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Review: Pokémon Diamond and Pearl

Back in 1995, Satoshi Tajiri came up with two unassuming linked games in which the goal was to collect 150 monsters and raise them to be stronger than your friend’s 150 monsters. He called them Pocket Monsters Red and Pocket Monsters Green. Twelve years and three true sequels later, there are now 493 of these monsters, and the games have evolved from the Game Boy to the Game Boy Advance to where we are now: the Nintendo DS. Do these new titles, Diamond and Pearl, measure up to their predecessors; surpass them; or has the series jumped the shark?

The Pocket Monsters games arrived in the Western world as Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue. Set in the fictional region of Kanto, there were 150 Pokémon total (with one special to be released through Nintendo events later), in fifteen different types, with some exclusive to each version. Thus, to catch ‘em all as the orignal slogan challenged, you’d have to have a friend with the opposite version. This trend has continued.

The new millenneum approached and Tajiri’s company, Game Freak, released Pokémon Gold and Pokémon Silver, the first true sequels after a multitude of spinoffs. They added 100 new Pokémon, bringing the total to 251. Two new types, Dark and Steel, were added. A day/night cycle, the concepts of hold items and breeding, and another region, Johto was added. Major imbalances in the original generation were fixed. Kanto could be visited once the main quest was visited. Pokémon Crystal was released later, exclusive to the Game Boy Color. Here, when a Pokémon entered battle, a short animation would play, while girls were no longer forced to play as a male lead.

Pokémon Ruby and Pokémon Sapphire, on the Game Boy Advance took trainers to the region of Hoenn in 2002. The monster count rose to 386, but you could not return to Johto or Kanto. Pokémon Contests (pageants of sorts) were added, but animations (added again later in Pokémon Emerald) and the day/night cycle were removed. Later, in this same generation - titled the “gem generation”, after the “color generation” (R/B/Y) and “metal generation” (G/S/C) - Red and Blue were remade into Pokémon FireRed and Pokémon LeafGreen. They featured compatability with R/S/E for the Hoenn Pokémon and unlockable sidequests in which some Johto Pokemon could be obtained.

Finally, in 2006, Pokémon Diamond and Pokémon Pearl have arrived for the DS, taking us all to a new region called Sinnoh, and raising the number of Pokémon to a staggering total of 493. The biggest addition to the series is first-party online support through the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. (Don’t get excited yet.) The day/night cycle has returned from its puzzling absence in the previous generation. You can use the DS’s dual slot feature to import rare Pokémon from the GBA games to your Diamond or Pearl card, or to find older Pokémon in the Sinnoh wild. In a brilliant you’d-think-they’d-have-done-this-already move, many Pokemon can be caught on your DS card without the help of a GBA cart once you beat the main quest.

Pokémon games have two immediate goals. First is the Pokémon League Challenge, in which you travel your region collecting a badge from each of eight Pokémon Gyms in major cities. Once you have your eighth badge, you can challenge the Elite Four. The name is a misnomer. There have always been five final bosses: the Four, and then the Pokémon League Champion. Your secondary goal is to catch, trade for, evolve to, or otherwise obtain all of the Pokémon, and this one can take many hours. The Pokémon series is rich in replay value and substance and these new games are no exception.

When you begin the game, Professor Rowan, Sinnoh’s resident kindly Pokémon expert, gives you your own Pokémon (whom you took from his bag earlier). Keeping with the tradition set in the original games, you can choose the Grass-type turtle, Turtwig, who evolves into the fearsome Torterra (with a tree growing out of its back!); Fire-type monkey, Chimchar, who evolves into the gold-armored Infernape; and finally Water-type penguin Piplup, who evolves into the regal, partially-metallic Empoleon. In another long-standing tradition, your rival chooses the one with a type advantage to yours. Think of it as an overglorified rock/paper/scissors game: Grass absorbs Water, Water douses Fire, and Fire incinerates Grass.

However, it isn’t just an overglorified rock/paper/scissors game: Pokémon is overglorified cockfighting but with a JRPG twist. Each Pokémon has one of two types from the three above, to Electric, to Rock, to Psychic, to Dragon,(you get the idea). Each of these types interacts differently: Ground Pokémon cannot be phased by Electric attacks, but Ground Pokémon cannot hurt Flying Pokemon. Flying Pokémon are hurt by Ice, which also slaughters Dragons, which are resistant to Grass, Fire, Water, and a few of others. And that’s just scratching the surface.

Each Pokémon can remember up to four “moves”, or attacks, which it uses to bring the opponent’s health, in HP, down to 0. When a Pokémon’s HP reaches 0, it faints, and cannot battle until you revive it, either with an item or at a Pokémon Center. You can carry six Pokémon with you at a time (others are placed in a computer system), and it’s important that you have a balanced team so that you can deal with whatever the game throws at you. If you have a Fire-type Infernape, for instance, you’ll want to balance that out with an Electric-type such as Luxray to deal with its weakness (such as your rival’s Water/Steel-type Empoleon, againt which Luxray’s Thunderbolt which would be double super-effective). There are many other influences on battling, but that’s for a walkthrough, not a review.

Pokémon adventures, for all the ridicule they receive, are nearly flawless games. Not for graphics, certainly not plot, and not for innovative ideas - some of this stuff has been done to death - but because they provide hours and hours (100+ for yours truly) of either fun, or infuriated breeding/level grinding/battling/what have you. (Either way, you’re playing the game.) The best games in the series have been Gold/Silver (two continents and most all Pokémon available without anything special apart from trading) and FireRed/LeafGreen (highly polished remakes of the originals). Fun as they are, Diamond and Pearl don’t match up - but only barely.

