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Review: Pokémon Brilliant Diamond for Nintendo Switch

pokemon brilliant diamond art

Return to Sinnoh and experience generation IV yet again with Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl remakes on the Nintendo Switch. With a new chibi art style and an expanded Grand Underground, can these remakes surpass their original DS counterparts? Unfortunately, for the veteran player, it’s more of a foul poffin than a perfect one.

2007 was a simpler time. It was the year Apple announced its first iPhone, The Witcher was released for PC and the first Assassin’s Creed was published by Ubisoft. In the tech and gaming worlds, 2007 was considered a rockstar year for the industry, delivering hit after hit in games, including the fourth generation of Pokémon games for the Nintendo DS: Diamond and Pearl. Like many other veteran Pokémon fans, I’ve been playing this franchise since their first generation (Red, Blue and Yellow) – and haven’t missed a generation since. This makes me harder to please, I suppose, when Nintendo and The Pokémon Company remake games I played repeatedly in my childhood.

Originally developed by Game Freak in 2007, Pokémon Diamond and Pearl were excellent – and were only exceeded by Platinum, the generation’s final game. Platinum solved many of the grievances fans experienced, with improvements and fixes to the gameplay, such as Poffin-making, a ‘back’ button on the Pokétch App, new Pokémon to capture, and new areas to visit such as the Distortion World. It’s a shame that many of these improvements, then, are not included in Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. As with the Pokémon franchise of late, the games appear to be taking one step forward and two steps back.

Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are, unfortunately, no exception to this rule. While the storyline and post-content remains intact (thankfully), there are many elements of the original games that have been changed for the worse in the remakes. It’s a shame that ILCA, the development team which have taken the reigns from Game Freak for Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, could not have strengthened the game to reach new heights. Even the cutesy chibi art style, which is beautiful aesthetically, feels so far removed from the storyline’s dark intentions. For example, it’s hard for Cyrus – Team Galactic’s head honcho – to look menacing as a cute yet creepy Funko Pop when he’s putting an end to human civilisation.

Art style aside, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl also suffer from oddly bizarre and inconsistent changes to gameplay. For instance, Experience Share – the game’s way of sharing out experience in your Pokémon team evenly – is now always on by default and cannot be turned off. While veteran players have ways and means of making the game more challenging (nuzlocke, minimum number of trainer battles etc), trainers, gym leaders and the Elite Four have not been re-balanced to account for this difficulty change. This results in a player’s Pokémon levels being vastly skewed, sometimes increasing by 10 levels or more.

With the difficulty level unchanged, this leads to another grave issue: friendship. Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl have half-heartedly incorporated friendship from generation VI (X & Y, Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire), meaning that battle effects like surviving with 1HP and breaking through status effects, is now a feature within the remakes. Battle dialogue has also been included too, much to the frustration of speed-runners. While on the surface these changes appear to emphasise the ‘warm fuzzies’ associated with the Pokémon series, what challenge remained becomes virtually non-existent. Of course, these changes do make the series highly accessible for younger players. So, while all may be lost for veterans, youngsters will find solace in their ease.

Unfortunately for the remakes, the inconsistency with gameplay continues. Contests – now named Super Contest Shows – have been pared down so that very little strategy now remains. In the originals, there were three distinct elements (visual, rhythm and acting) yet, in the remakes, rhythm is the only element that remains, with visual being relegated to ball capsule effects (stickers) and Pokémon condition (via poffins) instead of fun accessories. The acting element has been somewhat merged into the rhythm minigame, enabling players to perform one move during the performance. You can play online with others in Super Contest Shows, however, which is a fun local and wireless multiplayer feature.

To help players appeal visually to judges in Super Contest Shows, Pokémon must be fed poffins to increase their star quality. On the DS, poffin making was certainly an art. Players had to use their stylus and the touchscreen to mix the batter clockwise and anti-clockwise – without spilling or burning – to produce a perfect poffin. Now, the Switch uses the analog stick to control the batter, removing the touchscreen use entirely. With limited flexibility in its controls, this means poffin-making is fouler not fairer.

