Platform: Nintendo DS , DSI
Developer – Game Freak
Publisher - Nintendo
Touch Screen Compatible
1 Player Single Player
2-8 Player Local Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi Network (Online)
Anyone who knows me knows that some of my toughest reviews have been any of the Pokemon series. For some strange reason I have not been a total fan of the games. I can be honest and say that I have tried to really get along with the whole “gotta catch them all” gameplay, but it just hasn’t been my cup of tea. That being said, I was somewhat intrigued to see how Nintendo would bring Pokemon into the DS world by offering a true sequel. Well Pokemon Diamond and Pearl have finally been released to the world and after some extended playtime with the games I can honestly say that if you’ve loved any of the games in the past there is no doubt you will love these current iterations.
Before you continue I want to tell all of you that I gave both Pokemon Diamond and Pearl a good amount playtime in my DS. The main difference between the two games is how often and which type of Pokemon appear. That being the case I ended up spending the most time with the Diamond version, but this review can basically be considered for both games as they are that much alike.
Something that struck me during my time with this game was the fact that it was not nearly as next-generation as I hoped it would be. The DS is capable of doing some pretty great things, and although there are some graphical upgrades in the latest iteration of the series, I was a little disappointed that it was not nearly the upgrade that I had hoped it would be. However that being said, the game does do a little more then one would expect and it looks pretty decent.
Pokemon Diamond is presented utilizing mostly 2D graphics. The on-screen action seems much sharper then that seen in the past and I attribute this to the fact that the game was developed with the DS’s hardware in mind, including the TFT LCD screens. Along with the standard, but more detailed, 2D fair you will note that there are polygonal graphics intermixed that give the game a little more visual depth. One becomes aware of this when first seeing polygonal buildings that are scattered throughout and how they mix so well with the available 2D graphics. Along with the finer detail, and feeling of depth, the colors in Pokemon Diamond are quite bright and really have a punchy feel to them. Although most of the game looks better then those of the past I was disappointed in the look of the Pokemon battles. They are so similar looking to previous versions that it really let me down. I was hoping for some 3D effects when in battle, including seeing all the Pokemon in new polygon forms. However that being said, the attack animations and special effects that are included with each are pretty impressive and definitely look like they use the available horsepower of the hardware.
The music in the game is quite catchy. Now as this series has been more of a miss for me in terms of enjoyment I was somewhat surprised that the music was not annoying. If anything I was tapping my foot more often then I had expected and I did not find myself looking for the volume button. An added bonus to the music is that there is a heck of a lot of it too. You will find that no matter where you are, or what the situation is, the music varies from each scenario you find yourself in. This was somewhat surprising given that the DS’s storage medium is not nearly as large as one could hope. As for the rest of the sound effects, I would have to say that these somewhat disappointed me as they just didn’t seem to have the oomph that they should have. If anything they seemed somewhat lower quality then what one would expect coming out for the DS’s stereo speakers. I have a sneaking suspicion that the developers may have recycled some sound effects from the past; however I have no concrete evidence so this will have to remain speculation, kind of like Area 51’s existence. Overall the total audio package is a mixed affair but nonetheless any diehard poke-maniac will still enjoy this aspect of the game.
Pokemon Diamond’s story is quite similar to many past stories of the series. You are a young boy or girl living in the town of Twinleaf. You and your best friend are sent by Professor Rowan to collect data on Pokemon that inhabit the Sinnoh region. Of course your collecting is done by capturing and fighting the various Pokemon you come across. You will also find yourself facing off with eight different leaders in eight different Pokemon gyms that are found in the Sinnoh Region.
Something that became quite evident to me is that this game had a somewhat familiar feel to Pokemon games of the past. First off you have that “gotta catch them all” feel and second the game plays like a refined version of many Pokemon games of the past. As you venture through the forests, fields, towns, and caves, you will discover and face many different wild Pokemon on a random basis. Game Freak has stuck to the tried and true formula where as the game is an RPG adventure and battling occurs with via the creatures you find. These cute critters still fight using the various abilities that they possess in a turn based battle where you will use the best attack or defense in an effort to wear down your foe. Should you be successful in wearing down your opponent without wholly defeating them you can capture them in a Pokeball, tame them, and eventually make them into a worthy companion. You carry up to six Pokemon at one time and each of your Pokemon can learn up to four different abilities. These abilities are earned during the various battles you fight. And of course as your Pokemon grow stronger they can evolve into new and more powerful versions of what they once were.
Besides the traditional turn based fighting there is other things to do. During the approximately 35 to 45 hours of playing there are you will find yourself fishing, harvesting and planting food (e.g. berries), cooking special treats for your Pokemon and even entering your Pokemon in pageants to name a few. The list of things to do is quite large and somewhat interesting. Those who invest the time to find the really rare Pokemon should be prepared to spend a lot more hours in their efforts as the rarer they are, the harder they are to find.
I know that a lot of people will ask what has changed in the basic formula, and I have to say that not a whole lot has. As I was making my way through the game it became evident to me that Nintendo didn’t venture too far of the well beaten path in terms of the familiarity of the series. In some ways this is good as it allows the already millions of fans to come home once again. However on the flipside of the coin I wondered if this familiarity could somewhat work against it as innovation has been Nintendo’s path to success and Pokemon could definitely use an overhaul to freshen up the series. Regardless of my view however I have to admit that the gameplay has worked up to this point as evident by millions of different versions that have sold to date.
Something that really intrigued me during the wait for this game was how Nintendo was going to take advantage of the DS’s innovative touch screen. The first thing I noticed was how they utilized the screen in an effort to make the menus somewhat more user friendly. This was very evident during battles. There is no longer a need to cycle through the menus to choose your Pokemon’s actions as there are buttons on the lower screen that allow you to do so this time around. This simplifies things this time as you only need to tap the bottom screen and go. I applauded this simple but yet effective use of the DS screen as it allowed me to have a much easier time during battles. This seems to be the main focus on the DS’s touch screen feature.
The bottom screen is also utilized for a new gadget called the Poketch. This is basically a Pokemon watch that not only allows you to tell time, but it is also a status screen for your Pokemon, a calculator and a metal detector to name a few. This was kind of cool, but not an innovative enough feature to really change the game. Regardless, this new addition really made sense to be included in the game.
What Pokemon Diamond (and Pearl of course) offers that no other Pokemon game has before is that addition of internet play for a little multiplayer fun. Utilizing Nintendo’s Wi-Fi Network you can do battle, trade and even chat with other Poke-maniacs. Now as you all know I am not a huge Pokemon fan, but the ability to trade Pokemon over the World Wide Web was kind of cool. It was as simple as firing up my copy of the game, going online, looking on the global market and seeing what people had to offer. Interestingly, if you have a Pokemon on the market you don’t even have to have your DS turned on for a transaction to be completed. The online battles on the other hand, although great in concept, are a little more difficult to do. You will need the game-specific friend code for anyone that you may want to do online battle with. I hope that Nintendo can look beyond this whole friend code thing and make for more seamless online experience. Finally Pokemon Diamond (and Pearl too) supports voice chat. You can use the built in microphone or the newly released DS headset. Of course the only problem with this is that you can only chat with other players whose friend codes you have already registered. For those people who don’t have the ability to take their DS online, have no fear as you can also play through the old style local Wi-Fi with a friend or stranger who happens to be in the area. Overall, even with the complications of the whole friend code it is great to see Pokemon gain the ability to play online using the DS. This was a great addition indeed.
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