Pokemon Pearl Review

The Pokemon universe seems to be one of those phenomenons you either love, hate, hate to love, or love to hate. Even though I can’t truly grasp my personal look on the franchise, I think I have come to a plausible conclusion on the way I view it. I really do love playing Pokemon. When I need to pick up a game to play, there is nothing better than a refreshing Pokemon game to sit down with. The whole series has spurned off so many fundamentals seen in outside RPGs, and has become a major blueprint for the genre. But even while saying all of that, I still have an occasional yearning to strangle each and every Pokemon that I see outside of a video game or even within one. Whether it is the incredibly stupid anime show that is dumbing the minds of our kids, the plainly idiotic designs of some of the Pokemon (check out Aipom, a monkey Pokemon with a disposable glove attached to its tail), or the fact that some of the universe is racist (take one look at Jynx) I still have some negative outlooks on the franchise.

But whether you love Pokemon or wish to kick their little faces in, there is no denying that the franchise is a major part of the gaming industry. Nintendo has transformed what was once a single video game into a worldwide media giant. Pokemon is still an enormous franchise, and even though its following has dimmed down a bit, it’s still crushing any copycats thrown in its direction. The series is a prime example of how proper marketing and superb usage of supplementary products can turn a video game into something bigger than the industry. Nintendo only has to thank themselves for Pokemon’s unwavering popularity, as it is truly the Big N that that keeps the series chugging along year after year.

Nearly ten years after the original releases of Pokemon Red & Blue, a new set of Pokemon games has finally hit the shelves for the Nintendo DS. Pokemon Diamond & Pearl is, in a sense, the pinnacle of the Pokemon franchise. The game effectively puts its predecessors in their respective places when stacked up to the sheer amount of content placed into D&P. Now, games like Ruby & Sapphire now seem more like Beta builds than precursors for D&P. It is is the ultimate Pokemon adventure, and the last ten years of experience shows.

Diamond and Pearl start off in the same way their predecessors did; you complete a few errands, get a pokemon, and start adventuring from there. A pleasing thing to see about the beginning of the game this time around is the improved choice of your starter Pokemon. Ever since the the release of the first couple of games, Pokemon fans have been subject to seeing some terrible Pokemon to choose from as your starter. All three of your choices this time around are not only fun to look at, but all have special disadvantages and advantages that keep the game rather balanced while not overly affecting your adventure.

Once you get your first pokemon, your adventure finally begins. The similarities in D&P to the games that came before it are quite shocking when you’re looking at the game’s mainquest; you still have gyms to conquer, pokemon to grab, and a psychotic organization to outwit. Still, the game hides its overly nostalgic feel cleverly by adding some flavorful elements that are rather fresh when compared to the rest of the title.

Prior to the game’s release, I was really hoping some unique usage of the DS’ touch screen, helping it escape the current limitation to minigames we have seen from it. Even though D&P doesn’t quite accomplish what I was hoping for, the game makes little-yet-noticeable use of the Nintendo DS’ innovative capabilities. The touch screen functions with more ease than a D-Pad would, and this becomes most apparent when scrolling through menus and battle screens. The battle interface acts much more fluid, so you won’t get lost looking for items and attacks as you would before. As the battles still remain turn-based, its great to see how well the touch screen works with the menus, since scrolling through them is the only "skill" needed to fight efficiently. While walking, the touch screen essentially becomes the Poketech, Diamond & Pearl’s best new application. The Poketech is basically a pocket PC, as it successfully utilizes a plethora of programs that will assist you throughout your journey. Some, like the walking meter, are pretty useless whilst others, like the Watch and DayCare Updater are a joy to have at a tap of the screen.

Something that was disappointing in the past couple of Pokemon games was that the full assortment of Pokemon conceived at the time weren’t catchable during the game’s release. Unfortunately, Diamond & Pearl are no exceptions to this trend. You aren’t going to be able to "catch ’em all" in this adventure, and if you must have all 493 Pokemon in your arsenal you’re going to have to resort to finishing off the previous games to do so. That means you can trade your Pokemon over to the DS from the GBA, so it is possible to get all the Pokemon you have captured over the past five years into D&P to see their updated forms. To compliment that, one hundred or so Pokemon have been added to the mix, and a majority of these new creatures aren’t as disfigured in appearance as previous "new" Pokemon have been. Something excellent about these new Pokemon is that a huge focus is put on Legendary Pokemon — everyone’s favorite kind of Pokemon to snatch. As each one requires some kind of sidequest, you will be spending a bulk of your time trying to catch the ten or so legendaries that are so valuable to everyone’s party. All of the legendaries are a blast to capture, and the bits when searching for these ever so rare Pokemon are some of the best moments from the game. Still, even though there were a dozen or so legendary Pokemon added, I would rather be able to capture a Mewtwo or a Lugia once again rather than just porting them over from last generation’s games.

