Pokémon Shining Pearl and Shining Diamond | Review

Pokémon Shining Pearl and Shining Diamond | Review

Ever since the announcement of Pokémon Shining Pearl and Shining Diamond, a remake of the two chapters set in the Sinnoh region, audiences and critics have raised many doubts about this new pair of chapters in the series. The reasons, however, were not to be found only in the peculiar artistic sector, which with its chibi style tries to resume the atmosphere offered by the chapters for Nintendo's portable console, but rather from a whole series of choices made by Game Freak.

First of all, albeit with no raison d'etre, for better or worse everyone believed that The Pokémon Company would have taken a different path, structured on interspersing two unpublished chapters with two remakes in a “Let's Go!” sauce. Once it was ascertained that this formula was not in the aims of Game Freak, we wondered, on several occasions, as to why to choose Diamond and Pearl for an operation of this type.

In the end it was clear that not you could propose a further variant of Red and Green, Gold and Silver or Sapphire and Omega but if you wanted to go and look for two chapters, not excessively recent, which have presented important changes, slightly different narrative sectors from the usual canons or more mature themes , the choice would fall on Black and White, certainly not on the two episodes which, net of the fan base grown with each generation of Pokémon over the years, showed in their original versions a series of problems, and convenient choices, which did not make them shine in the same way as other more famous iterations.

Finally, there was the unprecedented decision to have ILCA, an external team, develop Pokémon Shining Pearl and Shining Diamond. A choice that, since its announcement, did not reassure fans about the final result of this "nostalgia operation", especially by virtue of the fact that it is a unique case in the history of the brand, as all the main chapters, and the remakes of the latter, have always been handled directly by Game Freak.

Net of all these doubts, however, Pokémon Shining Pearl and Shining Diamond have not turned out to be a disaster, as much as a unicum for the series designed for longtime fans, for the nostalgic and for anyone who wants to experience what it was like to play Pokémon in the first decade of the 2000s.

Welcome back to Sinnoh.

There is little to do, Pokémon Sword and Shield, despite all their flaws, have succeeded in the arduous task of rejuvenating a writing that for too many years has shown itself to be devoid of bite or any really interesting idea, apart from some sporadic exploits within the most famous chapters .

Obviously we are not talking about a distortion of the plot so loved by Game Freak but undoubtedly the narration of the two chapters released in 2019, managed to be enjoyable up to its final stages, mixing a minimum of those events that, for too many years, were repeated slavishly at every new episode of the series.

In this specific aspect, Pokémon Shining Pearl and Shining Diamond, they just can't shine as not only the writing proposes a canvas that already in 2006 was not very stimulating but it is also two of the chapters with the characters less convincing than ever.

By now we have been accustomed to the incipit of the avatar who, in pre-adolescence, leaves the nest to travel the world, crowning his dream of becoming a Pokémon trainer, if this canvas is not supported by a series of interesting characters and situations, the entire narrative sector is excessively banal and simplistic.

And in the case of Pokémon Shining Pearl and Shining Diamond, Team Galactic, the ubiquitous rival, the gym leaders and the collateral events are characterized in a too lazy way to be able to remain impressed as with other chapters of the series.

If, however, we cannot expect major plot changes from remakes (even if Final Fantasy VII Remake is ready to prove the opposite), what we have wondered several times is what prompted Game Freak to choose these two chapters, especially because Pokémon Shining Pearl and Shining Diamond do not add anything to the narrative sector, shunning the good things done with the reinterpretations of Gold and Silver, or Ruby and Sapphire, to offer a very more conservative and that is limited only to improving the "quality of life" of the original experience.

We want to be clear on this aspect. When you enter the delicate environment of Remake, there is no comparison. Of course, you are free to prefer a heavily revisited experience such as that offered by Gold and Silver, or extended as in Ruby and Sapphire, but you cannot define what the "perfect formula" is as even those iterations were pointed out by that part of fans who preferred an experience more adjacent to the original chapters.

As we have already argued several times, what does not convince us of Pokémon Shining Pearl and Shining Diamond is not the lack of important changes or ambitious reinterpretations, the more the choice of the chapters underlying the project.

Back to the future

Precisely by virtue of what has been said so far, the improvements to the "quality of life" present in Pokémon Shining Pearl and Shining Diamond make them much more enjoyable than the original chapters . Many of these implementations are limited to inserting those game mechanics that have now become standards for the series (such as the gain of the experience shared by all the Pokémon in the team), while other novelties are realistically modified to modify the original experience, without distorting the retro atmospheres that distinguish these two remakes.

