Review: Pokémon Shining Pearl

Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Pokémon Shining Pearl are remakes of the Gen IV Nintendo DS titles Pearl and Diamond. This version later got an update in the form of Pokémon Platinum. 15 years later, the games are back on the Nintendo Switch.

Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Pokémon Shining Pearl, aka Pokémon BDSP are remakes of the Gen IV game in the same vein as Soul Silver and Omega Ruby. They have been visually adapted for the current console with some new features and quality improvements here and there that we expect from contemporary Pokémon titles. For BDSP this means, among other things, a modern form of XP-Share, Pokémon Box available everywhere and no more HM moves.

ILCA has taken care of the remake. As you may know, Game Freak, the traditional developer for the Pokémon RPGs, is working on Pokémon Legends Arceus, a completely new direction for the RPG series. It is not the first time that ILCA has been involved in the franchise. This studio is also responsible for the development of Pokémon Home. They have also assisted in the development of Dragon Quest XI, Nier: Automata, and Ace Combat 7 in the past.

Starter on the Poké Mart

Back to Sinnoh! For many players a nostalgic feeling, but for many also a completely new feeling. Pokémon Shining Pearl brings with it Pokémon from 4 generations and a Dex which is the most comparable Pokémon Platinum, but that's where the Platinum features also keep. No Distortion World and no Platinum adjustments in BDSP. The Remakes on Nintendo Swich otherwise use all the original setups. This is a bit of a shame as a returning fan. Platinum was a significant upgrade over Diamond and Pearl with a pretty impressive story with small side quests acquired in the open world.

A new addition to this version of the Gen IV RPG is an expansion for the Underground. The underground tunnels stretching under Sinnoh are equipped with biomes somewhat similar to the Wild Area from Sword and Shield. The wild Pokémon run loose in these biomes and depending on the type of biome, you will find different Pokémon. Some Pokémon are less common than others, but placing statues in your own hidden base increases the chance of encountering a certain type of Pokémon.

Thanks to this expansion to the Undergound, there are suddenly a lot more Pokémon available during the beginning and around the middle of the game. This gives players many more options to build their team and prepare for upcoming battles. For example, players who no longer choose Chimchar do not have to depend on Ponyta as a fire type, but Houndoom can be caught in the Underground. This way players can also have an Ice-Type and Pokémon that were previously more difficult to obtain, such as Croagunk.

And further?

Furthermore, there is actually not much new to experience in Sinnoh. This is a bit of a shame for the seasoned fan, but as a new player you won't notice this. However, a lot of quality improvements have been made. All Pokémon in your party gain XP from battles, whether they helped or not. This makes it much easier to level up lower Pokémon and you generally have a lot less swapping back and forth. Your Pokémon Box is also accessible everywhere. You no longer have to go to a Pokémon Center. Pokémon from your box are not brought to full life by default. For that you have to go back to the Pokémon Center. Bidoof is ok in the past! The HM slave of many during the original playthrough is no longer 'needed' to perform HM moves. All HMs are now on a machine and no longer occupy a space of an attack. You still need a Pokémon that can perform this move. This may also be in your box.

In short: Pokémon Shining Pearl and Brilliant Diamond have almost all the modern quality updates that we have become accustomed to from the latest Pokémon titles, but they don't add much new to the well-known formula. It is a very faithful remake, unfortunately without the extra Platinum content. It also feels a bit like ILCA wasn't given creative freedom to adapt too much to the remake. Compared to Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, who added a whole new story at the end with Rayquaza and the more or less copied X and Y content, BDSP doesn't really feel necessary for returning players.

But..

Still, it feels really good to see Sinnoh again, especially with the new graphical style that the remake (actually remaster) is embracing. Where Sword and Shield focused more on a style more closely related to the anime, BDSP returns to a top-down perspective like the Game Boy and DS titles, but the sprites make room for a Chibi style. You could almost say it's an HD filter for the sprites, because the two styles are quite similar. Personally, I found this style a little less appealing during the announcement, but once I got my hands on the game, I thought it was brilliant. A wonderful fusion of HD and the old style. The world also comes to life more during various moments in the game where the perspective changes and you can see the characters a little better and see the environment partly from a whole new angle. Also, most Battle Arenas now look really cool, with lots of 3D elements that really make it seem like you're fighting in the location where you are, instead of looking like a static backdrop.

The best thing about this remaster is actually the soundtrack. The Sinnoh Soundtracks sound brilliant in the Shining Pearl and Brilliant Diamond versions.

Verdict

Pokémon Shining Pearl and Brilliant Diamond are faithful remakes of the Gen IV RPG with the necessary quality improvements to match the current standard. Unfortunately, there's little news for returning fans, but what there is is rock solid (even if it already was). This makes it, despite little innovation, my favorite Pokémon title of recent years. The old-fashioned formula appeals to me a bit more than Sword/Shield and Let's Go, although I hope Legends Arceus can set a completely new standard for the future of Pokémon RPGs.

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