Pokémon gamemakers have been taking the time to remake some past Poké game favorites—Pokémon Let’s Go, HeartGold and SoulSilver among them—and now they’ve handed the remake reins of Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl to a company called ILCA. The resulting Nintendo Switch game is sparkling and colorfully clear for those who’ve never played them before. And for devoted fans, they are graphically updated and meticulously faithful.
So, for Pokémon newbies, we should start out by saying that Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are actually two nearly identical games. They simply focus on two different giant Pokémon that show up later in the story—both of which are catchable and can be added to your team of Pokémon.
And for those kids who are completely new to the uber-popular gaming series, I’ll note that Poké are little monsters and fantastic critters that your character gathers and trains, who then go on to compete against other teams in Pokémon battles. And to be honest, the story behind these games are all pretty similar.
In this case you play as a young girl or guy living in the fictional region of Sinnoh, a Japanese-like island. He or she is not only given a choice between three starter Pokémon—one fire focused, one grass focused and one water focused—but is then asked to capture (via a series of thrown Pokéballs, which essentially snare and house the beasties like a lamp might hold a genie) as many others as possible for a particular doctor’s scientific cataloguing research.
And along the way you choose your favorite critters—who eventually form a friendship bond with you—and take them into little turn-based battles. Each battle with other trained or wild Pokémon earns your crew experience points and gives you a chance to not only shape your team, but your individual Pokémon’s chosen battle skills and abilities. Your end goal is to become the greatest Pokémon trainer ever.
As mentioned, the Pokémon each have their own special affinity and are therefore stronger against some Poké and weaker against others. Fire Pokémon blaze right through Grass Pokémon, for instance. But the Grass critters mop up any Water types. Etc. etc. Your guy or gal travels the land solving puzzles and conundrums, gathering Pokémon and earning battle badges at the eight major Pokémon gyms throughout the land.
This game is loads of fun and very involving. There’s probably 40 to 50 hours of play in the main team-building campaign and play can be stopped and saved at any time and picked up again later.
The characters and creatures are focused on friendship and giving each other help. There are some manipulative types in the character mix, but those are generally looked upon as troublesome and negative individuals who want something bad for both Pokémon and their trainers.
By and large, the characters that young players meet in the game are friendly and supportive. The Pokémon world is without a doubt a cartoony and pleasant place filled with generally pleasing Poké people. Its neighbors and friends promote ideals of fairness and being kind to everyone and everything around you. And in a sense, you could see a Pokémon game as a vehicle to teach kids about being kind and caring for pets, too.
The villains in the mix desire to steal away the power of the Pokémon and use it to destroy the world and start over anew. They hope to rebuild mankind in their own “perfect” image. But it’s clear that they are far from perfect. And it becomes your job to stop their efforts.
As with all Pokémon titles there is an overarching worldview, one that has always revolved around an Eastern-inspired blend of mystical creatures combined with evolution. But that side of things, while mentioned, is never fully explored.
You can find books on shelves and ancient drawings on walls about the creatures and their connection to mankind. And later in the game a giant Pokémon dragon is “summoned” by the power-hungry baddies who want to rule the world. (Again, that summoning is never explained other that it was facilitated by the extraction of Pokémon power.)
The Poké often evolve into new “upgraded” forms of themselves, too. There’s no exploration of the magic behind it all, but there is a mention that the creatures are evolving. And if you dive deep into Poké lore, you’ll find that a few have some rather creepy backstories.
The Pokémon clash in “battles” that involve everything from claw slashes and flamethrower-like blasts to magical zaps. But it’s never bloody or goopy, and no creatures ever die. They simply lose health to the point where they grow weak and “faint.” They then can be revived later.
This newest Pokémon game isn’t really new at all, except for the colorful images on screen. In fact, it could be said that the gamemakers weren’t really shooting for new as much as something comforting, fun and safe.
And as any mom will tell you, safe is good. Hey, fun ain’t bad either.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.