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Review: ‘Pokemon Brilliant Diamond,’ ‘Shining Pearl’ are remakes done right

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Published in Science & Technology News

Every “Pokemon” fan has a favorite generation, and that’s often based on the iteration they played as a kid. A distinct nostalgia colors the memory of the games, so that the first experience in the world of pocket monsters is the one that’s held in the highest regard.

I’ve never been in that situation because I jumped on the “Pokemon” train later in life. If there was effort I adored most, it would be “Pokemon Go,” which isn’t part of the main series. It was only recently that I played through most of the main series, and over time, I’ve learned to appreciate the franchise’s improvements.

That brings me and fans to the latest remakes — “Pokemon Brilliant Diamond” and “Pokemon Shining Pearl.” The two games are based on projects that were released in 2007 on the Nintendo DS. I didn’t spend enough time with originals to appreciate them, so I come to these games with fresh eyes. At first glance, modernizing the games presented peculiar challenges to the developers at ILCA, the studio that brought the game to the Nintendo Switch.

TAKING ADVANTAGE OF TECHNOLOGY

Thankfully, the team came up with clever solutions that take advantage of the modern console’s power and capabilities. “Brilliant Diamond” and “Shining Pearl” aren’t reimaginations of their predecessors; instead, they hew close to the originals. ILCA gives the remakes a facelift by transforming the sprite-based graphics into polygons.

Despite the graphical changes, the games retain their charm thanks to the cutesy, Chibi-style art. The switch to polygons also improves the level of visual detail, as the improved hardware lets the developers accurately reflect Pokemon off water and create more detail in the world. Elsewhere, the combat sequences are lovingly animated with fresh flourishes and effects that make the battles feel more visceral.

 

While it looks new, “Brilliant Diamond” and “Shining Pearl” retain the core gameplay and their quirks. Players adventure through the Sinnoh region, catching and taming creatures so that they can use them in battles. They battle troublemakers in Team Galactic, who are trying to use the powers of Pokemon for their own nefarious ends. At the same time, players will have to fill out a Pokedex and battle gym leaders in order to enter the Pokemon League and challenge the champion, Cynthia.

SO-SO PLOT, GREAT LORE

The story lines aren’t the best in the series and follow the same narrative beats as other entries. On the other hand, the Sinnoh region itself has more fascinating lore than other chapters because of its primacy in the “Pokemon” hierarchy, which has Arceus as the creator of the universe. The stories of the legendary and mythical Pokemon that players encounter are woven together to create a more fully realized world compared to other chapters.

Although “Brilliant Diamond” and “Shining Pearl” stick close to the path of the originals, the remakes take advantage of several gameplay refinements made over the past few years to make the experience more fun and less of a hassle. First off, HM moves are no longer tied to a specific Pokemon. Players can use them on the fly to overcome obstacles on the map. This opens up space on a team and cuts down on the need to backtrack to grab a specific Pokemon. ILCA also includes Fairy types, which were introduced later in the series, to this version. This change balances out the overwhelming powers of the Dragon- and Dark-type Pokemon in the campaign and brings in new wrinkles that veterans of the original must account for.

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