Pokemon Diamond DS Review
178:14, One hundred and seventy eight hours and fourteen minutes! That is what my in game clock reads just as I am about to start writing this review for Pokémon Diamond. That’s a total of over seven full days, which is a whole blooming week that I have played Pokémon since I got my hands on a US copy in the dying days of April just a few days after its launch. That, at least for me, is a stupid amount of time to spend on any game. Even while playing through the Final Fantasies of this world I don’t think I even reached the 100 hour mark. So what the hell possessed me to play with the little critters for so dammed long?
Wi-fi, that’s what! The simple addition of being able to trade with people on the other side of the world makes the game a joy to play. The simple way it is implemented, via an uncomplicated note pad with the trading done inside the buildings in the game, is also fantastic; it’s almost like it should have always been there! Its inclusion actually makes you believe you have a chance of catching them all this time and if you frequent some Internet forums and know enough people willing to trade then you might just end up doing it this time. As you would expect from Nintendo all the person-to-person trades (and in turn battles) that are done over Wi-Fi need each person to have the other person’s friend code entered so you won’t be making specific trades or having battles with random people. There is however another trading option called the GTS. Once you enter the GTS you can either seek a Pokémon by searching from a list of all the Pokémon you have already seen and checking if anyone has deposited one for you. You can however also deposit your own Pokémon and ask for something specific, although you never have direct contact with the person trading. Unfortunately there seems to be many people playing the game that think their newly caught Pikachu will net them a Legendary Pokemon and almost half the trade requests on there are ruined because of this stupidity.
So what else is new? Well other than the inclusion of over 100 new Pokémon and some reworking of the battle options the core mechanics of the game have not changed much, if at all. You still start out the game without a Pokémon, you meet a professor, meet a rival, and you then get your hands on one of three Pokémon. From there you move out of your home town, meet people, find Pokémon, battle people, level up, win badges, find TMs, curse the stupidity of HMs, and finally battle the elite four and become champion! It all sounds so simple, and in truth it is, but the way the game is put together, along with the game’s hidden depth make it evolve above the simplicity and makes it a joy to play. The other big change is the game’s touch screen addition but this part of the game has been intentionally underused to try and keep things familiar. While in battle the touch screen gets the most use, letting you pick moves, pick Pokémon, pick items and throw Poké Balls but while roaming the rest of the game world it is use solely as a means to view your Pokétch, a new item with different attachments, such as a step counter and a item finder, to help you in your quest.
As always, one of the biggest draws of Pokémon is building your own unique team from the selection available. Not only do you have to watch out for types (from the 17 available) but it also helps to check out stats (attack, special attack, speed ect), abilities and natures, with some people even spending days breeding to try and get the best mix possible. Of course it is not necessary to go this deep into the game but if you’re looking to do some competitive battling even the smallest extra stat can help. Speaking of breeding, things can get even deeper there as some Pokémon can only learn moves via breeding. For example if you want a Bellizard (A Charizard that knows Belly Drum) you will first have to spend the day levelling up both parents sufficiently enough so the move is learned then you will have to breed the mum and dad and hatch the Charmander egg and start levelling it up again. This is just one example of Egg Moves and if you wanted to, you could spend weeks with the game trying to get a highly unique team with the right moves by just breeding different Pokémon together!
But what about my Pokémon from older games? I hear you cry! Well Nintendo has sorted out a few interesting ways to help you get your hands on those as well. First you need to have finished Diamond (beat the Elite 4) and seen all 150 Pokémon available to see at that time. Then you put one of the GBA games (Sapphire, Ruby, Emerald, Fire Red or Leaf Green) into the DS’s GBA slot which will let you migrate 6 of the Pokémon you caught when playing that game every 24 hours. There is a bit of a catch though as once the Pokémon have been brought over from the GBA game they cannot be traded back again. Other than trading, the GBA slot opens up another possibility of getting new Pokémon by letting you catch different ones in the wild. For example if you have Sapphire inserted then Lombres will start to appear on certain places on the map but if you have Fire Red or Leaf Green in, then Magbys and Elekids will start to appear. Interestingly Nintendo seem to have learned some lessons from previous editions and have made even more Pokémon than ever available without the need for trading, which is always helpful!
Graphically the game is a huge step up from what was on show in the GBA games with everything, bar the battle screens, being displayed in a beautiful pseudo-3D style. The game’s colour pallet has also had a significant upgrade with everything looking more vivid and brighter than it was in the previous efforts. A day-night cycle returns to the game once again which changes the look of all the areas as time goes by. This cycle affects in-game events as well with some Pokémon (i.e Murkrow) only appearing during the night cycle. In all honesty the graphics for battles could have been much, much better, and the DS could have easily handled it, but instead we are left with the same style of sprites which graced the GBA titles. Sound effects also remain very basic with the Pokémon yelps and screeches still sounding like they did at the start of the franchise. The music however is once again top quality with each area in the game getting its own unique tunes.
All in all Pokémon Diamond (and Pearl) are two fantastic additions to the now long running series. If you already dislike Pokémon with a passion it is very unlikely these are going to change your mind but if you are part of the camp that got bored of the game during the GBA days they could just be good enough to make you fall in love with the series all over again. Even if you are one of the few that has not dabbled in Pokémon before and the DS is your first Nintendo handheld then this is the perfect time to jump aboard and see what the big fuss is about. The games are not the evolution of Pokémon, nor do they take the series in a brand new exciting direction; it is just the same old 10 year old title refined to almost perfection but in the end that’s the reason why the game is so appealing!
It’s more of the same but just different enough to make it the best version of the game yet.