I played most of my way through Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl feeling confident I would give it a broadly positive review. I’ve seen criticism that I understand, but don’t consider to be game-breaking.
I’ve seen people complaining that this remake is ‘too much’ like the original Pokémon Diamond and Pearl. I’m not sure I agree. I think that the release of this remake was timed well enough that I like how similar it is to the original games. Enough time has passed that I’ve forgotten a lot about the originals. I was reminded of a lot of really fun elements of this generation that I hadn’t thought about in years.
This makes it ideal as a game for adults who played the original to now play with their children. The way that Pokémon as a series manages to balance its features for children coming to the series for the first time and adults who have been playing for decades is genuinely impressive.
There were some missed opportunities to improve on the original games. For instance, the first time around, I didn’t particularly enjoy how much this generation holds your hand. Meeting people who go through Eterna Forest and Iron Island with you, healing your Pokémon after every battle, felt patronising when I was a kid and feels patronising now.
This could have been a smart way to introduce difficulty settings if you could choose not to accept their help. Part of what made the very first generation so addictive was the challenge and subsequent sense of achievement. It was factored into your strategy to spend wisely on potions when you needed them, especially when confronted with powerful trainers, for instance, at the end of the long, gruelling tunnel.
Diamond and Pearl were robbed of that by how often other characters heal your Pokémon right before a big battle, and Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl made the same mistake.
I do like what they did with the Grand Underground. It feels like an entire separate dungeon crawler underneath the main game. You can dig up fossils, stones, precious gems digging in the walls, just like the original, as well as build secret bases.
There is now a vastly more interesting map that also takes you into dungeons where you see Pokémon walking around the overworld which you can battle and catch. They are matched to the level of your most powerful Pokémon, so are great for grinding, but will also leave you somewhat overpowered if you spend too long down there too early.
The Grand Underground also offers an interactive element. You can play online or locally and see other people running around the map, but can’t really interact with them. It doesn’t feel as effectively realised as the online mode of the Wild Area is Sword and Shield.
Contests could have been brought into the story more. You get introduced to the concept and collect lots of stickers on your adventure to use in them, but they’re not tied into the narrative especially well. You can completely ignore this feature if you want and get through the whole game without it, which doesn’t feel like a positive to me.
With other side plots, you usually have to attempt them long enough to engage to progress in the story, and it feels like another missed opportunity that this is so easily slipped past.
These are disappointing, but easily overlooked for the sake of reliving childhood memories. However, what really can’t be ignored is how glitchy these games are.
I got through the story without encountering a major error, but once I noticed one, a few came in quick succession. I’ve seen screenshots of players trapped in places where they have no choice but to shut off the game to continue (assuming the autosave feature hasn’t trapped them there for good). My game forgot what I had nicknamed my Pokémon a few times and gave them a different random name. At one point, it replaced some text with code.
While this doesn’t make the game unplayable, it’s still the kind of sloppy mistake that a franchise with the money, resources, and reputation that Pokémon has shouldn’t be making.
Review: Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl (Nintendo Switch)
Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are fine enough remakes for reliving some memories and sharing them with the next generation. But beneath the glow of nostalgia, there’s a carelessness about their build that makes them fall short of expectations.