Platform: Nintendo DS , DSI
Developer: Game Freak
2-8 multi-card wireless play
2-20 multi player online (Wi-Fi)
While Pokémon Platinum is an all new chapter in Pokémon gaming, the simple and ever present gameplay remains untouched. For fans of the series the core game is every bit as engaging as it has been for the last 10 years. Yes, Pokémon Platinum is the same great game as the two most recent releases, Diamond & Pearl, but with plenty of major changes and minor tweaks for hardcore fans. That being said, even the most addictive and sometimes inventive gameplay may not be enough for more casual DS players to enter the Pokémon world.
The games graphics aren’t anything revolutionary; in fact they are almost a mirror image of past games in the series. The sprite based characters look very Game Boy like but they are bright and colourful.
The monsters tend to look very similar in Pokémon Platinum although they seem to be slightly different then previous games. Most hardcore gamers will notice the differences quite easily right off the hop, but the casual gamer won’t spot anything different. You can even compare the way the games cities look and you'd easily spot how everything looks exactly the same, which is fairly disappointing, but understandable, as it is an extension of the older games.
The too familiar and copied look is what makes Platinum’s graphics disappointing as it has almost zero visual improvements. Instead of focusing on changing these aspects, the game offers some limited scenes with amazing special effects, such as Giratina's entrance sequence. This is one of those moments where you will feel deeply impressed, but as a one-time sequence it is just some free eye-candy and nothing more. Yet again, Giratina's dimension deserves a special mention - depicted in a very clear 3D style. Such areas of the game also serve as evidence of fact that the developers could have improved the visual aspects of the main game more than they actually did.
The DS headphone jack is the only way anyone should listen to their games. The external speakers just do not have the range that headphones can provide, which can impact the gameplay experience. In the case of Pokémon Platinum the games sounds and music are largely lifted from the Diamond and Pearl games. In fact I would say almost 80% to 90% is directly lifted from the previous versions. Mind you there a few new tracks added but they seem to a bit generic, and to be blunt somewhat boring. I found I turned off the music after a few hours. The rest of the games sound effects also seem to be lifted from older games which is disappointing, but they are clear and easily audible. There is the odd bit of hiss and compression, which picky gamers will notice, but most will probably not even care.
If for some odd reason you’re not familiar with the Pokémon series of video games, each story’s hero (an aspiring Pokémon trainer) travels to the local Pokémon professor to choose his very first Pokémon. From there he/she must engage in elementally themed battle with gym leaders from throughout the world to try and become the greatest Pokémon trainer around. Although it is a pretty basic story it is one that camouflages a large number of surprisingly deep and interesting features.
As a rising Pokémon trainer you are able to capture any creature you meet in the wilderness by weakening and throwing Pokéballs at them. At any given time six creatures can be carried at the same time while a limitless number can be stored in the in-game PC’s found around the world (though I still don’t understand how an animal can fit inside a computer). Each of these Pokémon have certain characteristics that can be matched up against Pokémon with other types of characteristics, creating an intricate game of rock, paper, scissors where water beats fire, fire beats grass, grass beats water, etc. In addition, by the sheer number of Pokémon and evolution paths, there is an almost limitless amount of party combinations to choose from. It is safe to say that no two adventures will be exactly the same.
For the incredible numbers of fans of the likeable and elusive creature, Pokémon Platinum is the newest and most up to date version of the franchise. Development team Game Freak has added a plethora of new features and elements along with new moves, monsters that you couldn't capture before, extra items and more. However, the question that still remains is whether the game is worth the umpteenth update and is it still fresh, fun and worth the money? In my opinion the answer is both yes and no.
If you have played any of the Pokémon titles in the past you will find the Platinum version's storyline predictable, almost to the point of exhaustion. Granted the there are one or two minor events that differ from the previous games, and there are some new side missions, activities, etc., but the basic plot line is exactly the same: get all the badges, defeat the bad guys, unlock elements, and level up. It tends to turn your experience into more of a chore over the long haul. That being said, I can understand that the fans of the series live and breathe Pokémon and they will play it regardless of any shortcomings. The game is easy to play as the battles use the DS’s controls to perfection. The buttons are intuitive and the touch screen is quite responsive, although tough to read at times. This is definitely one area where the developers have finely honed and utilized the DS over the previous games.
One addition to your Platinum adventure is a new theme park option, where the main attraction is Pokémon battles. You must win battles under various conditions to gain Battle Points, which you can later exchange for very rare items or spend them in other ways that you see fit. While this is a great feature, it is not all that new as it was also in the Emerald version of the series. Catch’em all is another new feature and I found it provides instant fun for a couple hours. The mode consists of numerous one–on-one battles using one of your animals. You will face random creatures or other gamers, where you are given a random mix of monsters and so on. It kind of breaks the usual six-on-six mold, which also works just fine.
In terms of particular creatures, it may be just me, but some the move-sets appear to have been slightly changed. Oddly, some of the monsters that you could find in the other versions of the game seem to appear in the very same areas in this new game. Yes, monsters such as Geodude and Zubat are still as common as before, to the point of absurdity. Just how many of those monsters live in the Pokémon world? After tons of games, Zubat is still as common as in the very first game, making me wonder why people need that many elements of the species; they are more of an annoying plague than an actual threat though.
I also found that some of the gym mechanics have been slightly altered in Pokémon Platinum. Most gyms are played exactly as before, but now more complex experiences replace several simple gyms. For example, the grass gym where you could originally find a small maze-like forest is now a flower-like clock. Here you will have to fight some trainees before actually advancing to the boss. You will also find more day-related events added this time around. If you recall, the previous games had a single Pokémon that you could try to capture once a week. Now, there are more of these set events with particular characters being a bonus reward on a certain days of the week. This also adds a certain replay element to the game.
The Wi-Fi modes seem to be where the game has changed the most. The game utilizes a very simple system from the previous games where you could exchange monsters and battle other players. This time around a cooperative Poffin-baking mode, an improved Wi-Fi waiting lobby and tons of other surprises exist. In terms of the Global Trading System, you are now allowed to set an email address to receive your own updates. If a gamer wants to trade items with you you will get an email alerting you to the trade offer. The new “Battle recorder” mode allows you to save and send off your most memorable moments to your friends. This new feature is all about bragging rights. All in all the online functionality is pretty cool.
Apart from the obvious, the game features many other minor changes. There are a few new characters, but no new legendaries whatsoever. Instead you are merely given new forms. Shaymin, Giratina and Rotom now have extra forms, which can be changed by performing specific in-game tasks. This does not particularly impact the gameplay per se, but it is more of a silly way of getting players to watch Rotom turn into what looks like a washing machine. It is certainly laughable for a few minutes, but in the end the option does nothing to drive the series forward.
The story mode boasts anywhere from 25-50 plus hours of gameplay depending on your dedication to the “gotta catch them all” philosophy. Even without an overly obsessive personality there are plenty of features to stretch out the longevity of the game. The aforementioned robust multiplayer battle and trading system allows players worldwide to interact with each other in both competitive and friendly ways. There are also underground areas just waiting to be explored and the addition of the Battle Frontier allows players to challenge themselves long after the completion of the main story.
Ultimately, I must give credit where credit is due. The game is way more difficult than its predecessors, with more side things to keep you busy. There are several high-level opponents for you to face in the later levels of the game, which is interesting as most opponents seem to be way more intelligent than before. I could not believe the first time I saw an enemy switching out of their active monster, or using healing items, in order to gain the upper hand over my active creature. It definitely complicated battle strategies, which did add a new game play element.
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