‘Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl’ delivers nostalgic experience, struggles to find middle ground

Angela Lim, Life and Arts Reporter

On Friday, Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl released on the Nintendo Switch systems. The games, set in the Sinnoh region, follow the Pokémon Company blueprint that’s worked for the past 25 years: The protagonist catches a variety of pocket monsters, collects gym badges, thwarts a villainous organization’s plans and eventually challenges the Pokémon League to become the champion.

The Pokémon Company entrusted ILCA, Inc. — a Japanese game development company — with Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl’s creation instead of their usual partner, Game Freak. As a result, these games seem distinct from other installments in the series like Sword and Shield. The franchise went back to the basics this time, offering a necessary, refreshing break from their constant attempts to innovate.

Unlike previous remakes — such as Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire — Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl remain faithful to the aesthetic and mechanics of their DS predecessors by being almost identical in overall style and storyline. However, even with ILCA’s accurate depiction of the vast Sinnoh overworld, enhanced with fluid water textures and lighting, the chibi art style of the character sprites looks especially awkward up close, revealing lifeless expressions and Cyrus, the boss of Team Galactic, not having a nose.

Graphics issues aside, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl succeeds in maintaining the nostalgic experience for experts while also implementing revamped features. The Grand Underground transforms into an addictive hub where players can spend hours digging up treasure, building a secret base and discovering rare Pokémon. Additionally, players can now use Hidden Moves through their Pokétch, eliminating the need to catch a Bidoof solely for Hidden Moves. Pokémon party members can follow the protagonist in the overworld as well, a subtle but highly requested detail from fans.

Still, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl fail to properly address the inconsistencies of the originals in terms of difficulty, most likely due to developers trying to keep both old and new audiences engaged. The forced Exp. Share and affection bonuses make the early game a breeze, and the opponents’ levels fluctuate indefinitely. Players can look forward to major battles though, such as the Elite Four and Champion, since their teams have more competitive movesets.

A few of the games’ music fall short as they transitioned from a DS sound font. The organ harmonies stick out in Team Galactic’s battle theme while the Lake Trio’s signature bass was pushed all the way back. On the other hand, soundtracks like Canalave City and Eterna Forest become more emotional and enthralling with their choice of piano and strings.

Overall, the latest Pokémon remake simply stays true to its roots as promised, incorporating some quality of life improvements. Because of its familiarity, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl provides a comfortable experience for fans of all ages — and admittedly, the games’ flaws can easily be forgiven thanks to overwhelming nostalgia (and the fact that it’s Pokémon).

3.5 poffins out of 5