Monday, May 1

Pokemon Diamond/Pearl Review

I played on: Nintendo DS
I paid: £48.50 (eBay)
Available on: Nintendo DS
Notes: Screenshots are from external YouTube gameplay videos, as recording DS footage is beyond my means. You can find my Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire Review here.

Pokémon Diamond and Pearl are the 4th generation of the Pokémon series. This was the first Pokémon game on the DS, meaning it had much more impressive tech than the GameBoy and GB Advance consoles. Did it use that boost in power to its advantage, or did the 4th generation drop the ball?

The basic gameplay is the same as the previous 3 entries in the series. You collect and battle magical creatures known as Pokémon. This combat takes the form of turn-based combat, similar to a lot of classic RPGs. While the RPG mechanics are simple on the surface, utilising a Rock, Paper, Scissors type system, they hide a surprising amount of depth once you start to understand everything. This is amazing as casual fans or younger players can jump into the games and enjoy the fantastic world. Those long-time older players can also min/max stats, use certain moves that buff or debuff certain types or moves, give Pokémon useful items to hold, and so on. 

Outside of the combat, you have the world that slowly grants you more access to it as you progress on your adventure. This is typically done via special moves known as TMs and HMs that can be taught to any Pokémon with the correct typing. For example, you might be blocked from progressing to a particular area or town via a body of water. Eventually, you will obtain the HM move Surf which can only be taught to Water-type Pokémon. Once you’ve taught this move to a Water-type Pokémon, you can jump onto the back of your PokéFriend and swim across the water together.

These HMs suffer from the problems I outlined in detail during my Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire review. To avoid repeating myself completely, I’ll only briefly summarise the issue here, but if you want a more in-depth look at this problem, follow the link in the Notes section above to find my previous review. During the first 6 generations of Pokémon, you had to use HMs to progress further across the map. You’re only allowed a maximum of 6 Pokémon in your team at once, and each can only learn up to 4 moves. This means you have a maximum of 24 moves across your entire team. You will require 8 HMs to reach the Elite Four and finish the game during Pearl and Diamond. This means the total number of free moves drops from 24 to 16. On top of that, certain HMs such as Surf or Fly require you to have a Water or Flying-type Pokémon on your team. This restricts you even further. Limiting the player like this feels outdated compared to the series’ newer games. While I will always have a nostalgic love for HMs, they are an obsolete part of the series.

One of the biggest single problems that older Pokémon games have is grinding. Sadly Pearl and Diamond are no exception to this. Unlike modern games in the series that distribute EXP between your team equally after every victory, the Gen 4 games rely on you levelling each Pokémon individually. This massively extends the time needed to level your party up before taking on each of the more challenging battles. Gen 3 introduced the EXP share item for Pokémon to hold. Any Pocket Monster holding onto this goodie will earn half of the EXP earned in battles without participating. This helps with the grind but only by a little. It means you can level 2 Pokémon at once, which is fantastic. The drawback is that it doubles the number of battles you must engage in, making it almost useless.

Similar to the gameplay, the story in Pearl is very similar to the earlier 3 generations. You live in a small town in the world of Pokémon until you meet a friendly professor that lets you pick 1 of 3 starter Pokémon to begin your adventure with. From there, you explore the local region, taking down a criminal team, becoming the regional champion and completing the regional PokéDex for the professor. This time, you will explore the Sinnoh region, one of my favourites in the series. Sinnoh has many connections to the origins of the Pokémon world and the God/s that birthed the world in the first place. That’s what I love about this region and the story of Pearl and Diamond. It’s a creation myth story and very interesting for lore nerds like myself. This whole story would be expanded in Pokémon Platinum 2 years later. That’s not to say that the story in Diamond and Pearl is lacking because it’s not. It’s just that Platinum is the definitive way to experience the story.

Lastly, we have amazing graphics. The combination of 3D models for larger objects, such as buildings and caves, with 2D sprites for characters and Pokémon looks fantastic. The world has so much more depth than the previous 3 games, and it just pops in the best way. This beautiful marriage between 2D and 3D would be perfected in the next generation’s games, but Diamond and Pearl still stand up as one of the series' better-looking games.

Overall, Pokémon Diamond and Pearl continue the series’ steady improvement but still feel lacking next to the more modern games. If you want to explore the Sinnoh region, you’re better off going with Pokémon Platinum or the remakes of this game, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. If you’re after an in-depth look at the Pokémon world’s creation myth, then you’re better off playing Pokémon Legends Arceus. If you’re after a classic bit of retro Pokémon action, Diamond and Pearl are among the best of the bunch, so they’re worth the attention.

Recommendation Rating: 7 out of 10.

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