Review: Pokémon Brilliant Diamond for Nintendo Switch

pokemon brilliant diamond art

Return to Sinnoh and relive Generation IV with Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl remakes on Nintendo Switch. With a new chibi art style and an expanded Grand Underground, can these remakes outperform their original DS counterparts? Unfortunately, for the veteran player, this is more of a poffin foul than a perfect one.

2007 was a simpler time. It was the year that Apple announced its first iPhone, The Witcher was released on PC, and the first Assassin’s Creed was released by Ubisoft. In the tech and gaming worlds, 2007 was seen as a rock year for the industry, delivering hit after hit in gaming, including the fourth generation of Pokémon games for the Nintendo DS: Diamond and Pearl. Like many other veteran Pokémon fans, I’ve been playing this franchise since their first generation (Red, Blue, and Yellow) – and haven’t missed a generation since. It makes me harder to please, I guess, when Nintendo and The Pokémon Company remake games that I played many times in my childhood.

Originally developed by Game Freak in 2007, Pokémon Diamond and Pearl were excellent – and were only surpassed by Platinum, the last game of the generation. Platinum has addressed many grievances faced by fans, with gameplay improvements and fixes, such as the creation of Poffin, a “back” button on the Pokétch app, new Pokémon to capture and new areas to visit such as that the world of distortion. So it’s a shame that many of these upgrades aren’t included in Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. As with the Pokémon franchise lately, the games seem to be taking one step forward and two steps back.

Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are unfortunately no exception to this rule. While the storyline and post-content remains intact (thankfully), many elements of the original games have been changed for the worse in the remakes. It’s a shame that ILCA, the development team that took the reins of Game Freak for Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, couldn’t boost the game to new heights. Even the cutesy chibi art style, which is aesthetically stunning, seems so far removed from the dark intentions of the script. For example, it’s hard for Cyrus – the big boss of Team Galactic – to look menacing like a cute but scary Funko Pop when he puts an end to human civilization.

Artistic style aside, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl also suffer from some weirdly bizarre and inconsistent changes in gameplay. For example, experience sharing – the way the game shares your Pokémon team’s experience consistently – is now always on by default and can’t be turned off. While veteran players have the wherewithal to make the game more difficult (nuzlocke, minimum number of coach fights, etc.), coaches, gym leaders and the Elite Four have not been rebalanced to accommodate this change in difficulty. As a result, a player’s Pokémon levels are significantly skewed, sometimes increasing by 10 levels or more.

With the difficulty level unchanged, this leads to another serious issue: friendship. Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl half-heartedly embraced the Friendship of Generation VI (X & Y, Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire), meaning that combat effects like surviving on 1HP and breaking status effects, are now a factor. functionality in remakes. Combat dialogue was also included, much to the frustration of speed runners. While on the surface, these changes seem to emphasize the “hot fuzzies” associated with the Pokémon series, the challenge that remained becomes virtually nonexistent. Of course, these changes make the series very accessible to young players. So while all may be lost for veterans, young people will find comfort in their ease.

Unfortunately for the remakes, the inconsistency with the gameplay continues. The contests – now called Super Contest Shows – have been reduced so that very little strategy remains. In the originals there were three distinct elements (visual, rhythm and acting) but, in the remakes, rhythm is the only element that remains, with the visual relegated to bullet capsule effects (stickers) and the Pokémon condition (via poffins) instead of fun accessories. The acting element has been merged somewhat into the rhythm mini-game, allowing players to perform movement during the performance. However, you can play online with others in Super Contest Shows, which is a fun local and wireless multiplayer feature.

To help players visually attract judges to Super Contest Shows, Pokémon must be fed poffins to increase their star quality. On DS, poffin making was definitely an art. Players had to use their stylus and the touchscreen to mix the dough clockwise and counterclockwise – without spilling or burning it – to produce a perfect poffin. Now the Switch uses the analog stick to control the dough, eliminating the use of the touchscreen altogether. With limited flexibility in its controls, this means that the making of poffins is dirtier rather than fairer.

Fortunately, great changes have been made to Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. Although rare, improvements such as the introduction of a Hidden Move app for Pokétch eliminate the need for your team to learn HMs, as well as the ability for a Pokémon on your team to follow you and dodge you. ‘interact with you in the overworld. Additionally, the Grand Underground expansion, which now encompasses the entire Sinnoh region, is a great addition to the game.

In fact, the Grand Underground isn’t just the biggest expansion in the remakes, it’s also gotten a redesign. Now, there are areas known as Pokémon Hideaways, where you can visually encounter and see Pokémon in their natural habitats. These biomes are beautifully presented in both handheld and docked mode, with the dynamism particularly glowing on the OLED model. From flaming alcoves to bountiful rivers and lakes, they’re exquisite for strolling inside. You can still dig spheres here too, but instead of furniture, dolls, and traps, players can now uncover statues and purchase pedestals to display in their secret bases. A downgrade for some, perhaps. Another classic case where the Pokémon series takes one step forward and two steps back.

Outside of the gameplay and in terms of the overall user experience, the remakes feel a bit disheveled. Upgrading the D-pad to a multi-directional format is certainly a technical challenge. So while running is fun and smooth, riding the bike is awkward and, at times, incredibly frustrating. However, the combat animations are fantastic, with no visual framerate drop as seen in the latest games. And although the main menu screen seems a bit cramped at first, it doesn’t take long to get used to the new setup, with the autosave feature a nice addition.

As it stands, Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are faithful remakes in terms of storyline and post-content material. However, there are some real issues here with the game’s level balancing, clean content, and overall user experience not going unnoticed. There is no denying that these games are always enjoyable, especially for young people who have not experienced the originals. But for veterans longing for a polished remake, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are a disaster.


A review copy of Pokémon Diamond has been provided to My Nintendo News by Nintendo UK.

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