Reviews have started dropping for Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl on the Nintendo Switch and it sounds like the remakes are a resounding meh. For players hoping for a bit more of a shakeup of the 2007 DS games, that’s a big disappointment. For hardcore fans who will play any new release The Pokémon Company puts in front of them it probably doesn’t matter.
Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are apparently so familiar that both VG247 and VGC used nearly identical headlines, calling them “faithful remakes, for better or worse.” According to VG247, the remakes are “workmanlike,” “simplistic,” and “the same game with a handsome new coat of paint.”
VGC was more positive, lauding the controversial new XP share feature, a now-common mechanic in more modern games, as well as the Grand Underground area, a more fleshed out version of the original game’s tunnels where different Pokémon can be caught early on. The outlet still considered the new additions not “expansive enough to transform your experience in any meaningful way.” Both sites said the Chibi art style works, but criticized the beginning of the game still unfolding at a snail’s pace.
Most of the early reviews are split on whether the remakes are too conservative and easy, or are refreshing returns to a classic, cozy formula for the earlier generations of Pokémon games. Here’s what some of the others are saying:
With so many Pokémon spinoffs, reimaginings, and new generations, the classic Pokémon game feels buried in a slew of updated mechanics and impressive new features. But Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are low-frills remakes that take players back to that original, simple journey, and they’re the first Pokémon games I’ve enjoyed battling through for nearly a decade.
EXP Share is, on its face, a great way to cut down on unnecessary grinding to ensure your lesser-used Pokémon are battle-ready. However, the developers haven’t taken any measures to balance this feature, and there isn’t a way to turn EXP Share off. As a result, my teams felt over-leveled as the game progressed, making big matches against Team Galactic or any of the Gym leaders feel easy and insignificant. I steamrolled through challengers on the surface of Sinnoh and had to find more formidable foes elsewhere.
My biggest criticism of Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl is that they’re eminently skippable, whether you’ve played the original games or not. They’re well-made, very faithful renditions of a couple of 15-year-old DS games. But without newer Pokémon or other major gameplay updates, they feel like too many other games I’ve played before.
Your character looks appropriately retro while simply exploring in the tall grass or walking around town, but the style looks especially great when the camera zooms in closer during dialogue sequences. At those points, the artwork really shines because you get to see the depth and vibrancy of the characters. They look almost like living vinyl dolls.
When HeartGold and SoulSilver came out, they became the definitive DS titles, and arguably the finest games in the series. Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl don’t feel like they’ll make anywhere near that level of impact. We also can’t emphasize enough how much of a downgrade the Chibi art style is from the pixel art of the originals. Not only does it make the games feel cheaper, it ruins the design of the game’s main antagonist.
As a result, it’s hard to play the new remakes if you’ve already played and loved Platinum. I know so much more about these characters than Shining Pearl is ever willing to acknowledge. Sure, they may be 3D and all-chibid-up, but they’re paradoxically flat - it’s tough to take the weight of Cyrus’ nihilism seriously when he looks like a character pulled from an off-peak Nick Jr. show.
There are a few parts of Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl that do change what was offered in Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum, but they aren’t meaningful enough to distract from what’s always been there. Stripped of any real difficulty, ‘what’s always been there’ is just another Pokemon game. Not long ago, that might have been enough, but with the franchise making strides towards reinventing that formula with Sword and Shield, and Pokemon Legends: Arceus, a traditional nostalgia play feels like an uncertain foundation to build on.
Several big review sites have yet to weigh in on the new games because Nintendo didn’t send code until late last Friday. As a result, IGN, Eurogamer, and others won’t have reviews up until later in the week. It seems clear at this point that Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl development came down to the wire, as evidenced in part by the fact that the games received massive “day-one” patches to fix placeholder music and missing animations a full week before release.
Even before that, much of the game had leaked online, with dataminers filling in the blanks and confirming there wasn’t much secret content lying in wait in the remakes’ end game areas. Based on the early reviews, it seems like the moment-to-moment adventures were just as predictable. Kotaku doesn’t have the game yet, but we’ll let you know what we think once we do.