Nintendo Reimagines the Sinnoh Region

Fifteen years ago, Nintendo introduced us to the fourth generation of Pokémon in Pokémon Diamond and Pearl. Beginning in the Sinnoh region, you started off with your choice of chimchar (fire), turtwig (grass) or piplup (water). Beyond that, the formula was pretty much the same. You start out from your home town to catch Pokémon, level them up, evolve them, earn badges, and try to become the champion. You’ll see some familiar Pokémon and some new ones too. Despite this repeatable pattern from game to game, people keep coming back for more in an attempt to catch them all. But how well does that work with Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl having that extra level of repeatability ingrained in it?

The original games came out on the Nintendo DS which had decent graphics given the screen size and technology. Now, we have the Switch and a much bigger screen both on the Switch as well as on a TV. The technology also makes it easier to improve on graphics and such from what they originally had. While being a little cleaner and nicer looking, it’s still a lot like the old game. After playing Pokémon Shield, I got used to seeing a normal looking character running around to catch the Pokémon. Going back to the more chibi looking style of the old game was a bit of a disappointment. I know that they were just redoing the game in its original style but it was a harsh reality check as to what we were going back to. After seeing what Shield had, this was a major step back though I know recreating the game in the modern look of games would have taken A LOT of work as they would be almost recreating it from scratch.

To be honest, I don’t remember much about the story from Diamond and Pearl. I’m not even sure how far I got through the original game. So far, in this one, I’ve gotten all 8 badges and will soon take on the Elite Four. Each game has it’s own idiosyncrasies and this one was no different. In this one, you can collect stickers to put on a pokeball shell so that when the Pokémon comes out of the ball inside it, there are effects based on the stickers attached. This can be fire, smoke, streamers, or any number of other things. These are mostly for use in the contests in Hearthome City. I tried one out and did decently, but the contests were never my thing.

What I did find I enjoyed outside the regular game play was the Underground. Once you get the Explorer Kit, you can dig down into the Underground which is a series of tunnels which connects rooms with various environments filled with Pokémon. While the Pokémon in there sometimes fit the scenery, some seem totally random. The Pokémon wander around in plain sight with maybe about 8 of them in a normal sized room. You can fight, catch, or avoid them as you wish. You might even see an item on the ground in there somewhere. If you’re lucky, you’ll run into a rarer Pokémon that you’re not finding elsewhere. The part I liked, though, took place in the tunnels themselves. On your map, you see spots where you can mine. Once you find the actual spot on the wall, you get a 10×12 grid of wall locations that things could be hidden behind. There are 2 to 4 items in each “board” and you’re told how many from the start. You get a hammer and a mallet to choose from as tools. The mallet breaks more areas on the board but destabilizes the wall more. There are a few possible thicknesses throughout the board so it might take more hits to break through a particular spot. The object is to find all of them before the wall caves in. Given that a majority of them are only 2×2 or 3×3 squares, it can sometimes be tough. Even if the wall caves in, you get to keep what you found which is mostly spheres but can also be stone boxes, fossils, shards, and other things. The fossils can be turned into Pokémon like in the other games and things like spheres and shards are used to get things throughout the game. The stone boxes open up to give you a statue which you can put in your secret base which can affect how easy it is to find certain types of Pokémon. (Good luck remembering where your base is though.) Take a look below to see what the opening is like. I just love the challenge of finding the stuff in the wall. Most of the stuff you might want from people down in the Underground selling stuff can take some time to get the specific items you need since you can get red, blue, green, or pale shards and there are both large and small versions of each and you’ll need a bunch.

One disappointing part, especially early on in the game, is the fact that you level faster than the wild Pokémon. After the fourth gym, I had Pokémon with levels in the 30s or so but the Pokémon in the tall grass were still around level 16. These are too easy of kills at that level with not much experience gain for the Pokémon. Plus, if you are trying to catch a new Pokémon, there’s a good chance you may faint it instead of just lowering its health. I found myself often one-shotting a lot of the Pokémon that other trainers had too. One benefit of the Underground is that the levels of the Pokémon there are around the 30s and 40s. I like a bit of a challenge and the regular battling isn’t providing that. Another thing I miss from Shield dealt with the legendary battles. In those, if you accidentally faint a legendary Pokémon, they recover. Here, they just go away and you lose the chance to catch them. This happened to me when I was trying to catch Dialga. Thankfully, I saved the game right before the battle and could reload it and try again. Losing out on catching a legendary when you only have the one chance really sucks and I hope they keep it like in Shield for Pokémon Legends: Arceus and any future new games.

Overall, the game is what it is. It’s a prettier version of an old game. Being able to sit with a pro controller and watch it on a TV screen is a lot better than sitting and holding my 3DS and staring down at it. (My neck and back thank me for that.) Once I finish the story, I don’t see myself going back to this. If I want to play more Pokémon, I’ll go to Pokémon Shield or New Pokémon Snap. While the game is fun, the nostalgia of playing the old game isn’t enough to make up for the more modern games having a lot more worth my time.

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