Diamond & Pearl remakes confirmed!
The long wait
No the real, let’s call it ‘craving’, for the Diamond & Pearl remakes began last year. Once Sword & Shield had released (and the entire backlash had settled down somewhat) the fandom started looking forward. When the Pokémon Presents presentation for January 2020 was announced, many people expected that would see the remakes revealed. It wasn’t to Farfetch'd (and No, I’m not apologizing for that). After all, there was one generation of no remakes between Heart Gold & Soul Silver and Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire. There’s a similar gap with now and a release in 2020 would also fit the yearly release schedule Pokémon has had since Pokémon X & Y 2013.
But no, Diamond & Pearl remakes were announced that faithful January. We did get another remake in the form of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon DX and Pokémon doing DLC for the very first time in the form of the Pokémon Sword & Shield Expansion Pass. But. But! As fans were quick to point out: the Sword & Shield Expansion Pass were handled by a smaller, B-team. The main team over at GameFreak thus had their hands open for another project. That would surely be the Diamond & Pearl remakes? They’re ‘overdue’ after all! Well, no. Not really, but we’ll get to that in due time.
|Take a wild guess which Sinnoh Starter I favour!|
The graphics; Yay or Nay?
Now that you know the history of Gen 4 remakes in the Pokémon Community, let’s dig into the Pokémon Diamond & Pearl remakes that have now been revealed. Pokémon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl. While these are indeed remakes of the original Sinnoh games, they’re actually NOT the remakes people were expecting. Fans were expecting the remakes in the style of Sword & Shield. For it to use the same engine and style. For Sinnoh to incorporate a Wild Area with roaming Pokémon. Perhaps they would even incorporate Dynamixing into the games. All in all, what we got with Pokémon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire. We got none of that.
Instead, what we got is a remake that is more in line with The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening remake on the Nintendo Switch. A faithful, what looks like a near 1-to-1 recreation, of the original game packed inside of a Chibi art style for the overworld. Let’s be real, the initial reaction wasn’t too pleasant. The Chibi art style is not what we were expecting and a bit jarring the first time you look at it. It’s just so… squished. The art style has been the first thing people clung to and many who have stated a lack of interested or disappointment in these games have cited the art style. However, a similar thing happened with Link’s Awakening. People’s knee-jerk reaction to the graphics (mine included) wasn’t good. Over time, however, the strong dislike of it lessened. Many people starting to mellow out, came around to the art style and even appreciated it once the game released and they played it (me included). If you look around, this mellowing is even already starting to happen. Without a doubt, a similar thing will happen here and the appreciation for the graphics will grow over time. It is, for one, much closer to the overworld graphics of the original Diamond & Pearl so it didn’t completely come out of nowhere.
|The opening of the game in the new, Chibi, style. Quick note: the perspective of this image is different than that of the rest of the overworld. It's seems to be angled. Is that an indication of a more dynamic perspective? We shall see.|
The problems beneath the surface
No, the Chibi style graphics of the overworld is not what concerns me My concern lies more in other aspects of this remake. In the way, they might have updated them. Or more accurately: the lack of updates in certain departments. Pokémon Diamond & Pearl, for how much fun they are, still have a myriad of problems. They’re flawed games and, if I may be so bold, perhaps even the most flawed games in the core Pokémon series. I don’t have the time, nor did enough research, to point out all of the flaws. However, I will point you to a video that does. Tamashii Hiroka’s Retro Game Review on Diamond & Pearl does a good job of pointing nearly all of them out.
For right now, here are just a few flaws off of the top of my head. An obvious one is the slowness of the entire game. From the walking speed to HP decrease during battle. It’s all so painfully slow. The story has pacing problems and Cyrus, and by extension Team Galactic is underdeveloped. The Pokédex is severely lacking. It’s way too small and not all well balanced. The lack of Fire Type Pokémon (there are only two Fire Type families, Chimchar’s and Ponyta’s) and the number of 151 Pokémon are to0 low. You could say it’s a homage to Kanto and its 151 Pokémon but it greatly hinders the teams you can build in Diamond & Pearl. There even a lot of Gen 4 Pokémon, all evolutions of older Pokémon, that are completely absent from the Sinnoh Pokédex. Gallade, Magnezone and even Leafeon & Glaceon, the evolutions of the franchises secondary mascot Eevee, were only available in the post-game.
The reason why Pokémon Platinum is so well regarded by fans and is considered to be THE Sinnoh experience is that it addressed nearly all of these problems. The game was still slow, but the walking speed was taken up a few notches. The story was rewritten in parts to make it flow better. The characters of Looker and Charon were added to give the game some extra story and fill in parts of the story where nothing happened for quite a while. Cyrus himself got some extra scenes written for him that better fleshed him out and explained why so many people had decided to join Team Galactic. And most welcoming to me, the Pokédex got expanded. All of the new evolutions of older Pokémon with their entire evolution families in two were added to the Pokédex. Some other Pokémon, like the Fire-type Houndour line, was added to expanding the Sinnoh Pokédex to 210 Pokémon. Platinum also added in some new stuff of course, like the Battle Frontier, which is also something that I do need to mention out of fairness. Still, it were those improvements that made the difference.
