Pokemon Diamond Hands-On

Roughly ten years after its inception, the Pokémon franchise is still alive and kicking. The fourth generation has recently been released in Japan, and is on its way to the US.

The following is a hands-on based on my experiences with a Japanese copy of Diamond. Even though I have clocked a lot of time in the game and have done pretty much everything there is to do, I can,t call it a review since I,m not a a fluent Japanese speaker and a lot of subtle details and nuances (such as most of the talking) went over my head.

That said, the game is definitely importable even if you don,t know a lick of Japanese. The interface has remained roughly the same, and has even been improved in some places. Item management, for example, is easy as there,s an icon of the item next to its name. But enough fooling around with trivial stuff — it,s time to cut to the chase.

Pokémon Diamond follows the same basic principles of its predecessors, but brings some new stuff to the table in addition to the whole "battle your way across the land, catch Pokémon and collect gym badges in the hopes of ultimately becoming the region,s reining champion" deal. Once again there,s an evil team to stop; this time it’s planning to acquire the powers of the Time and Space controlling Pokémon, for what I can assume are nefarious reasons.

The graphics also stay true to the style set by its predecessors. The battles look very similar to the last few titles. There are some nice backgrounds and some moves look a lot better, but the majority of them really won,t wow you. The overworld is the biggest graphical change, now featuring a 2.5D look with 3D-ish houses and other objects.

As mentioned, apart from the many staples the game does has a bunch of new features, too. Pokémon Diamond is the first game in the series to feature online play, for example. This is a welcome addition fans have been yearning for since the time Pokémon took off. Now that there are 493 critters to bag, the online trading system called GTS is most helpful.

The process is quite simple, but it has limitations. You can offer a Pokémon up for trade and demand a specific one in return. You can be extra specific and, for example, ask for a Level 50+ male Abra for what you bring to the table. Alternatively, you can search for the monster of your liking and see if you,ve got anything to match the other player,s demand. The limitation here is that you can only search for or request a Pokémon that you,ve encountered before, which makes a lot of them inaccessible. Another thing that makes the service less attractive than it seems on paper is that you,ll have to weed through a lot of silly demands. The majority of the people are offering the most common crap around and asking for one-per-game legendaries in return.

Of course you can always trade with friends, though that requires the dreaded friend code system. This automatically brings me to what feels like the biggest kick in the balls for this game: battling is restricted to friends only. You can,t battle random opponents whenever you feel like it, and it really takes away from the whole Pokémon gameplay. If you want to challenge someone, you will have to swap friend codes; you can store 32 of them. It,s times like this that I secretly wish Pokémon was a Microsoft franchise, as they know how to handle online play better than anyone else at the moment. The reason for this restriction may be the inclusion of voice chat, but if it really was they could have just made that option a "friends only" possibility. That said, the game,s other aspects are a lot more positive.

Pokémon Diamond once again offers a tremendous source of replayability. Each version holds about 380 Pokémon, and the great part is that GAMEFREAK has spiced up the means of getting them all to appear. While running through grass, surfing, fishing and surfing are the traditional ways to capture a critter, there are now a lot of other ways to trigger their appearance as well. For example, every odd route you,ll find a honey tree which needs to be tagged with honey for the Pokémon inside to appear (after a few hours). Other appearances depend on the time of day, because the day and night system is back and once again adds to the experience, as it feeds the illusion that the land you,re traveling through is "alive." What,s arguably a bit more troublesome is that some Pokémon will only appear when a certain GBA Pokémon game is inserted. About thirty Pokémon are seen only by this type of insertion, though once again online play patches up that sore spot.

Speaking of patches, Nintendo may do well in using the game,s Wi-fi capabilities as a means of fixing some bugs. The game has been out for about a month and a half in Japan, and people have found some pretty messed up glitches. Apart from being able to surf through some doors — which sends you to some sort of glitch world — more troubling is the more complex glitch that allows you to slap moves on your Pokémon they wouldn,t be able to learn otherwise.

As described above, the game is also compatible with its GBA predecessors through the Pal Park. This place lets you upload 6 Pokémon per cartridge each day, but once sent there,s no turning back. After the transfer, you,ll have to recapture all six as fast as you can to get a prize. Unlike previously reported, the Pokémon you send won,t disappear after 24 hours; you just won,t get any prize if you wait too long. Park Balls also have a 100% capture rate, so you won,t have any trouble recollecting the Pokémon you sent, seeing as the Park,s grass will only have the uploaded Pokémon roaming around in it.

Other additions include the Super Contests, which are an upgraded version of the Pokémon contests. You now showcase your Pokémon in 3 rounds: a dress-up round, a small rhythm minigame round and an appeal round where you try to impress the judges with your moves. This is a nice diversion, but ultimately not that incredibly captivating in the long run.

What I found to be a lot more addicting was the underground. After obtaining a set of digging tools fairly soon in the game, you can go visit the underground. There you can scout for shiny bits in the wall with a sonar device and trigger a minesweeper-like minigame. Armed with a hammer and a chisel, you can chip away at the wall,s layers in hopes of uncovering orbs, fossils which can be revived into Pokémon and other useful in-game items. The orbs act as the underground,s currency and can be used to purchase items for your secret base and traps.

The secret base is your fully decoratable refuge. If you have a friend close by, you can play a capture the flag minigame, in which both players need to race to the other,s base — and purchasable traps come into play. Nearly all of these traps involve the touch screen in one way or another. For example, there are fire pillars that need to put out by blowing in the mic and water bubbles you need to pop before being able to progress past the trap.

In terms of replayability, Pokémon Diamond feels like a small step back when compared to Emerald. That game had a slew of slightly different battle variations in a place called the Battle Frontier, and it was quite challenging. People with fully trained level 100 teams now only have the Battle Tower (a place where you battle a bunch of progressively harder AI teams) to resort to, and if they,re lucky online friends who are also hardcore players. But I reckon most people will stick to online battle simulators such as Netbattle if they want to have non-stop tactical matches with peers online. Under its light-hearted surface, Pokémon is highly competitive game and that certainly hasn,t changed.

On paper, Pokémon Diamond looked a bit better than what we eventually got, as things like the online play and battle variations seem to have been stunted primarily so that the player will have an excuse to buy Pokémon Battle Revolution on Wii later on (keep in mind things may be changed in the American release). Still, if you,re looking for a Pokémon game with lots of substance, updated graphics and generally lots and lots of small touches that make this game feel more polished than the previous titles, you,re in for quite a treat. It could have been a lot better, but it’s definitely on par with the other titles and surpasses them in several areas.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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