Pokémon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl

 

Review by · November 30, 2021

Pokémon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl have big shoes to fill. Fourth generation Pokémon games are some of the most beloved in the series, having modernized the gameplay with combat features like the Physical/Special split and social features like online play. Despite high expectations, this is the first Pokémon remake that wasn’t developed by Game Freak. Instead, Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl was taken on by a little-known studio, ILCA. What approach did this new studio take to these much-anticipated remakes? For better or for worse, Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl are highly faithful remakes of the source material with some added quality of life features and a very nice fresh coat of paint. From the story to the towns, routes, and Gyms, Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl recreate the bulk of the content from the original games to a T.

Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl provide the typical Pokémon story. You play as a young boy or girl adventuring on their own for the first time to defeat each Gym Leader and become a Pokémon Champion. On your way, you’ll battle your rival, catch and raise Pokémon, and take out the dastardly Team Galactic, who want to selfishly use Pokémon for world domination. Unlike more modern Pokémon games, the story in Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl is more of a background element. There are few scripted story moments and more of a focus on exploration. Routes are less linear and there are more opportunities to stray from the beaten path compared to more recent entries in the series.

Despite their adherence to the original 15-year-old games, Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl manage to avoid feeling dated. Pokémon’s simple-to-grasp but surprisingly deep mechanics and the core gameplay of catching, training, and battling with Pokémon has aged well, especially with the quality of life features ILCA added in these remakes. The quality of life features are largely what players have come to expect from the series, such as auto-saving, the ability to change your party from almost any location, and your Pokémon not needing HM moves to traverse the world. These features ensure that Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl play like a modern Pokémon game despite their adherence to the source material.

There is one notable missing quality-of-life change that baffled me during my time with the game. TMs, which are used to teach your Pokémon moves, are again single-use instead of reusable like in modern Pokémon games. The developers seem to acknowledge the frustration of single-use TMs, as many of their sources provide multiple copies when they only provided one in the original. Despite this, I still felt less inclined to use TMs when I knew they weren’t reusable, which is one of the few things that does feel dated in Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl.

Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl screenshot of Dawn hanging out with Pokémon in the park.
Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl are some of the cutest Pokémon games yet.

The last major quality of life feature is a controversial one: the Exp. Share. Unlike the original games, in Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl every Pokémon in your party gains experience for every enemy Pokémon you defeat, regardless of whether or not they participated in the battle. In many ways, this type of Exp. Share makes Pokémon work like most party-based RPGs, but the implementation is clunky here. By the fifth gym, despite making no effort to grind, my Pokémon were all 5-10 levels higher than any Trainer I fought, including Gym Leaders. After that, I started seeking out battles less, in hopes of adding a bit more challenge to my playthrough, and I still boasted higher-level Pokémon than each member of the Elite Four at the end of the game. Pokémon games don’t need to be difficult to be fun, but Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl is a cakewalk to the point that battles can become dull.

While I have mixed feelings on some of the quality of life changes in Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl, one of its shining (ha) areas is the presentation. The remake went with a chibi, 3D art style that feels cute and nostalgic compared to the more realistic art style used in Pokémon remakes like Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire. For a remake as faithful as this one, the more nostalgic art style is a strong choice. Pokémon Contests also return in this game, and they are one of the biggest beneficiaries of the improved presentation. New music and the ability to watch Pokémon dance around in 3D really adds a lot to the rhythm-based diversion. The game’s music is my favorite aspect of its overall presentation. Each new arrangement of the classic soundtrack is recognizable, but with a twist. From the jazzy Galactic Eterna Building theme to the classic battle theme, almost every song is improved upon in Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl.

Although Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl are near 1:1 recreations of Diamond & Pearl in many ways, there were a few brand new features added. The first one players will run into is the Grand Underground, a huge underground cave system players can explore to mine and build Secret Bases. While the Underground did exist in the original games, it has been massively expanded in Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl. The first thing players will notice is that the Grand Underground is much bigger with two new areas to explore. Additionally, unlike the original games, you can find Pokémon lairs where you can battle and catch Pokémon that walk around the map. Some rare Pokémon can only be found in these underground areas. The Grand Underground also lets players build Secret Bases where they can place decorations. The Grand Underground is much more compelling than it was in the original games, but it still feels disconnected from the main story and gameplay. You can spend the entire game without going underground, and there’s little compelling you to go there, which is a shame because it is much improved from the original.

Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl screenshot of the Grand Underground.
You can find Pokémon lairs with rare Pokémon in the Grand Underground.

The other notable new feature in Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl is the ability to have your Pokémon follow you on the overworld. This feature was available in the original games, but only for a limited selection of Pokémon in specific locations. In this remake, you can have any Pokémon follow you around anywhere. I loved having my Skuntank chase me around, although the experience can be a little awkward. If you are running or biking, your Pokémon moves slower than you, forcing it to recall to its Poké Ball and then hop back out next to you. Pokémon can also occasionally get in your way, though they will always move after a second or two. It’s worth the minor clunkiness to have your buddy walking around with you, though, and you can turn the feature off if it becomes bothersome.

There are a few noticable feature exclusions in Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl compared to the originals. While they are remakes of Diamond & Pearl, it is disappointing that Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl include minimal content from Pokémon Platinum, the third game of its generation, and offer little to replace it. Previous Pokémon remakes like HeartGold & SoulSilver have included content from the third game of their generation, while remakes like Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire have included additional content such as an entire post-game story in place of content from that generation’s third game. Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl offer little of either. While this doesn’t prevent Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl from providing a good experience, it is difficult to argue that they are the definitive versions of their generation when a version released 13 years ago offers the same content and more, which is a negative mark on the remake for me as a long-time fan.

All in all, Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl provide a great way to experience the Sinnoh region for first-timers, complete with quality of life features that keep the game from feeling dated. For long-time fans, Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl provide an accessible, no-frills version of the original Diamond & Pearl with a few minor feature updates and a lovely fresh coat of paint. For me, the improved presentation was enough to make for an enjoyable playthrough, but players looking for the definitive version of fourth generation Pokémon, a content-rich postgame, or a well-balanced experience, may just want to dust off their old copy of Platinum.


Pros

Beautiful presentation of a classic game, excellent soundtrack that improves on the original, addicting but accessible core gameplay.

Cons

Trivially easy combat drags down the gameplay, lack of postgame content compared to other remakes in the series and the original games, quality of life features can be a mixed bag.

Bottom Line

Pokémon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl are extremely faithful remakes that provide a great entry point to the Sinnoh region for new players and a trip down memory lane for established fans, but a lack of new features or content will leave some players wanting more.

Graphics
80
Sound
90
Gameplay
75
Control
70
Story
70
Overall Score 70
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Brian Mackenzie

Brian Mackenzie

Brian is a news editor at RPGFan with a minor addiction to Fire Emblem games. When he isn't obsessing over his unit's stats, or writing news, you can find Brian writing ideas for his Dungeons and Dragons game or hanging out with his pet lizard.