For starters, they feel like rushjobs, as do many DS games. You can tell this from the title screen, which is pretty ugly. The ugliness doesn’t stop there, however: Pokémon has moved into a Frankenstein hybrid of 2D and 3D. Characters are sprited in 2D while the environment is in 3D. This 3D system has its moments: Gyms are beautiful-looking, for example, and real vertical movement is now possible. This is great until you’re done moving vertically in the sixth Gym. Then you go watch your version’s respective Legendary Pokémon’s (very rare, one-of-a-kind Pokémon; in this case, the one on the box) opening cutscene and are reminded that this 3D has been beaten with an ugly stick.

Pokémon contests have grown from fun little diversions to sloppy bunched minigames. Rather than a simple appearance contest and then the move judging, as they were in Ruby and Sapphire, you now have to dress up your Pokémon and dance using the touch screen. The dancing would be fine if it were only for the Beauty, Cool, and Cute contests. Instead, even Smart and Tough Pokémon will be forced to dance. Now, they’re fun, little ridiculous diversions.

Diamond and Pearl are the first Pokémon games to go online, but in the hands of Nintendo’s bare-bones, overprotective online service, Pokémon online seriously underdelivers. You need to add your friend’s sixteen-digit codes before you can play with them. If you don’t have friends with the game, you have two options: the Global Trade Station, and the Battle Tower.

The GTS is where kids put up level 3 Magikarp and ask for level 100 Palkia, which are rare and require raising, or level 7 Grotle, which can’t exist. You can either put up a Pokémon that you’re willing to trade, and specify what you want in return; or seek Pokémon that others have posted. Both participants do not need to be online. If you put up a Pokémon and someone traded overnight, the new Pokémon will be in your storage box the next morning. A lot of people ask for the kinds of trades given as examples above, but when done right, the GTS is very useful for things like obtaining the two starters you didn’t choose. This reviewer was able to get Chimchar and Piplup off of the Internet with little difficulty.

In the Battle Tower offline, you fight gauntlets of seven trainers for Battle Points, which you spend on vitamins and rare battle items. Online, you can download the teams of other trainers, (after you fight your first seven, you can upload your own trio.) This adds a little bit of replay value to the game, but comes nowhere close to fighting an actual opponent. Luckily, players with a Wii can play against strangers in Pokémon Battle Revolution.

All in all, the major strength of the new games is how many Pokémon are available on the single card. Even more are available when you have a GBA game inserted. When you transfer Pokémon from a GBA game, you’re given a puzzling mini-game where you have to catch all of your own Pokémon again. It serves apparently no purpose: the ID numbers and original trainer names on your old Pokémon stay the same, and there’s no challenge as the park balls catch without fail. It may fix a technical glitch, but it’s still odd. When you combine the GBA and DS games, there are many to collect and raise to keep fans of the series occupied.

All nitpicks aside, Diamond and Pearl are still good games and any fan of the series will enjoy them. New players would probably want to start probably at FireRed or LeafGreen on the GBA, since they have the most thorough tutorials, but will want to pick these up eventually. Diamond and Pearl had the potential to be the best Pokémon games yet, but ugly 3D, unnecessary plot and gameplay elements, and poor online keep them from doing so.

Final score: 8 out of 10 - Good (How do we rate games?)

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15 comments on 'Review: Pokémon Diamond and Pearl'

Comment by Wii on 2007-07-17 18:23:19

I love this game, and I’m happy with all of the online features it has.

Comment by Manny on 2007-11-05 03:49:59

yeah,
I know I have it!
Do you like it?

Comment by mike on 2007-07-17 18:57:06

cant wait 4 this to cum out! im gunna get diamond.

Comment by mike on 2007-07-28 20:43:22

bort pokemon diamond 2day and it is fuckin wicked! if u dont hav it i recommend u get it! and if u dont hav a ds then it is worth buyin 1 so that u can get this game!

Comment by Doug on 2007-07-29 22:19:49

If you like it that much now you’ll REALLY like it later. I was very skeptical during the first few hours.

Comment by allyissa on 2007-07-30 18:51:13

i want to anwser questions and trade pokemon.

Comment by Worms on 2007-08-07 16:29:57

This game is like crack. It really is, the DS is worth owning just for either Diamond or Pearl.

Comment by Adnan on 2007-08-21 15:32:43

if you wnat to revie wpokmeon diamond and pearl i suggest you do it properly theer is sooo much stuff you didnt include if this game wsa worth of a 8 out of 10 review why did it break mulile sales records you gusy cant rveiew a game the graphics look excellent! and you said soo mnay bad things and gave it a 8 out of 10 how dumb are u! review thegam epeoperly this game 10 out 10 the best DS game so far better than mario or nay others it sold better than ever game almost on every console!

Comment by Doug on 2007-08-21 23:28:08

Okay, sorry, you’re right. Fixed.

Comment by Emma on 2007-11-05 03:45:51

I am gonna get pokemon diamond,a wii and a DS lite for christmas!Wanna proove it?

Comment by Manny on 2007-11-05 03:47:55

Hello!Who wants to learn how to catch a mew?

Comment by Manny on 2007-11-05 03:51:21

See yah later my pokemon diamond fans see yah in a day or 2!Ps:Maybe 5!

Comment by Manny on 2007-11-06 04:10:20

anyone?I am here every day……TALK TO ME!!!!
Speak if you wanna know the trick please i am begging you!

Comment by Cody on 2007-11-17 14:34:46

Can you tell me how to catch a mew

Comment by Josh on 2007-12-05 16:04:34

I want to know how can you transfer pokemon from Emerald to Pokemon Diamond and Pearl

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