Fortunately, there are some excellent changes that have been introduced in Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. While they are few and far between, improvements like introducing a Hidden Move app for the Pokétch negates the need for your team to learn HMs, alongside the ability for a Pokémon in your team to follow and interact with you in the overworld are wonderful. Plus, the expansion to the Grand Underground, which now encompasses all of the Sinnoh region, is an excellent addition to the game.

In fact, the Grand Underground is not just the biggest expansion to the remakes, it’s also had an overhaul. Now, there are areas known as Pokémon Hideaways, where you can encounter and visually see Pokémon in their natural habitats. These biomes are beautifully presented in both handheld and in docked mode, with the vibrancy particularly popping on the OLED model. From fiery alcoves to bountiful rivers and lakes, these are exquisite to wander within. You can still excavate for spheres here too, but instead of furniture, dolls and traps, players can now discover statues and purchase pedestals to display in their secret bases. A downgrade for some, perhaps. Another classic case where the Pokémon series takes one step forward and two steps back.

Outside of gameplay and in terms of overall user experience, the remakes feel a little dishevelled. Upgrading from the D-pad to a cross-directional format is certainly a technical challenge. So, while running feels lovely and fluid, using the bicycle is awkward and, at times, incredibly frustrating. However, battle animations are fantastic, with no visual framerate drops as seen in the latest games. And while the main menu screen feels a little cramped at first, it doesn’t take long to get used to the new setup, with the autosave function a neat addition.

As it stands, Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are faithful remakes in terms of storyline and post-content material. However, there are real issues here with the game’s level balancing, pared down content and overall user experience that does not go unnoticed. There’s no denying that these games are still enjoyable, especially for youngsters that haven’t experienced the originals. But for veterans yearning for a polished remake, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are a beautiful disaster.

6/10

A review copy of Pokémon Diamond was provided to My Nintendo News by Nintendo UK.

22 thoughts on “Review: Pokémon Brilliant Diamond for Nintendo Switch”

  1. I really don’t see how people are so overleveled during their playthroughs? I was never super overleveled and was actually underleveled for Cynthia. And they have made the last fights harder with better movesets, items on all pokemon and better AI.

    The game is decent, but the biggest flaw is the friendship system from Let’s Go. Getting to live on 1, dodging attacks and shaking off status makes the game way too easy.

    It’s a shame, this game had a lot of potential. Nearly all of the added content is endgame as well, after the Champion. I’ve seen literally no reviews mention this due to most of them stopping after the Champion 🤷‍♂️

    1. Besides the elite four and the champion, which is the final part of the game, most trainers are way below you are in level. As in 10+ levels. The underground has the potential to massively overlevel your team as well, even if you don’t want to be.

      Also, the rematch of the elite four is harder, but during the first time around it is mostly the same. I don’t see how the AI is better, and the movesets are all the same. You’re referring to the rematch.

      Pokemon has always been very easy, but they continue to make it more so with locking exp share on, and all the friendship stuff.

      They should make the friendship stuff toggable, and the exp share toggable. Like how it was X&Y, ORAS, Sun and moon, and ultra sun and moon.

    2. I was battling every trainer with my same team as I do in every pokemon game, and they became about 6-7 levels higher than the gym leader by about the third gym. From there I started skipping battles and mostly fighting the bare minimum number of trainers, but was still pretty overleveled.

      1. I used to play like that too for a long time, until Pokemon Lets Go, I finally tried playing with all th epokemon I caught, hot swapping them to keep the lowest levels in my party. Raised the difficulty a lot, and made the game more interesting. At least for me.

    1. On the paragraph on the Grand Underground you mentioned more welcome additions comapred to the one negative (less personalization) and said it was example of 1 step forward, 2 steps back. But shouldn’t be 2 steps forward, 1 step back if there’s more positives than negatives. Or even just 1 step forward, 1 step back if you see the new additions to be the same amount of content as the old features. Unless your trying to speak as the game as a whole and consider the lost of platinum content the 2nd step backwards.

