Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl Review – A Bold Return to Sinnoh
The time has finally come for us to return to the Sinnoh region in Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl on the Nintendo Switch. It has been 15 years since we were first introduced to Sinnoh and its Generation IV Pokemon, so how well did these two titles age? And did ILCA do the job right in this faithful remake?
For Pokemon fans, it probably does not matter, but for those wondering if this is a purchase worth your time and effort, I’ve got you covered. Let’s find out if Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl are the gems they claim they are.
In Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl, you start off like any other Pokemon game. You are quickly introduced to your rival, who is almost always a best friend of sorts, and this one is no different. You get to choose the name of your rival from a list, so I went with Damion. Seemed appropriate, because I personally find these rivals to be rather annoying. The rival in this game is quite squirrelly and does not seem to have any manners in the early go. Thankfully, as is always case, you and your rival grow as the game progresses, and they become less of a nuisance.
You stumble upon a briefcase with your friend/rival at the beginning, and within it are Pokeballs that contain the starters Turtwig, Chimchar, and Piplup. You pick your starter and begin your adventure! There is not a whole lot to write down when it comes to Pokemon stories, because it basically writes itself. You get your first Pokemon, you prove yourself through some means, you fight through the eight gym leaders to collect badges, and you foil the plans of evil individuals, all en route to becoming a Pokemon master.
If you have ever played a Pokemon game, then you understand that the story is mostly a placeholder for the more exciting things within, like catching Pokemon, completing your Pokedex, battling, finding shiny Pokemon, and more! In that regard, this is yet another lovely entry in the Pokemon series of games, and for the most part, this is a solid and faithful remake of the 2006 Nintendo DS classics. However, not all that glimmers is diamond and not all that is shining is pearl, because this remake does have some strange issues.
Before I move onto the issues, I want to state that Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl are great Pokemon titles, and for the most part, solid remakes of the originals. I mean, it helps that the original Diamond and Pearl were excellent, so the source material for these remakes was already well above par. Considering this is Generation 4, too, the games boast an impressive roster of Pokemon to find and catch, and many fans may find that Diamond and Pearl were the peak of the mainline Pokemon games.
With Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl, we still get those amazing Pokemon, the fun albeit generic story, and the fantastic cast of characters. Sinnoh, especially, is an excellent region with tons and tons to explore and enjoy. On top of that, Sinnoh has not looked better. It is a beautiful region with lots of fun Pokemon to find and areas to explore, and the return of Team Galactic is a nice reminder of different enemy teams with different goals, as Team Galactic is set to recreate the entire Pokemon Universe. This gives our protagonist lots of solid motivation, as it did in the originals as well.
Gameplay is your standard Pokemon affair, as getting from Point A to Point B in order to defeat gym leaders and upstage your rival become the constants. Battles with random NPCs can be a bit tedious at times, but the gym battles is where the best challenges occur in the early game. As is the case for Pokemon normally, learning about types and what is effective is key to ultimate success, and this is definitely the same for Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl. Online battling and trading, though, is locked behind a Nintendo Switch Online membership, so please keep that in mind if you are looking forward to online play.
Where things feel a bit off is the way this was remade. It is a faithful remake, sure, but it also lives between two graphical styles that just don’t blend very well. In the overworld, we have chibi versions of every character, and although cute, they are not the greatest models nor do the NPCs move naturally. Conversational moments will see characters moving stiff and rigidly towards their destination, and I get that this is a throwback to the original look and feel, but in execution, it just doesn’t look that great.
Considering the battle sequences use the more modern Sword & Shield-style character models, transitioning from chibi to more standard size and back to chibi never feels or looks good. Which is a shame, to be honest, because both styles look great on their own. When fighting random people, they comically slide onto the screen in the exact same positioning as the original games. It is only afterward that they loosen up and move more naturally, but that kind of throwback is excellent. I would have personally liked to see the entire Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl in the style of Sword & Shield, as that is when things look best. The battle sequences, too, are a huge improvement from the bland Sword & Shield backgrounds, as Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl use significantly prettier backgrounds to make the battles feel more dynamic.
