Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl review – Better than the originals - Dexerto
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Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl review – Better than the originals

Published: 17/Nov/2021 19:27

by Meg Bethany Koepp

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Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl are a must-play for both new and old fans alike. Despite the chibi-style graphics looking silly in places and less Platinum features than expected, the Sinnoh remakes are still one of the best Pokemon releases in recent years.

Bringing the classic 2006 Nintendo DS titles to the modern-day, Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl beam a new light on the Sinnoh region; gone are the 2D pixel art graphics, now replaced with a fresh 3D coat of paint. When the Gen IV reimaginings were first announced, there were mixed opinions.

Finally, fans were getting what they’d begged The Pokemon Company to release for years and would be able to return to a region they hold dear. But with Game Freak not working on it and the graphics in a whole new style, would it be good?

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For months, the online reaction to the Sinnoh remakes was steeped in negativity, with some fans even vowing not to buy the game due to it supposedly not having enough Platinum content.

But let this be a valuable lesson: don’t believe everything you read online until you’ve experienced it yourself. Because the remakes are fantastic and will certainly pleasantly surprise players, especially those who played and love the originals 15 years ago.

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Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl – Key details

  • Price: $59.99/£49.99
  • Developer: ILCA
  • Publisher: The Pokemon Company
  • Release date: November 19, 2021
  • Platform: Nintendo Switch

Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl trailer

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Sinnoh’s story is still one of the best

The Diamond & Pearl remakes take place in the Sinnoh region in Generation IV. Players pick between two characters – Lucas or Dawn – as they travel around the continent trying to fill up their Pokedex for Professor Rowan, all while defeating Gym Leaders and thwarting the infamous Team Galactic’s world domination plans along the way.

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You start off by visiting Lake Verity with your childhood best friend, Barry. What seems like a simple outing ends with you choosing your very own Pokemon and going on an adventure, with your old pal turning into your rival along the path to becoming the very best like no one ever was.

piplup in pokemon brilliant diamond shining pearl
The Pokemon Company / ILCA
You choose from three starters: Turtwig, Chimchar, and Piplup.

On the surface, it’s very much a typical Pokemon story that doesn’t deviate from the format too much. However, what sets it apart is its deep dive into the franchise’s lore. The tale of the villainous team and its evil leader, Cyrus, is one that sticks in your mind more than any other, probably because it’s so unique compared to the rest with its themes of space and time.

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Gameplay sticks to its classic formula – but that’s not a bad thing

Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl’s gameplay is similar to every other mainline Pokemon game, though that’s not exactly unexpected. With it being a reimagining, and a faithful one at that, it’s very much the same mechanics as the 2006 originals, just with a fresh feel. That being said, it would have been nice to have Mega Evolutions or Dynamaxing. It’s been done before in the Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire remakes, so there’s no reason why it couldn’t have been included here.

But even so, it doesn’t make the experience any less fun. More of just an “I wish it had this” passing thought. Battles are still highly-engaging without any sort of “gimmick” in them, with the effect of every move being shown in real-time so it really feels like you’re actually there alongside your ‘mon. Fights are more difficult than recent Pokemon games too, which is no doubt a sigh of relief for veteran fans who prefer the challenge.

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shiny chansey in pokemon brilliant diamond & shining pearl
The Pokemon Company / ILCA
You can imagine my excitement when I caught a Shiny Chansey!

Exp. Share is something that has to be touched upon here. With it sparking such a massive debate due to it being on by default with no way to turn it off, fans were rightfully worried about how it would affect the game. To answer that: it really doesn’t all too much. Battles are still tough in places – we almost wiped out multiple times, despite having a full team that was 10 levels higher than our opponent. Gym Leaders from the fourth Gym onwards really hike up their game.

You will spend hours at a time in the Grand Underground

While the Underground is nothing new, letting you access it from anywhere outside, it does have some changes. Hideaways are terrarium-like rooms filled with different Pokemon that roam around on the overworld, much like Sword & Shield. While many were initially disappointed that ILCA chose to not go with the Platinum version of the game, Hideaways give you access to many popular ‘mon from its Pokedex, like Houndoom, as early as the second city.

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You collect statues while mining which, when placed in your Secret Base, influence which ‘mon show up. There are rare and even Shiny ones, meaning you no longer have to spend hours slathering Honey on trees, for example. Take that, Munchlax.

grand underground in pokemon brilliant diamond shining pearl
The Pokemon Company / ILCA
You can find rare Pokemon here.

A word of warning, though: it is very addicting. Whether you’re mining for statues and gems or clearing out a Hideaway, you’ll probably find yourself losing a couple of hours at a time every time you go down there. This isn’t a bad thing at all – it’s really fun and offers a break from traditional gameplay.

The graphics are the worst thing about Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl

While everything else shines, there’s one thing that lets the games down slightly: the chibi-style graphics. Overall, they’re fine and you don’t even notice your shrunken-down character after a couple of hours of play, but where it really sticks out like a sore thumb is in important cutscenes and it’s truly jarring.

People and Pokemon look normal in battles, which makes fights feel more immersive. But in story cutscenes, they’re still small which looks ridiculous. For example, you’re supposed to feel threatened by Cyrus and his plans to take over the world, yet you can’t help but laugh when his “smol” character appears on screen. It undermines his personality and dampens what are supposed to be serious story beats.

cyrus in pokemon brilliant diamond shining pearl
The Pokemon Company / ILCA
Cyrus doesn’t look menacing at all.

ILCA should have made the cutscenes in the same style as battles. It makes absolutely zero sense to keep them small. It feels like a missed opportunity, especially when the game explores some heavy themes about the series lore and origins.

Rating: 8.5/10

Overall, Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are a must-play. Despite the chibi-style graphics feeling wacky in places, the gameplay overall is fantastic. The changes to the Grand Underground are incredible, offering up a wider selection of Pokemon early on, and Exp. Share really isn’t an issue.

Even if you played the original games, BDSP offers many new features to the point where it feels like a new experience. And we won’t spoil it, but the post-game is something all veteran fans will absolutely love, especially if you like battles…and Platinum.

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.