Pokemon Pearl/Diamond Review
Console: Nintendo DS, DS Lite, DSi, 3DS
Release Date: April 22, 2009
Players: 1, 2-6 online
ESRB Rating: E
There are many great Pokemon games for the Game Boy and Game Boy advanced, but up until Pokemon Pearl and Diamond versions the Nintendo DS was left out in the cold. Well, it’s time for a little warmth and the Diamond and Pearl versions of Pokemon brought tons of it. With new additions to everything including graphics, accessories, the battle system, and even the different types of Pokemon that can be found around the Sinnoh region. Pokemon Pearl/Diamond is like any other new Pokemon game; it is better than the last core Pokemon game in most ways.
The story in Pearl/Diamond is focused on a teenager antagonist who is interrupted at every turn while on the road to the Elite Four and the Championship by a group of Pokemon extremist calling themselves Team Galactic. The story changes slightly depending on the version you are playing, in Pearl Team Galactic is trying to wake Palkia the space Pokemon and in Diamond they are trying to bring back Dialga the Pokemon of time. In either version Team Galactic thinks that they will be able to change the world by catching the legendary Pokemon and doing something along the lines of tera-forming the planet. The story behind the bad guys in Pokemon never really makes to much sense, but what it amounts to is the young teenager has to go around his or her region and beat the snot out of some wannabe villain trainers. Aside from Team Galactic the young trainer has I nice hyper active rival this time around; I named my rival Clint, and he is always dashing here and there right before challenging you to a battle. Honestly the rival battles and the gym battles are the most exciting thing about Pearl/Diamonds story. The entire Pokemon universe is held together by one significant similarity; that is Pokemon battles and there are plenty of those to be had.
The battle system in Pokemon Pearl/Diamond stays true to the old formula only changing enough to make the gameplay better and more appealing. Almost everything has stayed the same in the battling aspect of the game, fire still beats grass, grass still beats water and water still beats fire. That’s not to say that changes haven’t come to the game play though. The older games were a little strange when it came to what attacks were based on the physical attack stat and which attacks were based on special stat, but not any more. A move that you would think makes a physical connection from Pokemon to Pokemon would be in the physical column, like Karate Chop, and moves that seem like they would come about magically, like Fire Blast, are now in the special stat column. Your character still has to travel his/her region in search of Pokemon and the eight gym badges in hopes of becoming the Pokemon Champion. The game doesn’t make too much use of the bottom screen when it comes to story telling, but you can use the touch screen for selecting battle moves and inventory selection. One thing I always look forward to in a new game is the Pokemon themselves, the developers were slacking a little this time around though. There were only about 120 new Pokemon, if that and some of the new Pokemon were just new evolutions of old Pokemon. Nintendo isn’t usually this lazy when it comes to designing new Pokemon and I honestly think they were trying to cater to some fans by giving Pokemon like Magmar and Electabuzz evolved forms. The main play through added in more double battles than I expected giving players a chance to up their skills in this type of battle. The trainer still has his backpack, but this time it is a little more organized; everything that goes in will now automatically be separated into different pouches like the TM pouch and the Potions pouch. In addition to a new bag the trainer gets a Poketch or Pokemon Watch which will take the place of the Pokenav from the earlier games and will have little features like a map of all the berries found, a calculator and even a Pokemon friend level reader. The cool thing about the Poketch is everything is done on the touch screen, making for a nice transition to the modern touch based interface of the new system. Pearl/Diamond still has the Pokemon Battle Frontier for when the main game is finished; the Contest Halls are brought back from Ruby/ Sapphire, but are now in one convenient location and there is even an entire underground world to explore by yourself or with some friends. Pearl/Diamond are the first versions that had an online feature and it was kind of a miss. You can trade and battle online, but Nintendo had to go and make it difficult. First off you can only battle with a downloadable copy of a human controlled team and not the actual person that raised the Pokemon. Secondly if you think that you will be able to just go and ask for Shaymin or a Mew you are sadly mistaken like I was, in order to trade for a Pokemon online you first have to have seen that Pokemon in your version. The whole trading aspect really made no sense, I found myself begging people to “loan” me a Pokemon so I can register it in my Pokedex just to turn around and wait for it the possible trade of one online. The online was a nice addition and I have gotten a lot of legendary Pokemon from it, but it seems like it fell short of what it could have been.
The graphics and sound in Pokemon Pearl/Diamond were a huge improvement from the three generations before. The world is nice and colorful making use of some weather effects like rain and snow. Each Pokemon now has a new sprite for in battle and for outside of battle. The downfall is the Pokemon still don’t move more than a few times when they first come out and remain motionless for the rest of the game. One new thing that this game really pushes is the different sprites for male and female Pokemon and in some circumstances Pokemon from one side or the other of the Sinnoh region. It’s not much, but I rather enjoyed looking for the difference in patterns between the males and females. Some times the differences were as obvious as Pikachus tale being a heart shape at the end when a female, to the not so obvious smaller waist on the female Scizor compared to the male Scizor. The game doesn’t make too much use of the bottom screen when it comes to story telling; rather it looks like a watch with a digital display most of the time. The sound in Pearl/Diamond is some of the best in the Pokemon games, with catchy remixed music and some great battle music. My biggest complaint about the sound is pretty much the same complaint I have always had about the Pokemon games; that is the Pokemon cries. Each Pokemon has a signature sound or cry when they come out or faint and to be honest it still sounds like old Game Boy crackling. Although the cries are still pretty bad I find myself trying to remember which cry is which and I still love to pretend my Tyranitar is awesome even though he sounds like a blender being turned on. Aside from the Pokemon cries everything in Pokemon Pearl/Diamond is fun to hear and you will be humming the tunes even when the game is off.
Pokemon Pearl/Diamond version is the first transition from the Game Boy onto the DS and it was done almost perfectly. Aside from some bad sound bytes and some funky online choices this is definitely the best Pokemon game to date. I found myself catching Pokemon fever again when I went back to review these two titles and it has been just as fun this time around as when I first played the game. With a ton of Pokemon to catch, new gyms and two slightly different story arks these two games offer up a good 150 hours of gameplay on each title.
What was your favorite moment of Pokemon Pearl/Diamond?