  2. Gen 4 deserved so much better. I like the art style, but the execution looks so cheap and wildly unfinished at times (tons of wonky lighting, clipping, and other visual issues I’ve noticed just on my own). Not to mention, awkward zoom-ins on low detail chibi models every few minutes and little things like bringing back the friendship system from Gen 7, which means you usually get to wait for an extra text box to awkwardly pop up and disappear before you can run from a battle or make a move (it’s not quite as elegant as in Gen 7). Can’t forget that they completely neglect almost every great addition Platinum made to DP (it does at least have a better selection of Pokemon in the underground).

    The Grand Underground is a lot of fun and some of the music is better than the originals, but I hate to say that these remakes are starting to become my least favorite Pokemon games so far

  3. Good job with the review. I have read the last few reviews you have written, and what I appreciate is the fact that you write about your own experiences and thoughts with the game, rather than write what people may want to hear. Sadly, thats getting harder to find.

    Fans of pokemon can have a hard time accepting criticism, and I appreciate that you point out both the good things, and all of the major issues the game has.

    Keep up the good work Collete. You have built up reviewer trust with me. I like your writing style as well. Can’t wait to read the next one :)

    Also, I’m not sure who wrote the metroid dread review, but I think that one was very good as well.

    1. Thank you. :) That’s such a lovely comment RidleyPrime – and very much appreciated! Pokemon is like my bread and butter, so I want to be as honest as I can. However, I still like to see the good where possible and view it through another lens. Glad you have enjoyed reading.

      Metroid Dread was Nintenmau5, so I’ll pass on your comments. :)

  4. I can compare Pearl and Shining Pearl side by side, 3DS and Switch… and let me say this. The only reason to play the latter over the former is the fact that other people are also playing it. Pearl/Diamond and Platinum will stand the test of time, and this one won’t. Prepare for massive disappointment when compared to FRLG, HGSS, or ORAS as far as remakes go. The only way to “fix” the glaringly hollow nature of these games is free Platinum DLC + even more extra new content.

  5. I was pretty excited about the remakes at first cus I haven’t come back to the series since X&Y, but they’re just another cash grab like the ORAS remakes. I was desperately hoping that I could start enjoying the series again. There is a long list of annoyances I have with BDSP, but the one thing that pisses me off the most is the fact that they skipped the battle frontier YET AGAIN.

    I mean c’mon, with ORAS they just didn’t feel like it and replaced it with X&Y’s battle mansion. Then BDSP, and they conviently go with the “it’s a faithful remake, so Diamond and Pearl didn’t have the battle frontier” excuse. Hoenn & Sinnoh are literally the ONLY regions that have the battle frontier (HGSS just has sinnoh’s, not an original one) and yet they exclude it when they know full well the fans want it back.

    At the end of the day, I have more incentive to play Emerald & Platinum over their remake versions.

    1. GameFreak ALWAYS takes the things we love most out & shoves what we don’t in our faces. Why? Cuz they know they’ll get away with it cuz the masses still buy the games. No matter how much the defense force says otherwise, GameFreak are lazy.

  6. I need pokemon home and wonder trade working as soon as possible. I mostly send off semi decent pokemon and shield version has TM’s I can’t use on BDSP. I don’t mind getting route 1 rejects on wonder trade.

  7. I bought this game mostly because it was like a pact I had with my brother, and I really enjoyed it. The Dialga theme sent me back all the way to high school in 2006. Again, I really enjoyed the game, but it’s definitely not worth $60

  8. I never played the original Diamond/Pearl/Platinum, so I was fairly excited for the remakes; unfortunately the remakes have left me fairly disappointed, and make me remember why I LEFT Pokemon in the first place.

    I hope Legends Arceus is better

  9. I just started playing Brilliant Diamond. I agree with your review. Someone of the new concepts in the game are very interesting to me. It’s still trying to wrap my head around the underground. Cheers!

  10. Great review, wasn’t sure if i was interested in Pokemon Brilliant Diamond. This review definitely made me interested. Haven’t played Pokemon in ages, usually play PlayStation but recently purchased The Switch for Pokemon Legend Arceus. It’s nice reading an honest review and not an IGN copy-n-paste one.

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