is announcing his plans for world destruction, and a lot of the emphasis is lost. Some swapping between the full-sized battle models of trainers and the chibi overworld sprites could have been used to help those serious moments maintain their momentum.
While we've received plenty of Pokemon remakes through the years Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are by far the most faithful. If you enjoyed the original game then you'll also enjoy this, but by not playing it you also aren't going to be missing out on anything you haven't already experienced. What quality of life and improvements there are, like those to the Grand Underground, are done really well to keep you interested in the game whether it be hunting for new pokemon or cruising through the story. If you've played the original and it didn't resound with you then there's unfortunately not going to be much here for you.
TechRaptor reviewed Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl on Nintendo Switch with a code purchased by the reviewer.
- Great Sinnoh Story
- Best Pokemon Post-Game
- Quality of Life Changes
- Competitive challenges
- Grid System Woes
- Chibi style breaks seriousness