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Platform: Nintendo DS
Publisher: Nintendo of America
Developer: Nintendo
Genre: Turn-Based RPG
Format: Cartridge
Released: US 04/22/07 - Japan 09/28/06



Scorecard
Graphics: 76%
Sound: 72%
Gameplay: 96%
Control: 82%
Story: 60%
Overall: 86%
Reviews Grading Scale
 
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What WILL Lucario do?
 
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It's rainin' Pokémen.
 
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And they say, "do you wanna trade cards?"
 
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You can also feed it to your Cubone!
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Ashton Liu
Pokémon Diamond
05/14/07
Ahston Liu

It never fails - new Nintendo handheld begets new Pokémon game. It was only a matter of time before Nintendo brought an entry in the main series of its famed franchise onto the DS. Though many people may have already gotten tired of catching 'em all, the newest title in the Pokémon series may just change their minds. While on the surface the game has stayed almost exactly the same as its previous incarnations, Nintendo's made some changes, both subtle and not so subtle, that make the game much more engrossing than its predecessors.

The graphics of the game recieved a slight overhaul for the series' first foray into the world of DS. The game still employs the use of sprites for the various characters and critters running around, but the environment is a mix of 2D and 3D now, with buildings and the like rendered in 3D and everything else done in 2D. This combines to create a rather seamless visual effect, with the overhead view being slightly tilted; it may not be high tech, but it's very pleasing to the eyes and gets the job done without being overly glitzy in execution. The sound, similarly, has remained much unchanged from previous games; the music is still the same beepy, blippy MIDI quality stuff we've had since the Game Boy age, just spruced up a bit. Similarly, the individual Pokémon cries and sound effects are all the same low tech sounds we've been getting since 1998. They aren't anything fancy, but they're enough as far as the game is concerned.

Pokémon Diamond's story is incredibly engaging - a deep, intricate plot rife with political intrigue and deception with lots of story twists and... oh, who am I kidding? This is Pokémon. It's a story about a kid who acquires a Pokémon quite by accident and sets off on a journey to become a Pokémon master. Hardly anything mind boggling, but the concept of battling through gym leaders and besting the greatest trainers in the land to become the champion has always been its own reward. Nintendo's done rather well in localizing the game, as references to internet pop culture and (possibly unintentional) double entendres are scattered throughout the dialogue of the game; though, it does get old being called a 'noob' for the tenth time in a day.

The basic gameplay remains unchanged: travel through a large number of locales, catch Pokémon, raise them, and battle them. Not a difficult concept, to be sure, until you get to the mechanics of battling. Battling can be executed in either one-on-one or two-on-two, though one-on-one battles are predominant in the game. In battles, Pokémon take turns (with order dependent on speed) attacking. Certain attacks are more effective against certain type of Pokémon so it is important to make a well-balanced team that can fight against any type of Pokémon. Two vs. two battles may seem like they are just glorified single battles, but the strategy of the battles can often be completely different, as certain Pokémon will work better with each other than with others and many moves will have their effects applied to all Pokémon in battle.

Pokémon battling has always been a deep and complex affair; incredibly easy for anyone to get into, but deep and complex enough to become incredibly complicated. Thanks to abilities, natures and hidden values that alter individual Pokémon's statistics, along with the weakness/strengths system, hardcore players had many things to take into consideration while crafting their team. The latest entries in the series add, on top of these, a differentiation between physical and special attacks. In past games, certain types of attacks would always calculate damage of a certain stat (e.g. water based off of special attack, fighting based off of physical attack, etc.). With this new system in place, however, attacks are split into physical (the damage of which is calculated through a Pokémon's attack stat) and special (the damage of which is calculated through a Pokémon's special attack stat). On the surface, this change may seem merely cosmetic, but in actuality this shift in the battle system has caused a huge amount of change; many Pokémon that were useless before have suddenly become viable members of a trainer's main team, while others have dwindled in usefulness. Though the change was small, the effect has a large impact on how the game is played.

Even larger is the addition of online play to Diamond. Gone are the days of playing against only the people within your local circle of friends. While the friend code system is rather cumbersome and counterintuitive, the minor inconvenience incurred is well worth the reward: the ability to battle and trade against anyone in the world over the internet. The gameplay is nearly lag free and both battling and trading allow for voice chat, which is an incredibly welcome feature in this game. Also part of online play is the GTS, a place where players are able to put up Pokémon they wish to trade on auction or search Pokémon they're looking for that also have been put up. The addition of an online component to Pokémon makes the replay value nearly limitless as there's no end to the number of players available for battling. Nintendo may not be enthusiastic about online functionality, but this game proves that they know what they're doing in regards to it.

For everything it does right, though, Pokémon Diamond still has a few flaws that could've used some ironing out. First, depositing items into a PC has been removed in favor of a bottomless bag that carries as many items as the player picks up. While this may not seem like a terrible flaw at first, it becomes readily apparent that the interface needs serious work when the player amasses a huge amount of items. When the scrolling speed is so slow and the item bag is so large, it can be a tedious and annoying process to scroll to the bottom where the item you need is. Don't even try to organize the bag like I did; I broke down and wept quietly into my hands when I was about half done and have never attempted it again since. Similarly, the Pokémon moving system within the computer can be rather clunky and be counterintuitive at times. These flaws, however, aren't that major and are just minor wrinkles in the overall game.

The game itself is moderately long- 25 to 30 hours for the main game. But the extra content, raising Pokémon, Pokémon contests, battling, breeding, and the like can cause any player's counter to go over 100 hours without warning. Beware, for this game is a time sink in every sense of the term, and you may find yourself clocking in hundreds of hours in the game just to get the perfect party to beat out everyone else online.

While Nintendo has made very few changes in the transition of their monster franchise into the world of DS, what changes they did make have affected the core gameplay very heavily. Likewise, the addition of an online function in the game has made its replayability soar to new heights. While Nintendo may be cautious about online components in their games, Pokémon proves that they have what it takes to make a workable online game. Though there may not be many changes in this generation's iteration of Pokémon, what changes there are have revigorated the franchise. With over one hundred new Pokémon, better presentation, changes in the battle system, and the addition of online play, Pokémon has never been more fun. If you haven't played any of the games yet, the newest entries are an excellent place to start.



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