Nintendo showed us around Sinnoh's new look and so far so good.
A lot can be said about everyone’s personal preferences about different Pokemon generations, but regardless of any sort of ranking, Pokemon Diamond and Pearl hold a special place in my video game-playing heart. Debuting in 2007, my purchase of Pokemon Pearl on DS was the first time I was there at launch for a mainline Pokemon game since the originals. Of course, the timing could have been better for my scholastic career. They came out in April in North America and I bought it the week it came out as I was just about to embark on final exams for my college semester. I do not have a strong memory of whatever paper I wrote or exam I didn’t study hard enough, but I get a lot of warm and fuzzy feelings thinking about my Pokemon journey with my Chimchar during that spring and summer.
14 years later, Pokemon Diamond and Pearl are getting the remake treatment on Nintendo Switch with Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. I had the chance to watch a gameplay demo and I came away excited to go back to Sinnoh, mostly because the new games seem to do a good job of taking the signature aspects of this generation and bring it in line with modern niceties. It’s most evident in the visuals, which might not look as flashy as Pokemon Legends but are pleasant recreations of the 2D spritework of the originals. Seeing parts of Route 208 have cloudy visual effects and nice looking water just takes the layout of the old DS games and gives it a modern look. Another aspect of the visuals that is noticeable is the fact that your player character can be customized with different outfits and most importantly, different skin tones. Non-playable characters (NPCs) also feature more variety in their skin tones, which is nice to see for a series that used to not have any options in the past.
Beyond the visuals are a wealth of gameplay enhancements. Most importantly, you no longer need to carry a Bidoof to the end game because of their HM abilities. Instead, you just use the Poketch - your fancy monochrome Pokemon Watch - to call upon a wild Pokemon to smash rocks, surf, or fly for you. The Poketch is a holdover from the original Diamond and Pearl and I love how it’s just the same janky looking digital watch that looks like it could be part of the Game & Watch line. It has a clock, a calculator, and a step counter, because sure, why not. While the clock and calculator seem charmingly useless, the built-in memo pad can actually be drawn on using the touch screen, so that has some amount of purpose.
The most notable addition to Sinnoh is likely Pokemon Hideaways and the Grand Underground. If you recall from the originals, the Underground was a series of tunnels underneath Sinnoh where you could use a bunch of DS features to dig for treasure. The spirit of that returns with the new Grand Underground. The map is wholly new and you can still use sledgehammers and pickaxes to dig for fossils and more. You can also find statues to decorate your very own Secret Base. That’s where Pokemon Hideaways come into play.
Depending on how you decorate your Secret Base, different types of Pokemon will appear in Hideaways. This can include Pokemon not found anywhere else in Sinnoh. Additionally, all of the wild Pokemon appear on the overworld in Hideaways, which is something that was in Let’s Go and Sword and Shield, but otherwise not present in this remake. It remains to be seen just how many Pokemon are added to the game through Hideaways, but this should at least add some type variety that was lacking in the original releases. Here’s hoping there are more than like three fire types now.
Like recent games in the series, the Box Anywhere feature returns, so you can seamlessly swap creatures in and out of your party no matter where you are on the map. This won’t be accessible right at the start, but apparently it shows up early on. Additionally, the Exp Share is back and while I personally enjoy having all of my party Pokemon getting some amount of experience in every battle, the Exp Share in this remake cannot be toggled on and off. An Auto-Save function can be toggled on and off, though, which will hopefully prevent any infrequent savers from losing progress.
As for the battles, they offer a nice cinematic presentation - a step up from the DS visuals of the originals. Once again, like recent games, you can see the effectiveness of attacks as you select them and you can also access Pokeballs without digging deep into your items. I’ve enjoyed this lengthy list of quality of life upgrades to Pokemon games over the past few years and it’s good to see they are largely all retained for this remake.
In the Pokedex you can view animated 3D models of every Pokemon. You can also compare the height and weight of Pokemon to your player character. This doesn’t serve any purpose other than being amusing, but it certainly is amusing. Walking with your Pokemon is similarly endearing and you can do that with any Pokemon in the overworld. You can also play with “cute” Pokemon in Amity Square. The cuteness comes out further in Super Contests, where you can feed your favorite Pokemon poffins and such to make them cute as heck and win rhythm game performance battles against other cute Pokemon. I’ll be honest: I never really touched this back in the day, but it’s cool you play it with four people here. More online functionality should be present throughout, especially in the Grand Underground, which was previously local-only back in the day.
I’ll admit that the original trailer for Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl didn’t look that interesting to me, but the more I see of this remake, the more I’m interested in returning to Sinnoh on Switch. It’s not quite Pokemon Let’s Go, but it’s also not like the typical remakes we’ve seen in the past. Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are going down a new road where they skew more faithful to the originals while not retaining the exact look and feel of the most recent generation of Pokemon. The new pair of Pokemon games is due out soon on November 19 and while I will not be playing these while taking college finals like I did the originals, I will assuredly spend my holiday season with Chimchar or Piplup. Sorry Turtwig. It’s nothing personal.