Among the handful of games on display at the Nintendo booth at GDC 2007 is a time-limited demo of Pokémon Diamond and Pearl for the Nintendo DS. As has been tradition with the Pokémon series, the core gameplay will be identical between the two games, with the defining differences being which Pokémon you'll be able to catch and train. Nintendo and Game Freak seem to be taking a pretty laissez-faire approach to its first set of traditional Pokémon games for the DS, and even though it had been a while since we'd gone hands-on with a Pokémon game, we briskly fell into the familiar rhythms of the franchise.
The demo started off in Jubilife City, where we controlled a prototypically fresh-faced Pokémon trainer, ready to explore the world and throw down in some Pokémon battles. While chatting with a few other Pokémon trainers, we were given a Pokémon watch, or Pokétch for short, which appeared as a digital watch face on the bottom screen of the DS, and it even included a crude, monochrome LCD version of Pikachu in the corner. As we wandered around Jubilife City, we crossed paths with several other enthusiastic Pokémon trainers, and as is tradition, we found ourselves getting into some friendly Pokémon duels.
Based on what we saw, the game certainly looks a step up from the last Pokémon games for the Game Boy Advance. The characters and environments seen while exploring the world at large appeared with greater detail and richer, more vibrant colors. The combat also looks better, with greater animations and special attack effects. Our initial impression of the gameplay, though, didn't feel much different from any of the other core Pokémon games. We would pit our team of Pokémon against that of another trainer, and our Pokémon would take turns beating the snot out of each other until one of the teams was incapacitated. There was some DS touch-screen functionality in the battle menus, though we found that we could also just as easily use the D pad and face buttons on the DS.
This style of gameplay has served the series really well thus far, so the similarity of the action to past Pokémon games isn't inherently a bad thing. Of course, the real Pokémaniacs out there will be excited about all of the new breeds of Pokémon to be found in Diamond and Pearl. In our brief time with the game, we saw Lucario, Buizel, Mantyke, Mime Jr., and Chatot. This may sound like gibberish if you're not a Pokémon fan, but if you are, you're probably chomping at the bit to capture these new breeds.
Pokémon Diamond and Pearl also promise some level of interoperability with the forthcoming Pokémon Battle Revolution for the Wii, making the package that much more alluring for those with the Pokémon fever. You won't have to wait very long for your fix, either--Diamond and Pearl are set to arrive in North American stores April 22.