Pokémon Brilliant Diamond (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Rudy Lavaux 06.01.2022

Review for Pokémon Brilliant Diamond on Nintendo Switch

There should be nary a soul who doesn't know of Pokémon, at least among gamers. For any modern-day fan of the series in their early twenties, there is a very good chance that their journey to become a Pokémon master debuted in the Sinnoh region, on their beloved Nintendo DS, with the releases of Pokémon Diamond and Pearl. Pokémon remakes have often been the opportunity for younger audiences to experience what their elders remember fondly and still hold in such high esteem, as we tend to do with the games that marked our childhood heavily. Pokémon games tend to fall very much into that category due to how expansive they are, how they bring people together with trades and PVP battles, how they take a long time to complete and how, being mostly portable games, they have accompanied players even away from home on vacation trips and the like. Nostalgia is a very powerful thing, and because of it... it sells! That doesn't mean everyone should give in though and that's why Cubed3 is here to fend for the fanbase as usual!

Pokémon games have evolved over the years in how the monsters are captured, how the game flows from exploring the world to getting gym badges and fighting antagonistic groups of individuals who want to use Pokémon for their own evil devices. Storytelling became more cut-scene driven and world exploration more wide-open especially with the seventh and eighth generation games. The original Diamond and Pearl were still very much entrenched in the old systems though: travel the region, get badges, become the Pokémon champion, unlock the final area with this gen's legendary Pokémon at the end and go on completing your Pokédex... "Fin"! One could wonder whether these remakes would go for a more modern approach or stick closer to the source material. Well... these remakes are very much the most "classic" and "unaltered" flavour of Pokémon adventure we've had in quite some time.

It is classic Pokémon at its finest in that sense, which will either be a good thing for those pining for it or a bad thing for those wishing to see these classics in a new, more modern light as this may come across as a lazier way to remake a game. This reviewer would lean more towards the former category as we have not really had Pokémon games like these in a while. Pokémon Let's Go Pikachu and Eevee were remakes too but simplified and altered to ease Pokémon Go players into the console side of the franchise. They had very good aspects, like shiny Pokémon appearing as such in the wild, roaming the tall grass, but they were ultimately different experiences from their original counterparts. It feels good to get something this time that plays and feels very much like classic Pokémon.

The original releases of Generation IV were the first mainline duo of games to be released on the Nintendo DS and as such, they leaned heavily on the game's hardware gimmicks. It is therefore important to remember what the Nintendo DS was like: two screens, one of them being touch sensitive and the other simply used to display the actual gameplay of the game, Wi-Fi and local wireless connections and a microphone. The Nintendo Switch only has one touch screen but that functionality is understandably not accessible in docked mode, the same wireless options as the DS but no built-in microphone. Clearly, some things would have to be adapted to work on the newer hardware, if only from a pure functional standpoint. Those hoping to still teach their Chatot a new "Chatter" move cry can forget about it for example (it was possible to record a custom cry using the DS microphone in the original). The big gimmick of the original was the Pokémon Watch or "Pokétch" in short. This would get displayed on the bottom screen at all times outside of battles and have various useful functions built in that would unlock through the adventure.

Screenshot for Pokémon Brilliant Diamond on Nintendo Switch

These include a step counter-useful for hatching eggs, a friendship monitor, a watch, a radar for hidden items, a calculator or the classic Poké-Radar used for trying to shiny chain, etc... The Pokétch is still present in the remakes, with its classic look to boot, and can be displayed on or off at the top right corner of the screen. Opening it brings up a cursor that can be moved around using gyro in docked mode, or simply the touch screen in portable mode, which feels nice although the touch screen could have been used a lot more overall in portable mode. One of the few areas that has seen a modernisation of sorts is HM moves (to the uninitiated: Pokémon techniques necessary to get past environmental obstacles and gain access to new parts of the game world). It is no longer necessary to teach them to your precious team of monsters, sacrificing a precious move slot, as these can be used by a generic, summonable Pokémon, via the Pokétch.

Likewise, Pokémon boxes are now accessible from anywhere for swapping Pokémon in and out of the active team and PC at any time. What is still very much in place however is that TMs do not have unlimited uses, unlike more modern games... one of those few "classic" things we truly didn't miss. With that being said, ways to obtain them are perhaps more aplenty now, so at least it is not as much of an inconvenience as it used to be. In the register of things new to this remake are stickers to be applied to Pokéballs, which affect the animation when a Pokémon is sent into battle, as well as some results in Pokémon Super Contests which also make a return from the original (beauty contests of sorts that award ribbons to your Pokémon). The biggest addition however is the Grand Underground: tunnels running under the Sinnoh region where players can meet NPCs, dig for items like evolution stones, fossils, shards and Pokémon statues for player secret bases and other otherwise unobtainable items.

There was an underground in the original already but this is vastly expanded upon here. Most important in these are Pokémon Hideaways, which are special rooms where Pokémon can be seen roaming the environment (something they don't do above ground where they remain hidden like in the original). Each room usually has a theme and specific types of Pokémon that can sometimes only be captured there, or some which are otherwise hard to find but are more common in the underground. This will probably be a big part of the time spent with those remakes to be sure and a cool addition. All in all, much stayed the same while some things received updates. One thing that has received a lot flack since day one is the impossibility to turn off experience sharing between Pokémon in the party. This reviewer welcomed the fact that it made grind completely unnecessary to just enjoy the story progression, but that this was not at least made into an option is regrettable indeed. Another that is thoroughly regrettable is the regression in communication options.

