Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl Preview: A Classic With Modern Amenities

The upcoming Pokemon Diamond and Pearl remakes appear to be a blend of nostalgic throwbacks to an older Pokemon game with added quality-of-life improvements from more recent generations of games. After years of begging and pleading from fans to the point that "Sinnoh remakes when" became a meme, The Pokemon Company is set to release Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl next month. The new Pokemon games, the first "main series games" not to be developed by Game Freak, are described as faithful adaptations of the 2006 games Pokemon Diamond and Pokemon Pearl. Earlier this month, ComicBook.com had a chance to preview Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl to see what was familiar and what was brand new about this old-school Pokemon experience.

Our Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl preview started in Route 208, an area that connects Mt. Coronet and Hearthome City. The Route was constructed almost identically to the version seen in the original Pokemon Diamond and Pearl games, right down to the placement of the NPCs. Opting for the more traditional layout (based on a grid) instead of the more modern and three-dimensional one makes the game's chibi-like style make a bit more sense. While the overworld map isn't exactly the classic pixel format from the original games, it certainly exudes a certain old-school style not entirely unlike the recent Switch remake of The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening.

There are some notable graphical improvements from the original games, which makes sense as the Nintendo Switch is significantly more powerful than the Nintendo DS. Not only do the cliff faces have more texture to them, but the waterfalls in the route also have a great texture and look to them that would be impossible on a Nintendo 3DS. However, one thing that remains faithful to the original Pokemon Diamond and Pearl games is the lack of wild Pokemon roaming around on the overworld map. Players will have to dive into the tall grass to encounter wild Pokemon in most areas.

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(Photo: Pokemon)

While Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl definitely have an old-school vibe, those accustomed to the more modern Pokemon game style won't be frustrated by the lack of modern additions. While Hearthome City retains its separate Pokemon Center and PokeMart, the games continue modern quality-of-life improvements seen in other Pokemon titles. For example, the game uses the more modern battle style seen in Pokemon Sword and Shield, with a floating camera that circles around the two Pokemon and shows trainers in their full sizes. That also comes with all the improvements seen in Pokemon Sword and Shield. For instance, players can see what moves are effective, super effective, or not very effective against Pokemon after they've encountered a critter for the first time. Players also have easy access to Poke Balls when encountering wild Pokemon. Some out-of-battle improvements were also carried over. Exp. Share returns as an automatic feature to minimize monotonous grinding, and players will eventually have the ability to freely switch out their Pokemon into boxes without having to go back to a Pokemon Center. 

Another "new" feature is that players can eventually have one of their Pokemon walk behind them on the overworld map. Pokemon Diamond and Pearl were the first games to offer that in a limited format at Amity Square, and the feature was expanded to every Pokemon in Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver. Here, players can let out their "cute" Pokemon in Amity Square, but can also let any Pokemon follow them on the overworld map once they reach a certain point in the game. 

The game also continues the transition away from requiring players to load up a Pokemon with Hidden Moves. Pokemon Sun and Moon did away with Hidden Moves using the Poke Ride system, and Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl continue that innovation using a new Poketch app. The Poketch was introduced in the original Pokemon Diamond and Pearl games, but Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl allow players to summon wild Pokemon to clear obstacles or assist in navigating dangerous terrain. Assumably, players will have to unlock these abilities over time, but you'll no longer have to carry a Bibarel that knows only Hidden Moves while exploring the Sinnoh region.

Our preview of Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl also gave us looks into two other updated Pokemon Diamond and Pearl features. The first is the Grand Underground, an updated version of the Underground found in the original games. The Grand Underground extends across the Sinnoh region and has a few interesting features to it. The first is the presence of Pokemon Hideaways, which are areas of the Underground filled with Pokemon that roam across the map and can be encountered and captured. Players can manipulate which Pokemon appear in these Hideaways by building a Secret Base and filling them with statues that can be collected through a digging minigame. The minigame is almost identical to the one seen in Pokemon Diamond and Pearl, but with statues involved in addition to gems. 

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(Photo: The Pokemon Company)

The other updated feature is the Grand Contests, which were overhauled from the original Pokemon Diamond and Pearl games. Notably, the contests are all styled around a new rhythm-based minigame. There are five types of contests (each one based on a different aspect of a Pokemon's personality) and four levels of difficulty. We confirmed that the different contests each have their own variations based on the type chosen and the level of difficulty to prevent the contests from becoming too monotonous. Multiplayer contests also return, so players can play with each other instead of facing the AI over and over and over again. 

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When Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl were first announced, I questioned whether a "faithful remake" of those games would succeed when the Pokemon franchise has advanced so much in 15 years. Our hands-off preview suggests that the games are an excellent blend of old-school nostalgia with some of the necessary updates needed to keep the Pokemon franchise feeling fresh and modern. If you're a Pokemon fan, you'll likely enjoy Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl regardless of whether you played the original Pokemon Diamond and Pearl games.

Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are set to release for the Nintendo Switch on November 19th. You can check out all of our previous coverage of the upcoming video games right here.