Pokemon Pearl/Diamond Review
Ever since the release of the famed Blue and Red versions on the Game Boy in 1998, Pokemon has been a wild success. The popular license has spawned card games, television shows, spin-offs, and sequels to the original games. It’s been a good two years since anyone has had a true Pokemon experience, but with the release of Diamond and Pearl on the Nintendo DS the wait is finally over.
Taking on the role as a male or female trainer in the brand new region of Sinnoh, you set out to become the best trainer in the land. But that’s not without some roadblocks in your way. You’ll need to clear eight Gyms all with their own Gym Leader, fight rivals, and deal with a new menace by the name of Team Galactic who desires to reface the surface of the world. So grab your Pokeballs and fire up that Pokedex, its time to become the best and save the world while you’re at it.
Lets face it, the Pokemon franchise is not known for its story so expect more of the same. While Team Galactic’s part, especially their leader Cyrus’s, makes for a pleasantly menacing background, they don’t do enough with it. It’s over before you know it and just as in previous titles, you’ll find yourself pushing through the rest of the Gym Leaders in a very uneventful manner. Though that endeavor can last you well over 60 hours, it would have been nice if they added more spice to an otherwise stagnant and forgettable story.
As expected, the core gameplay for Pokemon has not changed. You carry around a max of six Pokemon, every type has a certain weakness to another, and each can have up to four moves in their arsenal. Pokemon also still evolve and gain new abilities as they achieve experience from battling. While it can be fun for a time, it all ends in tedium. Pokemon still learn absolutely useless moves and unless you’re a Pokefreak it’s almost impossible to understand how some Pokemon evolve unless you look it up online. For example, there are kinds who only evolve if you have a specific Pokemon in your party, level at a certain time of the day, or are given a special item found in the world. While this sounds deep and intriguing it can be downright frustrating.
One major catch is Pearl and Diamond introduce over 100 new kinds of Pokemon, making the grand total close to 500. It also introduces a day/night cycle and certain Pokemon can only be caught during those times. Each version also has Pokemon exclusive to it, so if you’ve “gotta catch ‘em all” you’ll need to trade via the new Wi-Fi system. This new online functionality is a welcome addition to the series and makes for a fun time battling or trading with people all around the world. It’s pretty easy to set up but it’s bogged down by the increasingly annoying friend codes. If you don’t already know, friend codes are a unique set of numbers that identify you. No one will be able to connect to you unless they have your unique code, but at least you can still trade anonymously with the public.
Graphically, Pokemon isn’t too impressive. The visuals are noticeably upgraded, but they retain much of what they looked like on the older hand-helds. Fortunately, the sound fairs better with some great new tunes along with old favorites. Unfortunately, the noises Pokemon make are all recycled from the original games. This doesn’t have an effect on the overall gameplay, but you’d think the next generation of pokemon would sound a bit better than they do.
Innovation isn’t what Pokemon gives us, but the second screen does add a few fun aspects including the somewhat useful tool called the Poketch. The Poketch is a watch that comes with a slew of different applications you’ll discover during your adventure. While they aren’t all incredibly useful, some are decent additions (portable map, battle weaknesses) that make it useful to have around. But since the Poketch cannot be displayed in battle, the second screen allows you to see and select all your Pokemon’s abilities and items via the stylus. That’s around the extent of the DS touch features. Though they’re not exactly ground-breaking, it does add a flavorful new taste to rather old insipid gameplay.While Diamond and Pearl bring a variety of new Pokemon and touch features to the series, it can’t hide the fact that the game hardly differs from previous titles. Even so, its lack of innovation and change won’t stop Pokemaniacs from gobbling it up. As for the rest, if you’ve caught them all before, there’s really no need for you to catch them again.