Another area that does not feel good is that things have not changed at all when it comes to spawnings, type distribution, and a natural flow of order when it comes to gym battles and Team Galactic fights. In my playthrough, I chose Piplup as my starter (WATER TYPES FTW!), which was a great choice, as Piplup and their evolutionary line are quite effective throughout the entire game. However, if you do not pick Chimchar, you will not see a fire type in the game until 3-4 hours in, which can be really problematic during the Grass Gym or frequent encounters against bug and steel types that feel overwhelming in the early hours. You would think that Zubats and Bidoofs would appear the most, but in actuality, Geodude is a nightmare, as you encounter dozens and dozens and dozens of Geodudes throughout the game.
The Pokemon Super Contests is also a blander version of itself, and it lacks the character and goofiness that made it so enjoyable before. Now, it is a relatively boring rhythm game with not a whole lot to care about, which is just a shame.
Where things take a positive turn is the fact that Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl return the Pokemon series back to a more challenging experience that the past couple entries. This is a much more difficult game, but in a good way! Battles require some genuine thought, compared to the significantly easier Sword & Shield and Let’s Go games. Typing is important, and paying attention to your opponents Pokemon is a necessity. Although this remake lacks some of the more modern complexities of the newer titles, it more than makes up for it with its deep gameplay and challenging trials.
The Grand Underground also returns, and it is better than ever! This is where you can just enter a hole in the ground and go to an area beneath Sinnoh that provides all kinds of entertainment for the player. The mining is back, and the mini-game has not changed so much for the most part. It is still so enjoyable to hammer and pick-axe your way to finding gems, fossils, and other special items as you make your way through the underground. A new addition, though, happens to be the monster rooms, where real-time interactions with high level Pokemon happens. This is great for people looking for specific typings and rarer Pokemon, as you can see the Pokemon you want instead of waiting for the right random encounter.
The other fantastic thing about the underground is that it can be played locally or online with friends! Possibly one of the best online modes because of its random nature and many ways to enjoy.
At the end of the day, Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl are huge titles with tons to offer players. For starters, the main campaign takes between 20-30 hours to beat, collecting all of the Pokemon takes even longer, finding shiny Pokemon is a grand challenge in itself, and online modes like battling, trading, and exploring the Grand Underground add significantly more hours to your play. This is a very meaty title, especially when compared to the two recent Pokemon entries on the Nintendo Switch, and like I said before, this is a welcome return to a more challenging era of Pokemon.
Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shiny Pearl are both great remakes of the Nintendo DS classics. With fun little additions like decorating your ball capsules with stickers given to you from just about everyone, the ability to buy new clothes so our avatar does not look the same from start to finish, and other solid cosmetic additions, this is definitely the superior version and ILCA did a fantastic job hovering over that line of respect to the originals while also giving it their own spin.
Sure, I would have loved to see a bit more from ILCA here, but when all is said and done, this is still a wonderful Pokemon generation and this remake is definitely worth your time and money. I wish the chibi overworld was not used, but it is still adorable, even if it does not mesh well with the more Sword & Shield look of the battle scenes.
If you are a Pokemon fan and have not been to Sinnoh before, this is a no-brainer. If you have played the originals, it is honestly a toss up, because this remake might not perfectly scratch that itch for you but is still worth it. But if you are new to the series, this may be one of the best entry points for you on the Nintendo Switch because of its accessibility and solid challenge. Sinnoh has never looked better, but for crying out loud, can Geodude go into hibernation forever? I would not mind ever seeing one of those ever again.
Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl Review provided by Nintendo Link
Review also found on OpenCritic
Release Date: November 19th, 2021
Price: $59.99 each or $119.99 for both, £49.99, €59,99
Game Size: 6.7 GB each, 20 GB for the double pack
A return to a challenging Pokemon title
Great roster of Pokemon
The Grand Underground is better than ever
Chibi and newer graphics don't mesh together well
Wild spawns can be a pain at times
Pokemon Super Contests is a letdown
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My name is Jason Capp. I am a husband, father, son, and brother, and I am a gamer, a writer, and a wannabe pro wrestler. It is hard to erase the smile on this simple man.