Pokémon Diamond and Pearl are the latest additions to one of the most successful games franchises in history. With over 155 million copies of the various Pokémon games sold worldwide, fans have extremely high expectations of Nintendo, and boy have they delivered!
Pokémon Pearl is set in the Sinnoh region, an area characterized by both mountainous and snow-covered areas. It also features 3 large lakes that users will find are central to the plot. Beginning in Twinleaf Town as a young boy or girl, you and your rival are thrust into the open world of Pokémon by Professor Rowan. Starting off with one of 3 new Pokémon, you begin your journey with the ultimate goal of becoming a “Pokémon Master”. You’ll make your way through forests, caves, oceans, fields and for the first time, snow. Throughout your journey you’ll encounter many wild Pokémon at random intervals.
These wild Pokémon can be captured by sufficiently weakening them and using Pokéballs or similar. It’s your overall long term goal to capture every Pokémon you can, and with Pokémon Diamond and Pearl this number has been raised to 480, with the addition of 107 brand new Diamond and Pearl exclusive Pokémon. Your Pokémon have the ability to learn up to 4 abilities, by levelling up or through the use of Technical or Hidden Machines. These abilities can be used as attacks in battle with some also used outside battle such as Surf, which lets you ride your Pokémon through the water.
On your way to becoming a “Pokémon Master” you’ll encounter a large number of random Pokémon trainers. You’ll face a huge number of these between towns. These trainers are useful for levelling up your Pokémon, which increases their skills and at certain levels can also acquire new moves as mentioned before, or evolve into an entirely new Pokémon.
Battling works exactly the same as it has in all previous games. Turn-based combat is all that appears at face value, but the battles are far deeper. Pokémon types must be taken into consideration and players will constantly be changing their Pokémon based on these. Fire Pokémon are especially weak against Water Pokémon, yet Water Pokémon are weak against Grass Pokémon. Strategic use of Pokémon types is a vital part of Pokémon battles and adds an extra dimension to game play. The touch screen has also been integrated into battles, with moves and items selectable via the touch screen, saving the entire main screen for the action to take place.
Periodically throughout the game you will also encounter Gym Leaders as you reach certain major towns. These trainers specialize in one type of Pokémon, have a higher level Pokémon and are far more of a challenge to defeat than standard trainers. By defeating a Gym Leader you earn a badge. There are eight badges to be earned after which you’ll be eligible to enter the Pokémon league, a collection of the greatest and toughest trainers to test your skills against as a Pokémon trainer.
In the shadows of Team Rocket, a new villainous organisation has emerged that will do whatever it takes to take over the world. Team Galactic, as they are known, have kidnapped three legendary Pokémon and have extracted crystals from them to create the Red Chain. The Red Chain is a device used to shackle and control a Pokémon. One of the tasks players must complete along their journey is to bring down Cyrus, the leader of Team Galactic. Along with Cyrus, his evil plans must also be stopped.
In addition to the story and catching all 480 Pokémon, days can be lost scouring caves for lost items, planting berries to feed your Pokémon, cooking, fishing, setting up your own secret hideaway - even entering your Pokémon in beauty contests!
All of what was written previously will sound extremely familiar to anybody who has already played a Pokémon game, but there’s far more to it than that.
For the first time a handheld version of Pokémon features 3D. Buildings are all presented in 3D and give the graphics that extra touch. Also quite notable is the different style used for the buildings and environments in every region. Bright colours and generally sharp-looking 2D renderings mean graphically, Pokémon Pearl is superb. The sound is fair with a different soundtrack for every region, but the sounds made by Pokémon seem screechy and of low quality, which is a slight disappointment when compared to the rest of the game.
The touch screen is well implemented throughout the game, and when not being used in battle the Pokémon Watch (or Pokétch) is open. The Pokétch bears a striking resemblance to the Pokégear seen in Pokémon Gold and Pokémon Silver. It features 25 different applications that can be used when not in battle, and range from a clock, a calculator and a calendar to a pedometer and a day care monitor.
The real draw card for Pokémon Diamond and Pearl however is the online play. Pokémon Pearl features online battling, chat and trading over the built in Wi-Fi. There are two methods of trading over the internet. You can either put your Pokémon up on the Nintendo WFC trading server, where your Pokémon is automatically traded away when someone else wants it, or you can search for specific Pokémon and meet the terms of their trade. The only let-down with this system however is that each player is limited to having just one Pokémon on the server at a time.
Battling against human opponents has always been one of the better aspects of Pokémon games, as it offered a true challenge that can’t be found with CPU opponents. New options allow tactics to play a more crucial role in battles; the option to temporarily make all Pokémon level 50 or 100 can lead to some interesting battles.
Pokémon Pearl and Diamond can be connected with a host of other Pokémon games. By plugging the GBA Pokémon games into the GBA slot of the DS, Pokémon can be transferred over. There are however some restrictions to this. Players are only allowed to transfer 6 Pokémon per GBA cartridge every 24 hours. When players bring their Pokémon over it is known as ‘migrating’, and they appear in a place called Pal Park. Players will then have to recapture their Pokémon by using a special Park Ball that has 100% chance of capture. Pokémon that have been taught an HM move cannot be transferred, and once they’re sent over to Pokémon Diamond or Pearl, they can’t be sent back to GBA.
A special feature implemented by Nintendo is that some Pokémon can only be caught when a GBA cartridge is present in the GBA slot. Pokémon Pearl is also the first game to offer connectivity with Pokémon Ranger, allowing players to complete a special mission that allows the transfer of specific eggs from Pokémon Ranger. It is also reported that on the upcoming Wii title Pokémon Battle Revolution, players will be able to wirelessly transfer their Pokémon from their DS to the Wii.
Pokémaniacs and casual gamers alike will share an appreciation for Pokémon Pearl and Diamond. The renovated 3D graphics, online play, fantastic story, brand new touch screen features and over 100 new Pokémon make Pearl and Diamond excellent additions to the Pokémon franchise. In Pokémon Pearl and Diamond Nintendo has created a truly excellent game that not only lives up to the Pokémon name, but which easily surpasses any other entry in the series. For Nintendo DS owners, Pokémon Pearl or Diamond is a must-add game to their collection.