Screenshot for Pokémon Brilliant Diamond on Nintendo Switch

The Global Trading Station which was revolutionary in the original appears to be gone, replaced instead by the GWS which is assumed to mean "Global Wonder Station" this time perhaps? The issue is the game has been out for a whole month at time of writing and this is still not available and still nothing has been communicated around the function to date. So, does that means that it will only be for wonder trades (trades where you give a Pokémon and get another one in return without knowing what it will be) or that this will be "in addition" to the more traditional GTS? The answer is, as-of mid December: nobody knows yet. The idea is perhaps that Pokémon Home, the smartphone and Nintendo Switch app which acts as an online storage heavy on premium benefits, is the new GTS so the game didn't need any, but this is severely inconvenient for one, but also Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are not supported at launch. Instead, support for these games will be added to Pokémon Home "sometime in 2022"...does that mean that whatever the GWS is will become available at the same time?

It is unknown at this time and players have been relying for weeks on trades with random players online, where it is impossible to communicate at all, making specific trades almost impossible... or trading locally or online with people you already know. The original was so revolutionary in it being the first to include online and it being so downright convenient for completing the Pokédex that this nonchalant approach to it in the remakes is baffling to say the least. There has been a lot of criticism levelled towards the graphical style of the game too, especially in the lead up to its final release. The chibi characters have been a strong point of focus of the negative feedback from the fanbase. This reviewer didn't see any problem with it before playing it, and still doesn't see any issue after either. It may not be the most faithful, or the closest to what some may have envisioned a full-on 3D HD remake to look like, but the art here isn't bad by any means.

At least on a purely aesthetic level, this game looks clean, faithful enough to the original and a joy to run through. The original was a strange mix of simple 3D elements laid over 2D tile-based environments, and sprites were used throughout because it made sense for the hardware of the time. There were more technically impressive Pokémon-like games on Nintendo DS, namely both Dragon Quest Monsters Joker games, the second one in particular, but there's no denying that Pokémon Diamond and Pearl with their more graphically conservative approach have stood the test of time much better. The Nintendo Switch is an entirely different beast however and we've seen what it is capable of, technically speaking, in the right hands. It does not need to rely on mixes of 2D and 3D to deliver beautiful experiences so it makes sense to compare its technical aspects with what Nintendo themselves or other developers have delivered on it over the years.

Screenshot for Pokémon Brilliant Diamond on Nintendo Switch

On that front, it is painful for a Pokémon fan to admit but things are thoroughly underwhelming, depressingly so. Game after game, there is a never-ending sense that the people working on Pokémon games just aren't good at getting the most out of the Nintendo hardware they work on, or simply don't care enough to try since each game sells millions anyway, regardless of the effort invested. In all fairness, Pokémon Brilliant Diamond/Shining Pearl looks nice enough in portable mode where the resolution seems to match or be close to that of the built-in screen. But there is nothing here on display, not in the actual effects being used, not in the quality of the textures or post-processing to justify not running at 60FPS or a higher resolution in docked mode. This is an artistically cute but technically very "simple" looking game.

Docked mode even seems to be running at the same 720p-ish as portable mode, with no extra flair added on top and things are still capped at 30FPS there. Sure, the Pokémon franchise has been historically a portable series and "on-the-go" is perhaps how most people will spend their time with this game. Should that mean however that docked mode should be made into just an afterthought, for a company that makes this much money and sells millions of units of their main franchise? The expected right answer would seem to be a firm no to most, but perhaps not to the deciding heads at Game Freak. If it sounds like someone is getting frustrated here with the franchise and Game Freak's poor show of technical prowess of the past ten years... that is because this is the case. Yes, the company ILCA and not Game Freak are the developers behind these remakes but these new games probably share similar tech or even engines with what came before, judging by the looks alone. The goal here is not to point a finger at one company over the other, but to ask why such a successful franchise isn't getting the treatment it deserves.

At time of writing we are a month or so away from Pokémon Legends: Arceus getting released and that game doesn't look very promising either from a purely technical standpoint. We could give them a pass if it all boiled down to the Switch hardware itself but other companies like Capcom have already shown us what could be. A simple glance at Monster Hunter Stories 2, a game not so dissimilar in style or even scope, to see that there is a technical gulf separating the two. There should be tremendous technical knowledge of the Switch hardware at this point from people working on Pokémon games for Switch and they enjoy an even closer relationship than most with the makers of the hardware itself. Perhaps Capcom simply has to try harder than they do to sell units so they do try harder, which would be an even worse thing to admit from Game Freak, Nintendo or ILCA. Whatever the reason is for this lack of results after three mainline pairs of Pokémon games... patience is growing thin. If they need to enlist the help of Monolith Soft or Capcom or maybe even rely on third party tech to achieve better results like Unreal Engine 4, so be it. Nintendo has done it with Yoshi's Crafted World and have shown openness to using third party engines, so why not try with Pokémon games? Funding certainly should not be an issue at least.

Screenshot for Pokémon Brilliant Diamond on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

These remakes are totally serviceable and a very good time for any Pokémon fan out there. There is however a nagging sense that more perhaps could have been done, especially for fully priced releases. The Pokémon franchise is big, the company behind these games makes millions off of these and yet there is a feeling time and time again that we're not getting the full AAA experience that such selling numbers should warrant, and this is seen very plainly in how technically dated these games look, even if artistically speaking they are still super cute. We are pleased with these remakes for sure, they're jolly good fun... but we're not impressed and this has to change in the future for the franchise!

Review copy provided by Nintendo

Also known as

Pokémon Brilliant Diamond / Shining Pearl





C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now    Also on Also on Nintendo eShop


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