We live in the Age of the Reboot. Movies, TV, video games — heck, even Taylor Swift — have all collectively decided that it is time to experience things we loved anew. Sometimes these changes can be dramatic! A comedy becomes a gritty drama, an animated show becomes a lengthy live-action movie, a 5.5-minute Taylor Swift song becomes a 10-minute, emotional Tour De Force.
But the most effective reboots, beyond any flash or pomp and circumstance, all do the same thing at their core: remind us why we fell in love with something in the first place. Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Pokémon Shining Pearl are not groundbreaking reinventions of the Pokémon formula. But they are stylish, faithful revisitings of 2007’s Pokémon Diamond and Pokémon Pearl that will make you fall in love with Pokémon all over again.
Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl both follow the traditional Pokémon formula: A young traveler sets out from their small town on a globe-trotting, evil-corporation-fighting adventure with their trusty Pokémon by their side. These games take place in the Sinnoh region, a mountainous, temperate world inspired by the Hokkaido region of Japan. As you travel across its marshes, mountains, and lakes, you’ll discover and befriend Pokémon, battle a litany of trainers, and eventually do what kids have been doing for 25 years — become the very best, like no one ever was.
The game’s differences from the original Diamond and Pearl are minimal. When Pokémon: Let’s Go Eevee! and Pikachu! Were released in 2018, they featured a series of quality-of-life changes that either enhanced or detracted from the experience, depending on your appreciation of purity. This adaptation doesn’t fully remove those changes but does obscure them from view. The largest change, wild Pokémon being viewable in the world of the game, has quite literally been pushed underground.
Instead, the experience hews remarkably close to the original games. The storylines, the locations, and even the characters’ battle poses all remain identical to their parent games. The changes that do exist are mostly supplemental and cosmetic: changing outfits, an additional underground system to explore, and more legendary Pokémon to catch after you finish the initial storyline. It’s a smart way to augment the games without getting in the way of the experience. The original Diamond and Pearl were memorable because of the depth of story and breadth of exploration, and Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl maintain these strengths extremely well.
The biggest and most obvious improvement is in the visual style of the game. The world of Sinnoh is rendered in beautiful, vibrant colors, and the environments are crisp and clear. The chibi character designs can be slightly off-putting, but the in-battle character models are expressive and lively, and the Pokémon and their moves look and feel great. Whether you’re staring at the snow-capped Mt. Coronet in the distance or walking through Jubilife City as the sunset reflects in the windows of the skyscrapers, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl use the Nintendo Switch’s strengths to breathe exciting life into the experience.
That being said, the faithfulness means that these games carry over some of the original games’ struggles as well. Diamond and Pearl suffered from a lack of type diversity among its Pokémon and featured a difficulty spike, compounded by limitations in team building. These challenges are present in the new versions, too, and might be felt more acutely by younger players who have grown up on wider, more forgiving Pokémon titles. In addition, the game’s non-linear progression and multiple paths and avenues might leave newer players frustrated or confused. However, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are rewarding for players seeking more of a challenge than what some recent Pokémon titles have offered.
We are only months away from Pokémon Legends: Arceus, the first open-world Pokémon game and one that has been heavily set up as a major mold-breaker for the franchise. With that looming, it’s so nice to spend a quick November getaway enjoying a throwback Pokémon classic. Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Pokémon Shining Pearl are not going to reinvent the wheel for anyone hungry for Game Freak’s “All Too Well” or Ghostbusters: Afterlife. But as Pokémon’s 25th anniversary draws to a close, both of these games are pleasing jewel boxes that will remind you why you’ve stuck with this franchise all this time — or convince you that now might be the right time to finally dive in.