Pokémon Diamond - Staff Review  

Gotta See 'em All
by Derek 'Roku' Cavin

35-70 Hours


Rating definitions 

   The time has come at last for the next iteration of the popular Pokémon series. In Diamond/Pearl, trainers explore the Sinnoh region, attempt to collect eight badges by defeating each of the eight gym leaders, challenge the region's elite, and stop Team Galactic in the process. It's basically the same formula as it always is, but one major difference is that the goal is merely to see all of the region's Pokémon in order to fill the Pokédex, not to catch them. Additionally, though there are hundreds of Pokémon available in this iteration, trainers will only be able to see or catch a small number of them before meeting certain requirements. Even once these requirements are met, some of the newly attainable Pokémon require unconventional means to battle against and obtain.

   Needless to say to players that are familiar with the series, battles are one of Pokémon's main draws, and they do not disappoint in Diamond/Pearl. As always, players are forced to make careful decisions as they construct a team of six Pokémon, each with four skills. Each Pokémon has a base element or two, and their special traits and movesets offer a great deal of flexibility, while still forcing trainers to make tough decisions when attempting to create the perfect party. With held items and other subtle factors thrown in as well, the possibilities are surprisingly high. Many of the game's elements are very simple, yet they allow for a great deal of strategy. This makes the battle system both easy to learn for newcomers and still a lot of fun for advanced players. The only thing lacking in Diamond/Pearl is the number of two versus two battles. To make up for this somewhat, there are many points in the game where the player will be able to team up with other trainers temporarily. Unfortunately, the player is not in control of their ally's Pokémon, or even over which ones they use, so it just isn't the same.

Battles can be controlled by a stylus now to cut down on keystrokes. Battles can be controlled by a stylus now to cut down on keystrokes. Attacks are also split between physical and special, rather than that being based on elements.

   As with other games in the series, the main storyline will not present very much challenge for most players. Bosses typically not only have large and glaring weaknesses, they advertise them and invite challengers to exploit them. This does change somewhat by the end of the game, but players will likely have a wide variety of powerful healing items to help them along by that point as well. Fortunately for those looking to take full advantage of the battle system's strategic nature, there is an optional area known as the battle tower that will put even the most carefully assembled teams to the test. Trainers can also challenge their friends, both in person and over the game's new WiFi mode.

   Perhaps the most anticipated and impressive feature is the ability to battle, and even trade, over WiFi. Not only can players easily interact with their friends when not in person, there are a number of new options available to players in the versus mode. These allow players to choose between single and double battles, as well as allow for Pokémon levels to be adjusted during battle to level the playing field somewhat for newer players that haven't trained level 100 behemoths. The WiFi mode itself is very good, especially when compared to those of other DS games, and it even allows players to use voice chat. It really is a very solid addition to the series.

   As well-constructed as the game's WiFi is, the rest of the game's interface is hit-or-miss. The stylus can be used to speed through battle menus, the DS's lower screen can be loaded with useful functions for use outside of battle, trainers no longer have to make trips to their PC to store excess items, and nearly everything is well-organized. Despite all of this added functionality, Diamond/Pearl's interface is also filled with minor problems. For example, menus tend to scroll slowly outside of battle, and there is a minor but noticeable pause after nearly every action in battle. The new features are very nice to have, but the number of minor issues found in the most common places gives the interface a bit of an unpolished feel as a whole.

Weather effects and time of day return, and they are greeted by some nifty add-ons for the second screen. Weather effects and time of day return, and they are greeted by some nifty add-ons for the second screen.

   Despite the aforementioned tweaks and additions, the story itself remains fairly standard for the series. The goals are the same, and players still need to defeat a team of less-than-ethical Pokémon trainers along the way. If anything, it is perhaps even a step down from the GBA titles, unfortunately. On the plus side, the localization is good and new scenes have been added with trainers that are triggered mid-battle. During these scenes, the rival trainer will appear briefly on the screen and make a comment of some sort. While they aren't done to the point of really adding a whole lot to the story, they are a nice addition.

   The storyline starts off very slowly, but it picks up a good deal of speed as the game progresses. It can be completed in around thirty-five hours if the player is an experienced Pokémon trainer, but those who wish to fill up their Pokédex and explore the world in its entirety are more likely to spend closer to seventy. Of course, as a member of the Pokémon series, players can spends dozens, if not hundreds, of hours perfecting their party long after the game has ended. Those looking for a DS title that will last a long time need look no further.

   Aesthetically, the visuals have been improved quite a bit since the days of the GBA. Each Pokémon is animated when it enters into battle, and the effects of many attacks have been redone. The world is also in 3D now, though the camera is typically still almost direct overhead. Many of these changes are subtle, but they make the game far more visually appealing overall when combined, while still remaining true to their original style.

   The music and sound effects are also much improved, and they make very good use of the DS's stereo. For example, each Pokémon's sound effects come from the proper side of the DS. Additionally, since the music is no longer limited by what the GBA is capable of, there has been a significant increase in quality of several tracks, and this seems to have been greatly taken advantage of. There are still a number of average tracks, but quite a few tracks really stand out as well.

   Pokémon Diamond/Pearl retains the same level of quality held by much of the series. It also makes very good use for the DS's features, from the usefulness of the stylus and bottom screen to the upgraded visuals and sound. While it does very little that hasn't been done before in the series, Pokémon Diamond/Pearl is still a very solid and enjoyable game, and the WiFi features are a very nice addition, especially for those with friends that live faraway.

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