In Pokémon Shining Pearl and Shining Diamond, the most important novelty is certainly represented by the "Pokémon Refuges". These biomes are found in the Great Dungeons, the expanded version of the underground that we learned about in 2006, and offer the possibility of catching Pokémon of the same element of the environment in which we will find ourselves.

Some creatures will only be available at the 'interior of Pokémon Refuges and, although the dynamics within these new areas may soon prove redundant, they prove to be a great way to increase the longevity of Pokémon Shining Pearl and Shining Diamond and ensure the completion of the Pokédex with the right dedication, especially considering that at the moment the services offered by Pokémon Home are not compatible with remakes.

Another big change is found in beauty contests, or Pokémon Contests if you prefer, where we will be able to make our creatures compete in performances based on some specific characteristics, such as beauty, grit or wit. Pokémon will be evaluated based on their appearance and how they conduct the dance performance.

Unlike 2006, the tedious acting essay gives way to the basic Rythm Game of timed moves and pressure of the keys to the rhythm of the music. Furthermore, in Pokémon Shining Pearl and Shining Diamond, we could apply stickers to the Poké Ball containing our competitor, adorning his exit from the iconic sphere with a unique effect.

The stickers take the role of the second large type of collectibles within Pokémon Shining Pearl and Shining Diamond, as they can be obtained in the most disparate ways within the game world, prompting collectors to interact with all the characters that populate Sinnoh, in search of new stickers. Finally, the effects they give to Pokémon will not be confined only to beauty contests but will also be applied to our creatures during the adventure in the Sinnoh region.

As much as we appreciated the general streamlining of competitions implemented in Pokémon Shining Pearl and Shining Diamond, the excessive simplification of the game mechanics fails to make them satisfying, transforming them into undoubtedly less tedious but decidedly less demanding events, risking to bore them very quickly to those who did not already appreciate them in 2006.

As for the PokéKron, the ancestor in Pokémon sauce of the current smartwatches, it now allows to streamline all the original functioning of the HMs. Avoiding confining one of our Pokémon by means of transport, forcing us to constantly change our team, it will be enough to choose the HM we will need from the practical watch, to recall a wild Pokémon that, for example, allows us to take advantage of Flight to move from one area to another.

Everything is very similar to what we saw in the past on the last chapters released for Nintendo 3DS but we appreciated this implementation aimed at streamlining one of the cumbersome present in the original games. Less interesting, however, is having confined the PokéKron in a corner of the screen.

We understand that it was impossible to return the same feeling offered by the second screen on the Nintendo DS but we would have preferred a slightly more elegant choice. Another big addition present in Pokémon Shining Pearl and Shining Diamond lies in the presence of an End-Game which, although not very rich in content, offers a range of additional Legendary Pokémon, not present in the original chapters.

We are undoubtedly not faced with a revolutionary mechanic, or a dynamic that Game Freak had not already proposed in other remakes, but we appreciated the ability of the Rosa Rugosa Park, to let us wander, further, for Sinnoh at the end of our adventure.

Pokémon Shining Pearl and Shining Diamond back in your pocket.

Let's not hide it, we have played very little of Pokémon Shining Pearl and Shining Diamond with our Nintendo Switch OLED model connected to the TV. The graphic style so damn retro, packaged by the ILCA team, has moved us so many memories that we have spent almost all our time using the console in portable mode.

The Nintendo Switch OLED screen continues to confirm itself as a guarantee in mobility and the limited technical sector of Pokémon Shining Pearl and Shining Diamond, has allowed us to have the same performance in both game modes. Precisely with regard to the choice regarding the artistic sector of Pokémon Shining Pearl and Shining Diamond, we found the decision taken by ILCA to be apt, and for some truly adorable.

The attention to detail is undoubtedly high, the choice to maintain a chibi style for moving around Sinnoh brings to mind the original versions of the games and as regards the battles between Pokémon, the choice to use more realistic proportions works and returns the right feel of today's production, even if there is still a lot of work to be done regarding the animations of the various creatures during the battles.

Pokémon Shining Pearl and Shining Diamond are obviously localized in Italian and we appreciated the foresight with which some were shot original dialogue lines to keep those fans who grew up in Sinnoh happy.

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