Game Review

by Luke Carroll,

Pokemon Diamond/Pearl

Nintendo DS

Pokemon Diamond/Pearl
The new generation of Pokémon has arrived, bringing with it over 100 new Pokémon to find, trade, and capture. As a rookie Pokémon Trainer; you are given the task to capture, train, and battle many Pokémon on your journey to become the Pokémon League Champion. With many additions including WiFi support, you can now battle and trade with friends from all over the world.

It's hard to ignore the juggernaut that is the Pokémon franchise. Each generation released brings something different to the Pokémon experience and every release is met with chart topping sales that continues to grow. With the DS selling like hot cakes, GAME FREAK and Nintendo have once again come together to bring us Pokémon - Diamond and Pearl, the latest and possibly largest title in the franchise yet.

Keeping with the same fashion as the previous games, you play as either a young boy or girl fresh out of Twinleaf Town in the Sinnoh region. Upon having a few confrontations with the famous Professor Rowan, he entrusts you and your competitive friend to scour the land in search of data about all the Pokémon that inhabit Sinnoh. The journey of course is not an easy one, with wild Pokémon and trainers alike littered throughout the land in a bid to test your skills and abilities. There is also eight new gyms to home your skills against before you'll be able to take on the famous Elite Four. In keeping with tradition a new terrorizing group known as Team Galactic have arrived in Sinnoh and it is up to you to once again stop them. The plot has not changed much at all since the first game but it has never been one of the franchise's strong points. Needless to say, there is so much to do and so many people to speak to, that the plot acts as nothing more than an encouragement to continue forward and get stronger.

The basic concept and rules of the previous Pokémon games are once again kept intact, allowing seasoned players to jump right in and start playing. Starting out with one Pokémon, you begin your quest through the various towns, grasses, forests, caves, and waters that are positioned throughout the region. As you journey through these areas you'll come across random battles with Pokémon native to that area. Using your Pokéballs you can battle and capture these wild Pokémon for use during your adventures. With a maximum of only six being allowed to be carried by yourself at any one time, you have to choose your travelling team well. Each Pokémon can learn a total of four moves to help fight by your side. These moves are either learnt by levelling up your Pokémon, or through the use of Technical and Hidden Machines. Many Pokémon will eventually evolve after a certain level, happiness, or item is given, allowing them to become effectively stronger.

The turn based battling mechanics haven't changed too much from the previous games. It still follows the Rock-Paper-Scissors format that we all know and love, however there is a new subtle twist with these versions. Attacks were previously categorized into Special and Physical based on the move type, however Diamond and Pearl changes this by now having three categories, and each move is labeled by how it is executed, so a Tackle would be Physical, Gust would be Special, and stat changing moves such as Tail Whip go into a new category known as Status. For the average gamer this will make absolutely no difference to how you play the game, it does begin to play a more important role if you decide to dive much deeper into the gameplay mechanics that the game can offer. With 107 new Pokémon added to the roster plus 43 from the previous games, the Sinnoh Pokédex is quiet diverse. One thing I discovered was the game lacked certain types of Pokémon, a good example is Fire type with only Ponyta being avaliable in the wild. As with every other game, Diamond and Pearl has their own exclusives so trading is encouraged if you want to complete the Pokédex and own them all.

GAME FREAK and Nintendo have done well in including almost everything that was great in the previous games, plus adding some more improvements to the mix. The first thing you will notice is the new slightly raised 3D-esque perspective, which takes a minute getting used to but becomes quite handy later on in finding hidden paths. The graphics of course have been given a boost, with some very neat and detailed scenery and effects. Sadly the Pokémon are still shown as 2D sprites with their cries, and background weather such as rain gives some slight sound clashes when used with the menu or your Pokétch. Returning from Pokémon Gold and Silver is the Day and Night system, introducing five different times of day. Using the internal battery of the DS this time means that you can safely know that your game will still be working in years to come. Returning also from Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire are the Pokémon Contests, allowing you to use your stylus to dress up your Pokémon, help it dance to the music, and select the moves that will drive it to win. Using the berries you find on your journey, Poffins can be made to help give your Pokémon the extra edge it needs to make it shine in the Contests.

Diamon and Pearl uses the DS's second screen in a unique fashion as it displays the Pokémon Watch, or Pokétch for short. This watch can eventually be loaded up with numerous applications that get given to you along your journey, some more useful than others. Applications range from a digital clock and a coin to flip, to a move weakness checker and a very handy item detector. During battle the bottom screen is taken over by a menu featuring some very easy to press boxes that makes navigating a breeze. Of course the D-Pad can be used if you so are inclined to do so. Ultimately though, other than the Contests and Poffin making which plays out like a Cooking Mama segment, the bottom screen is used for nothing more than prodding the big red button on you Pokétch or the big boxes in your menus, which is a tad disappointing.

