Pokémon Diamond for the Nintendo DS was the first video game I ever received as a Christmas gift.
Though Pokémon Sapphire was technically the first one I played, the Sinnoh region truly cemented my love for Pokémon — and video games medium at large. Seeing the Sinnoh region get the remakes it deserves is delightful.
But I’m also disappointed with the quaintness of Pokémon Brilliant Diamond. Outside of a few welcome introductions, this is the original Pokémon Diamond and Pearl just as you remember, for better and for worse. It feels like the developers haphazardly chose where to make improvements and where to leave things the same. The end result is comfortable, familiar, and utterly uninspired.
You go on a journey to fill the Pokedex, defeat eight gym leaders and an evil organization, catch a Legendary Pokémon, and then become the Champion by defeating the Elite Four. Brilliant Diamond delivers the same experience you’ve come to know and love from this series, so it scratches the itch for a classic Pokémon experience for those who feel the series has strayed too far from its roots with Trials and Wild Areas.
That said, the original games do have some glaring flaws, like locking new Pokémon evolutions like Dusknoir and Electivire to the post-game or barely having any available Fire-types. Certain Gym Leaders and Elite Four members have weird teams that don’t always match up with the type they are supposed to represent … because there aren’t enough Pokémon of that type in the game.
Those were fundamental issues in an otherwise solid Pokémon game. Brilliant Diamond does nothing to fix them. Even more baffling? Pokémon Platinum essentially remade these games in 2009 with a new story and better Pokémon distribution.
Brilliant Diamond almost ignores Platinum entirely. Understandably, the developers wanted the remakes to be faithful, but when a game from 11 years ago has better changes than your remake, the reimagining feels a bit hollow.
Brilliant Diamond does succeed when it does something unique, but the overall lack of ambition is disheartening. Customizing your trainer and Poké Balls helps make your adventure and team feel unique. The Grand Underground is an expansive hub to explore with friends, and Ramanas Park provides an official way to get many popular Legendary Pokémon.
The developers even went out of their way to make the AI more competent and some of the endgame fights tougher than before, which should please those who think the series has gotten too easy. You’ll need a strong team and a good strategy to beat the Pokemon Champion Cynthia. At the same time, raising a full team of Pokémon is also a smoother process than ever as every Pokémon in your party gets experience points after a battle.
Pokémon Brilliant Diamond is uneven but mostly successful. It plays it safe enough to wind up enjoyable but unambitious.
Obviously, the most significant difference between the original games and the remake is the visuals. Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are fully 3D, sporting a chibi style in the overworld and a more realistically proportioned one during battles. Yet even these reworked visuals are a mixed bag.
Occasionally, some animations are incredibly detailed, and some areas look gorgeous thanks to water or lighting effects. At other times, textures and other effects look very muddled and rushed (Ponyta and Rapidash’s fire, in particular, looks horrible). The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening’s remake set a high bar for this visual style, and Brilliant Diamond does not fully meet that.
Currently, the game is missing some vital multiplayer features like the global trading system or Union Rooms with more than two people. While developer ILCA will add these in a post-launch patch, their exclusion stifles the online experience and makes it feel like The Pokémon Company greenlit these remakes solely to fill a slot on a release calendar.
Thankfully, it’s nowhere near as technically flawed as GTA: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition or worsens the original like Warcraft III: Reforged. Still, it doesn’t reach the heights of previous Pokémon remakes like HeartGold and SoulSilver, which reimagined the source material as much as they preserved the originals for a new generation.
Even with their flaws, Diamond and Pearl are still good Pokémon games, and I have a lot of nostalgia for them. If you don’t have access to the original Pokémon DS games and have been itching to journey through Sinnoh again, Pokémon Brilliant Diamond delivers a completely by-the-numbers remake.
Brilliant Diamond lacks ambition and will frustrate fans of Pokémon Platinum more than it pleases. Still, an extremely faithful classic Pokémon remake might be just what we need before Game Freak wildly changes up the formula with 2022’s Pokémon Legends: Arceus.
Inverse reviewed Pokémon Brilliant Diamond on Nintendo Switch. It is available now.
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