Pokémon Platinum


Review by · May 4, 2009

Few memories from my personal videogame history are more valuable than those created while playing Pokémon Red. At the time, the Pokémon craze had struck hard and fast, and I was among those swept up in its mercilessly enthralling wave of commercial vomit. That said, out of all the merchandise, nothing was better than the game itself. Not only was it a quality product in an era of cheap plastic junk, but it was also an addictive centerpiece to my collection of Pokémon dolls, cards, books, and other colorful, but ultimately useless toys. The hundreds of hours I spent collecting and leveling up Pokémon on steamy summer afternoons will remain with me forever.

Eleven years and a dozen installments later, Game Freak sent out its latest product, Pokémon Platinum, pregnant with enough promise to sell millions of copies in just two days. Although the craze had lost its enchanting supernatural powers long ago, I picked up Platinum for nostalgia and what I hoped would be a solid RPG. After nearly forty hours of gameplay, I had felt the nostalgia; the series had hardly changed. I also felt a bit empty after wiping out the Elite Four and becoming Pokémon champion. I felt an undeniable longing for simpler times and fewer Pokémon.

Pokémon Platinum begins in a quiet town in the land of Sinnoh, with the prospect of becoming a Pokémon trainer just beyond the door of a young protagonist’s home. Along with his (or her) impatient, but energetic friend, he stumbles upon a philanthropic professor and his first Pokémon. The professor’s ulterior motive is unveiled, the hero claims his Pokédex, and the adventure begins. Armed with knowledge and ambition, the young trainer departs to collect them all, disable the destructive plots of Team Galactic, and become Pokémon champion.

Platinum has a slightly more substantial story than Red and Blue as well as its predecessors, Diamond and Pearl, but that doesn’t mean it is a tale worth telling. Team Galactic is an ignorant cache of dolts led by a mastermind convinced of the futility of emotion. Of course, as a passionate young Pokémon trainer, the protagonist foils his plans with ease. The few characters that drive the story are flat and trite. A story exists, but it is thin, predictably juvenile, and oftentimes elusive.

The catch of the Pokémon games has always been the immaculate gameplay, however, and although it has changed little over the years, the formula of catch ’em, train ’em, and battle ’em remains one of the best. As an evolution of Diamond and Pearl, Platinum plays nearly identically to those two and not far from the golden days of Red and Blue. Pokémon still run about in tall grass, waiting to be caught into the sunset hours of the day, later to be tossed methodically onto a battlefield to zap, incinerate, and fly their way to victory. Combat is deep, rewarding, and surprisingly challenging for something so seemingly innocent. The game’s pacing is pleasant, although a high encounter rate and annoying status effects can put the player on edge. Fortunately, all is forgiven when a seemingly insignificant Golduck takes down one of the Elite Four all by himself.

The most prominent new feature of Pokémon Platinum is the Distortion World, a 3-D alternate dimension about thirty hours into the story. The Distortion World is a contrived and worthless gimmick that lasts for less than an hour and fits awkwardly into the plot. This new dimension may have been designed as a selling point, but it won’t convince anyone to make a purchase. Other additions include the return of the Battle Frontier from Emerald, the Wi-fi plaza, and the Vs. Recorder. The Battle Frontier opens after the completion of the main story, the Wi-fi plaza allows players to engage in mini-games over the Wi-fi connection, and the Vs. Recorder captures and stores videos of impressive two-player battles. These additions are arguably worthwhile, but largely favor multiplayer fans. The single-player experience is largely unchanged, save for some rearranged Gym leaders.

Considering the exclusive additions to the Platinum version and the elements added to the core game over the years, the latest Pokémon RPG is incredibly complex and time consuming. With little diversion, the main quest occupies forty hours. To fully explore Sinnoh, complete side quests, compete in contests, and catch all the Pokémon would no doubt take over a hundred hours, especially including any multiplayer distractions. Indeed, it is this intimidating vastness that causes me to long for the days of only 150 Pokémon…

Whether Pokémon Platinum needed to exist or not, Nintendo would have made it. Platinum may feel old, given its remixed graphics and sound and the few changes made to its predecessors, but the overall package is certainly a valuable one, with hours of strategic, solid gameplay. Unfortunately, after eleven years of contrived additions and new Pokémon, the series begins to bend under the weight of it all. Perhaps in all their remixing and remaking, Nintendo will rediscover the magic of those first 150 Pokémon, and I’ll once again feel inclined to catch ’em all.

Overall Score 83
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Kyle E. Miller

Kyle E. Miller

Over his eight years with the site, Kyle would review more games than we could count. As a site with a definite JRPG slant, his take on WRPGs was invaluable. During his last years here, he rose as high as Managing Editor, before leaving to pursue his dreams.