In what is likely the most significant improvement in Pokémon - Diamond and Pearl is the inclusion of Wi-Fi, allowing for not only wireless battles, chats, and trades, but online as well. The Friend Codes are once again used here in order to battle or trade between you and a friend which does run quite well, although it does take a minute to get a battle started as well as the pauses that occur between each set of attacks. Pokémon - Diamond and Pearl go one step further with the new Global Trading System, or GTS for short. This system is very much a global market, allowing you to put a Pokémon up for trade and ask for any other Pokémon you desire with the condition that you have seen it in your Pokédex. Seeking for a specific Gender or Level can also be done when offering and seeking a Pokémon. When a Pokémon is put up for trade, it is deposited onto the GTS, allowing you to turn off your DS or do something else and come back to it in a day or two to check your status. Sadly though, the GTS is terribly flawed at the moment, with many people using hack methods to gain access to high or very low level Pokémon that generally could never be gained easily. Although it may seem hopeless it is quite likely that your offer will be accepted by someone eventually, just don't expect it to be legitimately caught.

With the amount of things to do, it is easy to find yourself spending alot of time planting berries or competing in contests instead of training your Pokémon. Another new addition is the underground, a world of paths and alleyways that serves as a whole new game in itself. Using the Wi-Fi connection players can come and go from the Underground as they please. During your travels under the surface, indicators will appear to show you where burried gems and possible fossils are hiding, to which retrieving them requires another stylus interfaced minigame. You can also create your own secret base to store your gear, as well as buying and planting traps so those pesky other trainers cannot get to your base. Finding another player's base results in you gaining a flag, which acts very much like a harmless tally for your stats. Collect a few of these and you'll be able to improve your base and gain access to added items to make exploring that bit easier.

The Pokétch also holds two items of interest that will keep people busy when they don't wish to go any further, the Item Detector and the Vs Seeker. The Item Detector allows you to find all the hidden items laying in the ground. Pokémon - Diamond and Pearl are absolutely covered in these hidden treasures, to the point where a few dozen steps in any direction can likely result in a new item being shown up on the radar. The old Item Box has been replaced by your very own bag, allowing you to carry your almost limitless item arsenal everywhere you go. The Vs Seeker was first available in FireRed and LeafGreen, and acts very much as a device to tell you what trainers would like to have a rematch. This is a great inclusion if you wish to train or try out certain Pokémon without the fear of random battles, however the fact that the trainers never change or grow their Pokémon means that you will only find yourself returning to rebattle a handful of trainers. On top of all this, there is also the Battle Tower to attack once you finish the Elite Four. This tower contains a long series of Pokémon battles that reward you with points to go towards items. But if that doesn't satisfy your training needs, you can also download another player's Pokémon team to try and test your skills against.

Like in previous games, the Pokédex encourages you to find those missing Pokémon entries that bug you when you browse it. In Diamond and Pearl however, finding all those pesky Pokémon is a must, because doing so will unlock the upgraded version and gain you access to the other 300 so Pokémon from the previous games. I would have rather wished the upgraded National Dex been given as a reward for beating the Elite 4 instead though, as it can be quite annoying to finish the game, only to go back and be forced to fight every trainer you missed and train Pokémon you don't want in order to gain access to the rest.

There is very little to be disappointed with in these two games. The Pokémon games have always worked on the "if it isn't broke" approach, and it is quite evident again with this release. I did wish that they included the feature shown in Gold and Silver which was eventually being allowed to travel and fight in the previous region, though with so much else to do, you will likely forget about it soon enough. Having been an avid Pokémon fan and player from the start until the end of the Gold and Silver era, I can safely say that the spark these games used to give me has come back. With over 100 new Pokémon to capture, and the best features from the previous games being included, it is hard to argue that Diamond and Pearl are the most complete Pokémon games yet. The new and included features make them almost a must have for those already fans, as well as the best games to get started on if you are new to the Pokémon world and wish to know why so many people are playing it. Go Catch Them All!

Overall : B+
Graphics : B+
Sound/Music : B
Gameplay : B+
Presentation : B

+ Over 100 more Pokémon to catch, Online capabilities, Contains the best additions from the previous games
Pokemon still static with simple cries, Touch screen under-used, Only one game save

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