Sunday, December 12, 2021

Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl Review

Developer: ILCA
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Switch
Price: $60

Before Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl were announced, there was a lot of excitement for Gen 4 remakes, and with good reason, some of the best games in the Pokémon series have been remakes. That hype really died down once Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl were finally revealed, though. Previous Pokémon remakes had graphics on par with the latest generation, added new content, and even featured new Pokémon which were not available in the originals. That's not the case with Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. These games are about as safe and unsurprising as remakes get.

The main thing that killed my hype for BDSP was its graphics. BDSP doesn't have cinematic camera angles, like Sword and Shield, or a 3rd person camera, like SwSh’s expansions. Instead, it has a slightly angled top-down camera perspective, just like the DS games did. That’s disappointing because I really wanted to see how Sinnoh would look if it was made in the style of SwSh. The only time we get to see the overworld from a different angle is during cutscenes, and I almost wish it didn’t do that because that’s when you really see how ugly this game looks up close.
BDSP's textures are embarrassingly bad. They are very low in detail and in a very low resolution on top of that. The lines on character's faces look like they use a total of 1 pixel sometimes. The same goes for the background textures. And as if the textures weren't blurry enough, there's an ugly depth of field effect that kicks in around the back of the screen and around the front of the screen if something is high up and close to the camera, like a building. I guess they're trying to go for a cinematic look, like the Link’s Awakening remake, but BDSP isn’t going for that realistic toy-like look to begin with. It’s overdone and looks ridiculous during cutscenes when the camera switches to cinematic angles. The actual performance of the game is fine for a Switch game. It's 720p and 30 FPS, just like SwSh.
I'm not a fan of the chibi character art style they use in the overworld either. I get that they're trying to mimic the style of the older games, but this isn't how they looked. These characters look more like Nendoroid figures. I think something more like how Ness looks in Smash Bros would look much more like the old sprites. The proportion of the environments does capture the look of the original games, though. The battles look fine, at least. They use the same Pokémon models as always, alongside regular anime proportioned characters that look very similar to SwSh's.
The music in BDSP is really good. It’s one of the best parts of the game. It’s the same songs as in the DS game, except in much higher quality and played with real instruments. Diamond and Pearl have one of the best and most memorable soundtracks in the series and it sounds better than ever here. I absolutely love the Jubifile City theme. It’s one of the first songs that comes to mind when I think of Pokémon music. The remixed classic Gym and Battle themes also sound fantastic.

If you can get past the graphics, there's a solid old-school Pokémon game here. This remake is basically the DS game with only a few of the most annoying things removed or updated. For example, there's no need to teach HMs to a Pokémon, you can access the PC from anywhere, and the judge function is available. HMs work kind of like they do in newer games; you just get the move and some Pokémon will come in to help when you use it. In this game, it's usually a Bidoof because Bidoofs were the designated HM users of D&P, and they just won't stop with the Bidoofs until they've run this meme into the ground.
On the other hand, random battles are back and the encounter rate is pretty high, so you'll probably want to stock up on Repels. I definitely haven’t missed that. The only place you can see wild Pokémon running around is in the Underground. There are also no XP boost items, the move deleter is only in 1 town, and Heart Scales are required to remember moves. Completely customizing a Pokémon and leveling it to 100 is much harder here than it is in SwSh. So much so that I don't think I'll bother with it. There's no going back to the old grindy Pokémon training for me.
The actual journey through the story is as Pokémon as ever. You battle tons of trainers on your way to the next town and battle even more trainers in the Gyms while collecting the 8 badges. There’s no overbearing story or sappy characters, which I appreciate, and there's a bunch of Legendary Pokémon to catch in the postgame. There's nothing new or mysterious about it, but if you like catching ‘em all and being the very best, like no one ever was, you'll probably enjoy playing through it.
I have a complete Pokédex in Pokémon Home, so I’m not really looking for any specific Pokémon, but it’s worth noting that there’s a bunch of Pokémon in BDSP that are not available in Sword and Shield. Most Gen 1-4 Pokémon are obtainable in either Brilliant Diamond or Shining Pearl, so if you’re looking for any of those, this will be the easiest way to get them into your Home collection. I think only a few mythical Pokémon, like Celebi, Darkrai, and Arceus are missing as of right now. Maybe they’ll be added in through Mystery Gifts, though, or maybe they’ll wait until Legends Arceus.
I should also mention that this game doesn't have support for Pokémon Home yet. Last I heard, it'll be patched in some time in 2022, after Pokémon Legends Arceus is released. A lot of the trading and battling features from SwSh are also missing here. There are local and online rooms where you can trade and battle and that's it. No Battle Stadium, Surprise Trades, or Raids of any kind here. Also, there is no GTS here because that's a Home feature now.
There is still quite a lot to do in the postgame here, even without those things. I just don’t want to do much of it. I’ve already caught ‘em all, so I don’t need any of the legendaries for my collection, and training Pokémon here is way too much work. The majority of the post-game legendaries are also tied to stuff in the Underground. You have to play a mining minigame to get stones, which are the currency you use to buy the pedestals, which you use to summon the legendaries in another location. I don’t really like the underground. I spent hours there and I only found 3 spots to mine, so I just gave up on it. The progression was too slow and I’m just not that interested.
I had fun going through the story and revisiting Sinnoh before diving into Pokémon Legends Arceus, and I loved the music, but that’s really all I got out of this game. This is definitely not going to replace SwSh as the main Pokémon game, and I don’t think it’s meant to. It’s not a bad game, but it’s just too old-school for its own good. I’m not going to spend hours training Pokémon here when I can do the same thing in 10 minutes in SwSh. But if you’re one of those people who thinks Pokémon was better before they "dumbed it down for casuals", maybe you'll love this.