Rant and Rave: ‘Pokémon BDSP’ faithfully pay tributes to Sinnoh originals

Highlighted by enhanced graphics, a “faithful” storyline, and still challenging trainer battles, revisiting the Sinnoh region through Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl could not have been more exciting.

The Sinnoh region of the Pokémon franchise is arguably one of the most iconic in-game locations the franchise has to offer, with many a fan favorite arising from this generation. Thus, it wasn’t much of a surprise to Pokémon fans when the remake of Pokémon Diamond and Pearl was announced earlier this year, in the form of Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Pokémon Shining Pearl (BDSP). As one of the most successful authorities in the world of gaming, the franchise exerted all efforts in building the remakes and getting its fans excited for their release—now, the question is: was it able to live up to the original games’ charm and familiarity?

Bringing it back

While there has been much hype over the remake, fans looking for significant revisions to the original gameplay may be severely disappointed. In fact, the only obvious major difference between the two may be the consoles on which they are supported—while the original games were created for the Nintendo DS, the remakes are intended for the Nintendo Switch.

It seems that ILCA, the Japanese studio tasked with this monumental project, had chosen to sacrifice fresh ideas in favor of tackling the remake almost to a tee. However, it cannot be denied that the graphics alone have improved drastically. For example, the battling pocket monsters exhibit a wide variety of actions compared to the original’s inanimate battle sprites. In addition, it adds a fresh layer to the monotony the original games seemed to exhibit via the lack of idle animation—an aspect that Pokémon fans are sure to appreciate.

Additionally, ILCA chose to stick to the original chibi designs of the characters, which has been met with a slew of polarizing fan opinions. Some appreciated the nod toward tradition, while others lambasted the studio’s lack of innovation. Despite this controversy, the choice to stand by the pioneering art style, fortunately, does not detract from the succinctness and appeal to the overall story.

This should be easy…right?

The game mechanics enhancements such as the experience shared after battling and capturing Pokémon, battle move effectiveness indicators, and the inessential inclusion of hidden moves in party Pokémon movesets significantly contribute to your playing experience. However, these may be downers at first glance for those who play competitively.

In the first few minutes of gameplay, leveling up seems too easy. Each starter—be it Chimchar, Piplup, or Turtwig—would eventually learn a move that allowed the player to breeze through the first gym. Considering that Starly is a popular pick to include in the party early on, taking on Gardenia in Eterna City wouldn’t be too much of a problem as well. As this impression holds true for the majority of the game, those familiar with the original storyline probably expected the Elite Four and Champion battles to be much easier experiences this time around. However, ILCA probably wanted to remind players that we can’t always be right.

Even after what could’ve been sufficient training for the original versions, the Pokémon League battles were much more challenging in BDSP. Like later gym leaders, all Pokémon now hold strategic battle items. In addition, non-playable characters’ in-game decisions also upped the level of play. For example, the Bug-specialist Aaron isn’t even easy to defeat; even if you manage to get past him, the next three Elite Four trainers are sure to give much more difficult matches.

By the time the challenger faces Cynthia, her party Pokémon would be almost 20 levels higher than Volkner’s. It wouldn’t be surprising that after three to four opponents, most of your team might have already fainted. You wouldn’t even have to reach Garchomp to fall to Cynthia. Her Lucario is meant to be a finisher; one Sword’s Dance, and you’re good to go…all the way back to the Pokémon Center to have your team nursed.

At least in this portion of the game, ILCA definitely maintained the level of difficulty. The adjustments make sense—and even serve as surprises—to retain what makes this Sinnoh-based game just as challenging as its first iterations.

It gets grand, and then not really

With the exciting revamp of the Grand Underground and the reintroduction of the Pokémon Contests, there was reasonable excitement over maximizing online features. Moreover, using non-Sinnoh pocket monsters and capturing legendary Pokémon in Ramanas Park seem to be enticing endeavors. However, as with anything, these come with a price.

Multiplayer interactions—including engaging in online trades and battles and visiting secret underground bases—require an additional subscription to Nintendo Switch Online. This is one good business strategy for Nintendo, but as well a rather limiting opportunity for those who have yet or have no plans to apply for such a subscription. Without connection in the same local network, the once-enjoyable-for-all multiplayer features are rendered useless. Those planning to get an Alakazam or a Gengar will have to wait to be around friends—a meeting not everyone could afford as well.

Apart from these, trainers will, unfortunately, be limited to Sinnoh-exclusive Pokémon for the entire journey before the post-game. Though Platinum addressed the limited options of pocket monsters you can include in your party, BDSP seemed to have stuck to the originals quite faithfully, but not really for the better. You get the opportunity to capture all non-event Pokémon from Kanto, Johto, and Hoenn in the post-game, including the Sinnoh starters, but you’d have built a solid team by then. For others who are itching to finally build their dream party, they can make up for it this time. Otherwise, this is simply for the Pokédex building.

Capturing the elusive legendaries also won’t be a walk in the (Ramanas) park. Mysterious shards—prerequisites to obtain the slates needed to summon the legendaries—come by scarcely in the Grand Underground. They also only appear in the post-game. But digging up for these is easier with friends—if you have an online subscription. Although, whether getting a Mewtwo or a Rayquaza is worthwhile or not will depend on the player.

Worth your (space and) time

Despite the mentioned limitations, your game experience won’t be any less of an adventure. While the notable changes were minimal, BDSP is surely worth playing still.

Everything will definitely seem nostalgic throughout, especially for the older crowd who is revisiting the Sinnoh region. But for new, younger players, the more recent features they’re accustomed to will be absent. So to determine if the Dialga-featured or the Palkia-starred games are practical game investments will be completely up to your reasons—and generation.

The road to becoming the Sinnoh Champion will still be quite the journey. While most elements of the story stay the same, it’s still definitely bound to be a distinct experience for the regular Pokémon trainer. Under all the nostalgia and cheeky bouts of delighted recall, the concept still stays the same: gotta catch ‘em all!

Rating: 3.0/4.0
Ramon Castañeda

By Ramon Castañeda

Marie Angeli Peña

By Marie Angeli Peña

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