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Review: Are Pokemon Shining Pearl and Brilliant Diamond for You?

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pokemon shining pearl brilliant diamond review

Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Pokemon Shining Pearl revisit the fourth generation of the franchise. Hey, this pair of Nintendo DS games? Yep, next in line for remakes! So they’re not exactly surprising. But the quandary here is these games’ intended audience. Are they for you? The answer boils down to a few factors, and we’re here to guide you in the right direction!

pokemon shining pearl brilliant diamond review

I want a challenging RPG.

Expecting a challenge from a Pokemon game has long been a mistake! That’s not new. “Core” RPG fans often look down on the franchise with disdain, as the pacing and intensity just isn’t there. But somehow? These games make it worse.

This comes about through the intersection of two of BDSP’s design decisions. The first: the shot-for-shot remake nature of the games. It tries very hard to be that old experience in as many ways as possible! Sometimes at the expense of modernity, and sometimes to the frustration of fans seeking either new upgrades or the additions of pseudo-sequel Platinum. Developer ILCA, either from a hesitance to make bad changes or an iron fist of Pokemon Company oversight, didn’t take any risks, and you can feel the stifling air of that safety.

But then? These elements collide with Experience Share. Originally an equippable, targeted item, modern EXP Share doles out lots of growth to the whole party with no exceptions. But the game’s combat encounters and difficulty curve aren’t balanced for this! The result is a game that’s mind-numbingly easy.

We actively avoided optional encounters whenever possible and still managed to overlevel within the first two hours and never look back. (As usual, though, there’s a bit more challenge in the postgame when you get there.)

If NO, Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Pokemon Shining Pearl might be for you.

exp share is going to level up your team really quite too fast

I haven’t played Pokemon, and I want to try.

With the newbie-crafted Let’s Go games and the new-generation Sword and Shield in the recent past, you may not be looking for the nostalgic remake to be a comfortable entry point. And yet? Yeah, it very well could be.

Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl happily hold your hand. This all is fairly aggravating to veteran players who have been through all of this a dozen times before. But for the first time? Hey, that’s useful! Combined with that low difficulty and the simple aesthetic presentation, it may be the sort of entry to welcome family and friends to the franchise who picked up a Switch for Animal Crossing or Ring Fit Adventure.

It also sands down some of the game’s rough edges. It retains the HM system for getting around, but you can activate any of them after they’re unlocked without having a party member learn them. (Thanks, random wild Bidoof!) That EXP Share change means there’s very little stress. BDSP even implements that modern move effectiveness display once you know a foe’s types. It’s welcoming, sometimes at the expense of feeling like bumper bowling.

If YES, Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Pokemon Shining Pearl might be for you.

pokemon shining pearl brilliant diamond review

I want to catch ‘em all.

There’s a sizeable segment of the Pokemon community that’s driven to find and collect all the new creatures. You know the type: the ones for whom Pokemon Home is a vital utility. If that’s you? You know, there may not be much for you here.

These games are pure remakes and don’t introduce any new species or forms. Early Pokemon facelifts covered pre-GBA generations that couldn’t connect to later ones for transfer. Later ones didn’t have that utility, but they were still regularly more convenient or with some handy extra features. The original DS games might require you to jump through a couple of hoops, but their feature sets aren’t ancient.

So BDSP only gives you access to more catch opportunities if you’re a Switch-only Pokemon player. And while, sure, Sword and Shield don’t have everything, the Expansion Pass made so many more species accessible. (And provided a super-easy way to get Legendaries and Mythics.)

So if you actually want to collect new stuff, you’ll need to sit tight and wait for Arceus.

If NO, Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Pokemon Shining Pearl might be for you.

grand underground fossil

I want to revisit my nostalgia for Diamond and Pearl.

This might be the best selling point here. Is it the story? The contests? The underground? Or the iconic creatures that defined your childhood? Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are most successful with those primed to love it.

Why? Well if you aren’t here for the contests and ribbons and stickers and such, it can feel vanilla and barebones. Diamond and Pearl‘s distinct qualities are optional, and that puts it in its own territory in the franchise. Other entries? Megas. Z-Power. Dynamax. Whether you like it or not, you experience these new things as you play. In these games, you could pass its special elements by, and many do if it’s not their sort of thing. But that does make a bland-at-times game even more milquetoast.

These special things are also about loving your creatures. That means that having a real attachment to pals like Shinx, Bidoof or Gible helps you enjoy the game in a very material way. Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl retain the original games’ Pokedex, so anything newer won’t pop up. And that’s ideal for recreating that old experience.

The backlash to the games’ visual style? Yeah, you’d have to overcome that. The overlaid visual effects do a decent enough job of holding the look together, but it still feels disjointed at times. Not helping matters is the shift between chibi and normal styles in the overworld and battle. We think it’d be easier to get used to it if it were more consistent.

If YES, Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Pokemon Shining Pearl might be for you.

pokemon shining pearl brilliant diamond review

Without fondness for the original games, you might find Shining Pearl and Brilliant Diamond less than compelling. With it, though? You’ll be fine as long as your expectations are in check. They’re faithful remakes! And while ILCA’s stodgy, conservative approach won’t wow anyone, it gets the job done.

Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Pokemon Shining Pearl are available now worldwide on Nintendo Switch. Game Freak’s own new title, Pokemon Legends: Arceus, will launch January 28, 2022.

Pokemon Shining Pearl
& Brilliant Diamond

7

Without fondness for the original games, you might find these entries less than compelling. With it, though? You'll be fine as long as your expectations are in check.

Food for Thought
  • Palkia is one of the most infuriating catches in the franchise. Curse you, Aqua Ring!
  • The stylus-based stuff, like the Poketch and poffin making? It feels a bit lesser in this adaptation, but ILCA did its best.
  • Whenever we review a remake of a game we reviewed the first time, our joints get just a little creakier.
    If you want to know more, check out Siliconera's review guide.
    Graham Russell
    Graham Russell, Siliconera's Managing Editor, has been writing about games for various sites and publications since 2007. He’s a fan of streamlined strategy games, local multiplayer and upbeat aesthetics. He joined Siliconera in February 2020. When he’s not writing about games, he’s a graphic designer, web developer, card/board game designer and editor.