Pokemon Brilliant Diamond/Shining Pearl May Be More Than A Faithful Adaptation, For The Better

The remakes for Pokemon Generation IV seem to be aimed at addressing Diamond/Pearl's most obvious shortcomings.

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Ahead of the release for Pokemon Brilliant Diamond/Shining Pearl, developer ILCA and publisher Nintendo have marketed the two remakes as faithful adaptations of the original Generation IV games. I recently attended a preview event for the duo where I got to see B. Diamond in action, and although these remakes look faithful to the original games, I'm not so sure that they'll feel as faithful. If anything, the changes made in these remakes seem to make for a far more approachable experience--I think players are going to find these games to be a lot easier to get through than the original Diamond/Pearl.

In terms of overall structure and presentation, yes, B. Diamond/S. Pearl are faithful adaptations of the original Diamond/Pearl. Unlike Sword/Shield with its over-the-shoulder perspective, realistically proportioned characters, and occasional free camera moments, B. Diamond/S. Pearl is presented in Pokemon's traditional top-down isometric perspective with a more chibi-like visual style and no free camera.

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Now Playing: Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl Look To Evolve Upon The Originals' Mechanics

B. Diamond/S. Pearl looks like an old-school Pokemon game--the Pokemon Center and Poke Mart are separate buildings again, for example. More notably, catching wild Pokemon is once again a mostly random affair--Pokemon won't appear in the overworld while you're walking through tall grass or using Surf over water, meaning you have no idea what you're running into until the fight starts. The one exception to this rule is the new Grand Underground--which looks absolutely massive--an area that replaces the original Diamond/Pearl's Underground. In the Grand Underground, Pokemon wander around (and, if aggressive, chase after you), similar to the Wild Area in Sword/Shield.

Many Generation IV-exclusive features return in B. Diamond/S. Pearl. You can bait Honey Trees to attract wild Pokemon, enter enhanced Pokemon contests, make Poffins to improve your Pokemon's conditions, decorate Poke Ball Seals with Stickers, and walk around with your Pokemon in cute parks to strengthen your relationship. They all look to be just as unrewarding as they were in Diamond/Pearl, but they all appear to be just as easily skippable this time around as they were in the original games.

That's not where B. Diamond/S. Pearl have made strides in the formula--these remakes make their most notable changes in regards to catching Pokemon, battling and leveling Pokemon, and exploring. B. Diamond/S. Pearl bring forward a lot of the improvements made in Pokemon games since the release of Generation IV--some are purely aesthetic but most are mechanical changes. And those mechanical changes could domino effect into an altogether more approachable Generation IV experience.

Hidden Machines (HMs) return in B. Diamond/S. Pearl, but similar to the last few Pokemon games, these moves are no longer tied to Pokemon--you don't have to give up one of your Pokemon's moves to have it learn a HM. For those who don't know or remember, Generation IV has a HM problem. You used to have to regularly carry around at least two Pokemon that collectively knew Cut, Surf, Strength, Rock Smash, Waterfall, and Rock Climb just to get through Generation IV. Since you no longer have to do that (you can use HM moves once you have the right Gym badges), it should help you build out a more balanced team.

And on top of that, it will be easier to grow the strength of that team thanks to all Pokemon in your party receiving experience for a fight--Exp. Share is available from the start and is applicable to your entire party. That's going to be huge for helping to deal with Diamond/Pearl's level pacing issue. In Generation IV, you immediately go to fight the Elite 4 and Champion after completing all eight Gyms--there's nothing to really do in-between. That's a hard fight if you don't take the time to grind out and level all members of your team--the highest level Pokemon for the eighth Gym is 49, while the Champion has a team of Pokemon that are levels 60-66. Most Generations have a gap in strength between Gym 8 and the Champion, but Generation IV is especially tough given the size of the gap and the team that the Champion uses.

So you have to train up your team between the eighth Gym and taking on the Elite 4 and Champion in the original Diamond/Pearl. Type match-ups are most important for Pokemon battles, but an 11-17 level difference is significant enough for the Champion to just tank your hits. Provided B. Diamond/S. Pearl keep all trainers at the same levels, the grind between beating the final Gym and taking on the Elite 4 and Champion should be a lot shorter, thanks to that Exp. Share.

Like in the old games, Pokemon Centers and Poke Marts are two separate buildings.
Like in the old games, Pokemon Centers and Poke Marts are two separate buildings.

More than anything, however, is that B. Diamond/S. Pearl will incorporate current Pokemon typings. That means you'll get Fairy types, which didn't exist when Diamond/Pearl first launched. Bringing a Fairy type Pokemon into the back-to-back fights of the Elite 4 and Champion is huge, as some of those trainers' hardest hitters are weak to Fairy type Pokemon.

Beyond that, B. Diamond/S. Pearl adds a host of quality-of-life improvements: an autosave feature should help to make sure you don't accidently lose hours of progress, Pokemon move info will inform you whether the attack you want to do will be effective, a button on the battle screen will quickly pull up the Poke Ball page in your bag so you're not scrounging around through menus when catching Pokemon, and a waypoint marker will let you know where to go to next in case you're lost. There are an assortment of other changes too, like being able to access your PC Pokemon from anywhere.

As I mentioned before, there are a few aesthetic improvements the remakes make as well, beyond the obvious updated graphics and visuals. The first is character customization: Though I didn't get to see what options are available, your trainer in B. Diamond/S. Pearl can be customized.

"While we're on the topic of the character model, you'll notice that [my trainer] has got a brown skin tone," a Nintendo Treehouse spokesperson said during the preview. "I chose that because I have brown skin, and so I chose a character that looks like me. There's about eight ways to change the appearance of your player character--four for female, and four for male."

You can go on small walks with your Pokemon through Amity Park.
You can go on small walks with your Pokemon through Amity Park.

And on top of that, each Pokemon move has been reanimated so that every move has its own animation. "Every move has its own individual vibrant animation," the spokesperson said. "The farther along you get in the game, you get some really cool animations--spoiler: the animation for Hyper Beam looks so awesome."

All in all, the mechanical changes in these remakes speak to a possibly altogether smoother, far more hassle-free experience. Generation IV had such a pacing problem back in the day, one exacerbated by the incessant need to use HMs and progression roadblocks in the form of grinding. I remember having to always keep a Pokemon on hand that knew a lot of HM moves in order to avoid needing to constantly backtrack to reach a Pokemon Center and withdraw that Pokemon in order to progress. That change alone is going to alleviate a lot of unnecessary headaches. Based on my hands-off preview, it seems like B. Diamond/S. Pearl have been designed to address many of the biggest issues that players had for the original Diamond/Pearl. The remakes may look faithful to the originals, but I think they're going to feel much better to play.

Pokemon Brilliant Diamond/Shining Pearl is scheduled to launch for Switch on November 19.

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