Pokémon Brilliant Diamond is Cute and Superfluous

You get a remake! And you get a remake! Everyone gets a remake!

After years of fans chanting at Nintendo employees, Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl have finally been released. Today, resident Pokemon veterans Fūnk-é Joseph, featured contributor, and Nicholas Grayson, Fanbyte’s brand editor, had a candid conversation about the series’ trajectory, Sinnoh’s many musical bangers, and why it feels a bit too late for Diamond and Pearl remakes. 

Niki: You know what is kind of refreshing that I was not expecting? I’m kind of in love with the fact they didn’t change shit. I really appreciate them being like, we’re going to make it HD and not really change anything else.

Fūnk-é: Yeah, they only changed a few things. I’ve seen people talk about how this game is way harder than recent Pokemon entries, but I disagree. It’s genuinely an easier game than the originals, too. You can pick up some powerful legendaries, like Jirachi and Mew, within the first hour. But I don’t think that ease of difficulty makes it a lesser experience. These games are now even more accessible to a wider audience, including people who are new to turn-based RPGs.

Niki: The main things they changed were making the underground more robust and removing HMs. Now, you don’t need to have an HM slave anymore. You don’t need a Bidoof in your sixth slot because God has a Bidoof for you.

Fūnk-é: Now I just have a normal Bidoof with normal moves. He’s a really great raccoon.

(Editor’s note: We know Bidoof is a beaver, but Fūnk-é still thinks it’s a raccoon.)

Niki: How do you feel about the visual style? It’s going for a chibi overworld with relatively standard battle stuff. 

Fūnk-é: I love it. I’ve been a fan of their 3D stuff since Pokemon X, which is the game I played the most. And this is like X but shrunken down. I’m surprised they didn’t do the same style. Even in the original Diamond, everyone does look like a baby — it’s just more pronounced now. I remember watching the announcement trailer and seeing a lot of people had negative opinions, but I think they’re just haters. This works. It’s nice, and walking around is relaxing. It fits Pokemon in a way that just makes sense. They’re games focused on appealing to children — and this style does that very well. 

Niki: I feel the same way. I was kind of like, “Oh, I don’t know how I feel about this,” when I first saw the screenshots, but I get it now. There are so many faithful little touches — like whenever you enter a battle, it’s the same over-the-shoulder pose the characters have in the originals. They slide across the screen, too. I’m in love with it every time. I’m excited to continue to explore these cities and towns because I’m excited to see what little touches they’ve added.

Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl

Fūnk-é: The music is top notch, too. I streamed a bit of the game on my personal Twitch and every time I entered a town, Eterna Forest, or a route, I just stopped to dance and soak in that moment. This is music! They invented it with these games. Shoutout to composers Hitomi Sato, Junichi Masuda, Go Ichinose, Morikazu Aoki, and their crews. These new performances have reinvented what were already amazing tunes. I wish everyone could hear these ethereal bops, but so many people will never hear them because they’re in a video game. They should’ve dropped a soundtrack or something alongside this because they have such a timeless OST here.

Niki: Someone in chat was telling me Sinnoh was supposed to be a part of Gold and Silver, but they didn’t have the tech or the space. It’s really cool to see these concepts still hit in 2021.

Fūnk-é: Pokemon Brilliant Diamond has been a nice nostalgia trip with a cute art style. But I’ve been struggling to recommend this to other people who haven’t played the original Diamond or Pearl. I’m enjoying my time with it, but I just don’t know if this remake is necessary at all. The original Diamond and Pearl still hold up and were mechanically tailored for the Nintendo DS. For example, the Poketch interactions and the battle selection were built with dual screens in mind, they live on the bottom screen. A lot feels weird and cramped on the Switch. 

There’s an argument here about preservation, but I’d have honestly preferred that Nintendo relocated the resources for this and put them into Pokemon Legends: Arceus while making the originals more accessible. But Nintendo rarely does that without setting an exorbitant price or a convoluted tie-in to their online service.

Niki: I think it is so clear that, at some point, this was supposed to be bigger. This is the least transformative of all the remakes. Pokemon FireRed and LeafGreen, HeartGold and SoulSilver, even Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire add so much to their original titles. Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl do the least in that regard. 

Fūnk-é: It’s definitely not as big of a leap as any of those other generations. From technology to presentation, it’s not revolutionary.

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Niki: I wonder why they didn’t remake Platinum. There’s beauty in those third ones, and it’s a shame they’ve gotten away from doing them. I also think it’s really weird there’s no clear setup for Pokémon Legends: Arceus. They could’ve easily said: “Here’s what you need to know about this region. And here’s what you need to know about these spaces to prepare yourself for this brand new format of a Pokemon game.” 

The thing is some of that is already in here, but it’s the exact same stuff that is 15 years old and that isn’t actually contextualized by the video game that’s coming out in January 2022. References feel incidental instead of intentional.

Fūnk-é: Pokemon is supposed to be this completely unified, all-encompassing series, but these releases feel so disjointed. People have been asking for them for so long. They wanted Diamond and Pearl remakes a few years earlier, but that hype has died down. 

I want The Pokemon Company to get weirder and take more risks. It looks like maybe that’s what they’re doing for Pokemon Legends: Arceus — and I hope they double down. They should pick up some of the spinoffs they’ve forgotten about. I’d love to see more Pokemon Mystery Dungeon, Pokemon Ranger, Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness, or Pokemon Colosseum. They could take the formula of Pokemon and shake up the world in massive ways.

Niki: While I’m happy one of my favourite Pokemon games has been re-released, I think this is the last re-release I will feel any kind of way about. Black and White weren’t really it for me — that was kind of where I burnt out on this series. So I’m happy that these things exist and that new people will be exposed to these games. I just wish the developers would have done a bit more. They’re just HD ports, to be honest.

Fūnk-é: Pokemon‘s trajectory is all over the place because these games are always trying to do and be everything, but sometimes I wish The Pokemon Company would chill out and focus on trying fresh things. That said, I am enjoying my time with Brilliant Diamond a lot. I’ve already sunk way more hours into this than Ruined King: A League of Legends Story or Shin Megami Tensei V, two RPGs I’ve also been playing. 

Pokemon Brilliant Diamond is just so familiar; it’s sent me on a nostalgia trip I don’t often experience. I usually just play new games or older titles I’ve never played before. But right now, I’m being forced to look back. It’s nice! I like that we can take the time to appreciate what this generation of Pokemon accomplished. But I’m itching for something new. I desperately want them to hit harder and stop playing it safe for their next releases. 

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Fūnk-é Joseph

Fūnk-é is a writer, producer, and Fanbyte's Featured Contributor. Check out their bylines at places like VICE, IGN, Paste Magazine, MTV, and more.

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