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Monday, November 29, 2021

Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl review: faithful but lacking sparkle

Sinnoh, where Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are set, has always been one of the most unusual regions in the entire Pokémon universe. Mythology and lore suffuse every crevice; in one location you find what is ostensibly a Pokémon church, while the region’s toughest trainer is an archaeologist focused on ancient legends. 

But it’s also completely wacky. The baddies dress as astronauts and their ultimate plan is to corrupt time and space to remake the world in their image. The kindly Pokémon professors of previous games are replaced with a cranky grouch. Your rival rushes around constantly bumping into things. The whole map is layered on top of a series of underground caverns where you can go spelunking and hunting for treasure. 

The Pokémon themselves are great too, some of the finest designs in the series history, and this is one of the few titles in the series where older ‘mon get updated with new evolutions and ways of playing with them. 

Playing the remakes was like climbing onto the back of Dialga (the time-controlling beast on the box of Brilliant Diamond) and hurtling back to 2007 to open the toy box of my childhood. Everything that made me fall in love with these games the first time is here, waiting to be unpacked and played with again. 

The trouble is there’s practically nothing else. These are, in all the ways that count, exactly the same games as released in 2007 with a fresh coat of paint. Sure, there are slight tweaks, the Fairy-type which was only introduced two generations on from the original Diamond and Pearl is here, as are some of the newer moves, and items, and the opportunity to change your trainer’s outfit to one of a few preset designs, but for all intents and purposes, it’s like the last 15 years of Pokémon never happened. 

So far as I could tell there was no sign whatsoever of any of the 400-odd Pokémon which have been added to the series since the originals came out, there were no new areas to discover, no new twists to the story, even the dialogue remains exactly the same. It’s a shot-for-shot remake of the originals. And while there’s an undeniable nostalgia factor, it does all just feel a bit pointless. 

There are some new additions, but they’re thin. The underground tunnels have been expanded so now you can catch some new creatures in them, a fine but unimaginative addition. There’s also the new Exp. Share item which levels up your team more evenly, though that has the unintended consequence of causing your Pokémon to be massively over-levelled within the first few hours, making the rest of the game pitifully easy. 

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