It's only the question if those improvements will be carried over to Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl. As per the official Pokémon website “The original story has been faithfully reproduced, and the sense of scale in the originals’ towns and routes has been carefully preserved.” It's that line that makes me worry. It's clear that these games are very faithful to the originals and that they thus didn’t change much. To be fair, it only says the original story. That means that the pacing issues and the character work will most likely be carried over, but that other issues could very well be addressed.
What the official website also state is that “These remakes include easy-to-understand, player-friendly conveniences of the modern Pokémon series, plus up-close-and-personal Pokémon battle scenes”. ‘Conveniences of modern Pokémon series’ is the important part here. This clearly indicates that some changes have been made to the games. I feel that this is alluding to the removal of HM’s, the changed exp. Share etc. The smaller conveniences that have made the Pokémon games less annoying when they were introduced. People have spotted the woman that was added to the flower town Floaroma Town to gift the player the key item that is required to change the Mythical Shaymin’s form (which was introduced in Platinum and not present in Diamond & Pearl at all) so there is just a sliver of evidence that some Platinum improvements have made it into the game.
|Another change that we can see from this shot is that the player no longer moves on a 4 direction grid. If it’s a 360 movement type of deal is still unknown, but it at the very least seems to be an 8 direction grid.|
And the Pokédex? Well, the jury is still out on that one. Porygon-Z, a Pokémon that is only in the Sinnoh Pokédex in Platinum, has been seen in the trailer. However, Porygon-Z was also encountered in Diamond & Pearl in the post-game. Its appearance thus doesn’t confirm that they are using the Platinum Pokédex. Another quick Pokédex related thought: will Sylveon be in the game? Sylveon, the Fairy-type evolution, is the only regular evolution of an old Pokémon that was introduced after Gen 4, post Diamond, Pearl & Platinum. If they do go with the Platinum Pokédex (and the changed Pokémon distribution in the region) Eevee will be in it. It would make sense to include Sylveon, it’s a popular Pokémon and adds another Fairy-type to the roster (also introduced after Gen 4). However, this wouldn’t be the first time that they wouldn’t include evolutions of an older Pokémon. Fire Red & Leaf Green kept you from evolving, for example, your Golbat into a Crobat until the post-game and it wasn’t until Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire that they incorporated those evolutions in the regional Pokédex. And with Dexit now a thing, I’m not making any assumptions on this matter anymore.
One last interesting thing about Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl that I want to discuss is that it’s NOT made by GameFreak. For the very first time in Pokémon’s 25-year-long history, these are Pokémon games that belong to the core series whose development has been outsourced to a different company. It’s made by ILCA, Inc the developers/developmentd aid of games such as Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Yakuza 0, NieR: Automata and Dragon Quest X. They’re also the team behind Pokémon Home application, so it is their first foray into the world of Pokémon. Junichi Masuda, director of the original Diamond & Pearl, has returned for directing duties for the remake as well so there’s at least one GameFreak veteran involved with these games.
With all of that said, am I looking forward to Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl? Will I pick up the game once they come out at the end of this year? Yes and yes. Even though, as you’ve read, I’ve got plenty to worry about with Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl, I still want to play them. I want to revisit the Sinnoh region in what is hopefully an improved experience. I have many memories of playing Pokémon Diamond as a kid (I put over 700 hours into the game if I recall correctly) but over time, these games have become much less enticing for me. I don’t often return to it because of the many flaws of the game hinder my enjoyment of it. I listed Generation 4 as #7 in my Pokémon Generations ranking last year for a reason after all. And, if I can tell you a little secret, I don’t own Pokémon Platinum so that’s not an option for me if I want to revisit Sinnoh.
The Chibi graphics of the overworld is something I can get used to and I’m already warming up to. It’s something different after the last few games have all had a very similar visual style to them. If some of the Platinum improvements, especially the updated Pokédex and Pokémon distributions, will make it into these games is still not confirmed. But I’m trying to stay positive when it comes to this. Junichi Masuda is aware of these problems, its why the fixed them in Platinum, so he surely wouldn’t disregard them with these remakes? The ‘modern conveniences’ aspect will also surely help make these games much more enjoyable to play. No HM’s (hopefully) not as much grinding, the Fairy-Type etc. For all of these reasons, I’m looking forward to picking up Brilliant Diamond once it comes out and is cautiously optimistic that it will be a marked improvement over the originals.