After seeing the superb 3D models Pokemon Stadium boasted on the N64, it’s sad to see that Diamond & Pearl weren’t developed into a fully 3D adventure. Even though the overworld has some cool effects that make the world "seem" 3D, it would be best for the franchise if Gamefreak started pressing for a real third-person 3D RPG; the current look of Diamond & Pearl is far too outdated to be seen on such a high profile game. Even with the small update added, the whole overworld looks bland to today’s standards and the same can be said in regards to the battles and Pokemon models. The game’s turn based battles still look awkward with the whole robot-like movements the Pokemon are replicating. The Nintendo DS has proven it can produce, and even perfect, N64 graphics… so why stick to a 2D style that is so obviously outdated? It is a question that has to be asked, as it seems that perhaps the game’s developers took the cheap way out in regards to the graphical department.

The same can be said for the game’s audio. Hearing Pikachu shout its name is bad enough, but at least it doesn’t sound like someone scratching a chalkboard with their nails (the sound of the basic Pokemon language, obviously). The DS has enough storage to hold every single Pokemon’s true voices, so they should have been implemented. Once again, it seems Gamefreak took the cheap road by putting in those deadly screeches into D&P, a trend that is seen consistently in the game’s technical end. The sound isn’t as good as it could or should be, and even though its evident that Nintendo and Gamefreak are relying on content and Pokemon’s name to get sales (which they continuously do), the little efforts put into the game’s technical end is surprisingly obvious.

A newer element that adds to D&P’s depth is the Wifi hookup. You can now battle and trade with millions of players around the world for the first time ever in a Pokemon game, meaning no more clunky GBA hookups are needed. It’s marvelous to see the Pokemon world finally meet the digital world, as so many possibilities can be reached with the franchise over the Internet. Even though this current form of Pokemon Wifi only allows for battling and trading through the web, I do think this is just the first step in a whole chain of video games Nintendo and Gamefreak are beginning to develop for the series. Pokemon’s online capabilities are endless, and even though Nintendo will reluctantly begin to develop the game’s online features, they will be eventually perfected.

But as I said, this is just a first step: a very tiny first step. The whole friend code limitation is still at hand, so you can’t hop online without someone else’s code. These limitations really are a killer as this game is just shouting for party based lobbies and a decent matchmaking system. The whole friend code limitation turns the game’s Wifi abilities essentially into an extended version of the GBA hookup, as you can only play with a friend who you have added prior to starting Wifi up. The only way given to chat with your opposing player is through a headset that produces sound resembling static more than English. Such minor improvements could have made to the entire Wifi set up to make it so much more playable, yet they haven’t been implemented. Don’t worry, though guys — Nintendo is going to get the whole gaming online thing right eventually. They just have to, or the entire company’s future is in for a bumpy ride this generation, and Nintendo is smarter than to allow such a thing to happen…at least I hope.

Whether or not you’re okay with playing an improved version of the same game you’ve played before is up to you. What you do have to remember, though, is that the basic Pokemon adventure is still deceptively deep and addicting to play. Diamond & Pearl are overstuffed games, and even though you’re going to suspect a lot of what is going to happen, the small new things will keep you coming back to the game every time you pick your DS. There is a lot to do in this game, and it easily offers 40 to 50 hours of gameplay just to blow past the game’s main quest. Add a bunch of sidequests, pokemon to collect, and the WiFi capabilities, and you’ll probably be busy with this game for a good length of your 2007 Summer.

The games prove that ten years of catching, training, and battling Pokemon is still just as fun and addicting as it was when the series first rose to fame. The game still is a meaty adventure, and offers a countless number of RPG strategies to master that both mature and younger players can grasp. It is the ultimate Pokemon adventure, and great manipulation of the touch screen and the implementation of Wifi to the series makes the game incredibly more enjoyable to play.

Even though D&P changes nothing regarding the franchise’s core gameplay, it won’t be long until things do begin to stir up. Whether it’s going to be real time combat, or a 3D camera put in place, a major change is in due for Pokemon universe. If there isn’t, Pokemon is going to eventually start tasting sour . Although Diamond and Pearl show a visible start to this trend, the games’ nostalgic style and basic RPG mechanics prove that Pokemon doesn’t need all the technical elements or new gameplay to have our mouths watering for just yet….but the franchise is going to need them sooner than later.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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