Pokémon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl

In Pokémon: Shining Pearl and Pokémon: Brilliant Diamond, both of which are now available on Nintendo Switch, players return to the Sinnoh region and face off against Team Galactic! The most recent mainline remakes from the franchise have arrived, and they might be the most nostalgic Pokémon games yet. 

Classic Pokémon Action

The Pokémon franchise is no stranger to remakes. Over the years, the older games in the franchise have periodically been re-released, usually with updates from more recent titles added in for the convenience of the player. 

While games like Let’s Go Eevee and Let’s Go Pikachu featured updates to their graphics that made them seem more closely aligned to Pokémon Sword and Shield, the graphic updates for Shining Pearl & Brilliant Diamond take a somewhat different approach, with the characters in the over world designed to look like more fully rendered cartoon versions of the pixelated sprites that populated the original Nintendo DS release of the games.

However, when a battle is triggered, those sprites become more fully animated versions of the characters – all of which, from Hikers to Battle Girls, will be instantly recognizable to long-standing players of the franchise.

In fact, these battle sequences are some of the best-animated parts of the game, with even the settings for the battles being brought to life (including background details that make sense from your place on the map, like a towering mountain or, in one instance, gravestones).

But there is one graphical anomaly that is never really resolved: the Pokétch. When Pearl & Diamond were originally released, they were on the Nintendo DS (short for “Dual Screen”). While the main game display appeared on the system’s top screen, the bottom touch screen was where the Pokétch screen appeared, allowing the player to tap it at any time in order to access the apps it contains.

Just like the Wiimote control segments in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD, the functionality that was attached to the system-specific play features now come across as a strange vestigial inclusion. To compensate for the fact that the Switch lacks a second screen on which the Pokétch would appear, it instead floats in the top right corner of the display. While you can call it up or hide it using the R shoulder button, it nevertheless feels sort of awkward and redundant in a way that almost no other part of this game does.

It’s a little thing called style… look it up sometime!

However, this is a comparatively small complaint, and most of the game does an excellent job of seamlessly invoking the earlier incarnation of the title while simultaneously updating it for the Switch era. The net effect is one of the most nostalgic Pokémon games yet. Shining Pearl & Brilliant Diamond really took me back to earlier days in the franchise’s history  – and that’s from someone who has hardly missed a Pokémon title that’s been released over the course of the past two and a half decades.

Added Bells and Whistles

While Shining Pearl & Brilliant Diamond do heavily evoke their original releases, like other remakes from the franchise, they also incorporate some of the “convenience updates” that have been integrated into the Pokémon titles in the meantime. Perhaps the most prominent example is the ability to access your Pokémon box remotely, and swap out your team from anywhere, rather than just using one of the PCs located inside Pokémon Centers.

And while all of the functionality that was originally included with Pearl & Diamond remains intact, more functions have been added on, making this one of the most feature-packed Pokémon games imaginable. 

No matter what your favorite part of the game is, there are ways to dig further into that angle: for example, if you are a fan of the Super Contest Show, then you can work on collecting outfits to wear on-stage, or building your Capsule Decoration collection so that your Pokémon looks its very best when it emerges from its Pokéball (in fact, you can decorate your Pokéball in 2D or 3D, to give you an idea of the depth of even a function like this).

Another feature with loads of play potential is the Grand Underground. This network of underground caves and tunnels has a bunch of exciting features, including the opportunity to explore alongside other players (using either a local or online connection), catch Pokémon in “wild areas” (where you can see them wandering around in advance of the battle, like many areas in SwordShield), and the chance to find more items.

Plus, locating spots in the walls that are filled with “treasure” leads to a fun mini-game that sends you on a search or precious stones and other valuable items.

This is all in addition to the poffin-making feature, which gives you the chance to raise certain stats by cooking poffins with certain berries (which you can collect and grow mostly by gathering berries from naturally growing bushes throughout Sinnoh). Once you have the ingredients you need, you participate in a mini-game to cook the poffin (a style of play that you see continued in the main franchise titles thanks to the curry-cooking feature in Sword & Shield).

Big “left the last latke in the oil” energy.

By fully utilizing the poffin feature, you can improve your Pokémon’s visual scores in the Super Contest Show – a great example of the way these games give you the chance to dig into the features you like as deeply as you’d care to do.

Grudge is heavy, and all mine.

Another new addition to the game that is especially enjoyable is Amity Square, where you can take your Pokémon out of their Pokéballs and walk alongside them. Not only is there a camera function that allows you to take pictures from different angles than can be achieved anywhere else in the game, but this feature also allows you to unlock the option to have one of your Pokémon walk alongside you anywhere in the game.

Shining Pearl & Brilliant Diamond

Can he teach me a lesson?

Whether you choose Brilliant Diamond or Shining Pearl, there is little distinction between the two games – it essentially boils down to the Pokémon that are exclusive to each version. Fortunately, whether you’re playing with someone close-by or faraway, trading in the game is easy (and thanks to fellow Beat writer and devoted Pokémon trainer Dean Simons, I don’t even have to worry about how I’ll get the Pearl-exclusive pocket monsters).

With tons of play potential and enough extra features to keep you more than a little distracted from your main mission of collecting all eight gym badges and Elite Four, Shining Pearl & Brilliant Diamond are another set of solid entries for the Pokémon franchise.

Pokémon Shining Pearl & Pokémon Brilliant Diamond are available for purchase now. 

Review code provided to The Beat by Nintendo.