Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl review

Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl follow in the footsteps of Let’s Go Pickachu and Eva to bring back a classic Pokémon adventure with modern updates. This is a Pokémon adventure from a simpler time and allows fans to relive their Sinnoh adventures, or take them on an adventure for the first time. It’s also the perfect way to get ready for Pokemon Legends: Arceus.

Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl takes you back to the Sinnoh region, which is based on the real-life Japanese island called Hokkaido. It’s a classic Pokémon story where a local kid and their friend/rival journey through town after town, battling Pokémon as they go all the while collecting and researching the Pokémon of the region. We have Gym Leaders to fight, Pokémon to level up and evolve in your quest to become the best Pokémon trainer the Sinnoh region has ever seen.

Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl keep things simple and don’t play too much with the winning formula the original games had when they first came out. There’s no mega evolution and no gigantamaxing. Catching Pokémon is easier too, simply whittle down their energy and then throw a Pokeball to hopefully catch the Pokémon to add to your party and Pokedex.

In recent entries, there have been plenty of distractions away from the main core mechanics that made the original Pokémonl games great. Additional mechanics and gameplay elements have been thrown in to elongate the battles, and complicate the simplicity of Pokémon, leaving many fans scratching their heads as to what GameFreak is trying to achieve. The games became more about the theatre of battle rather than the strategy itself, and it’s great to go back to a simpler iteration of Pokémon and enjoy the core mechanics once again.

Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl do a great job keeping you focused on your goals. Once you pick up your starter Pokémon, then it’s off to the next town, battle and level up along the way and then try and beat the local Gym Leader.

The Underground area has been given a revamp in this iteration on Nintendo Switch. This is first unlocked a few hours into Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. You can access the Underground from plenty of places in the overworld and once there you can set up your base, find secrets and check out some new and rare Pokémon. It’s really useful for getting Rock and Water Pokémon when you are in a tight spot trying to take on powerful gym leaders that are standing in your way of progression.

The Underground is also the perfect place to hunt for Shiny Pokémon. The Underground is also optional, which is a nice feature. You can go down there if you find yourself in a little trouble, but if you want to mainline the story then you can.

There are some features added to the game which could fall into the quality of life upgrades. For example, you can use HM moves without teaching them to your Pokemon, and you can easily swap in and out party members. These quality of life upgrades don’t try and force Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl to be something they weren’t but offer modern features to ease the player through the game. There’s a tight balance here, you want it to feel familiar and nostalgic to appeal to the gamers who played it when they were a kid or teenager, but also feel welcoming to new players of the title. I think the developers have done a pretty good job here.

Pokemon has changed over the years and if I were a new player it’d be a tough decision on where to start. The obvious answer would be Pokemon Sword and Shield, as they are the most recent entries and include all the evolution features a modern Pokemon game has to offer. Personally, I played the most Pokemon when it was red and blue on the Gameboy, so this simple style of Pokemon hits me in all the right places.

Running through the story, battling and collecting Pokemon, without having to worry about the peripheral mechanics of the modern-day Pokemon made the game a joy, albeit driven by nostalgia. The game itself is fun if somewhat a little repetitive. For me, it’s a coin flip in terms of recommendations on where to start. This game represents what Pokemon was, not where it’s going. Plus we don’t have long to wait for the next major evolution in the Pokemon franchise, it’s only a few months away.

It’s almost as if Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl aren’t made for modern-day Pokemon fans, but fans who’ve since grown up and perhaps moved onto other games. Fans of the original Diamond and Pearl will revel in the joy of these remakes, but also fans who played the first and second generation of games will feel happily familiar with these remakes.

Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl may not have the bells and whistles of a modern-day Pokemon entry, but for me, that’s a benefit rather than a drawback. The gameplay is clean and sharp, easy to understand without the distractions of other entries. Whether it’s a trip down memory lane, or you are new to the series, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are solid games and scratch that classic Pokemon itch you may have been craving.

Developer: ILCA
Publisher: Nintendo
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 19th November 2021