2021 sees Pokémon reach its 25th annual milestone. It’s a franchise that has defined generations due to its overwhelming presence and solid gameplay accessible to players of all ages. To celebrate, we have the remakes of the fourth generation of the mainline Pokémon entries with Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Pokémon Shining Pearl, a point in the franchise that marked the DS era of games and was a slight refresh to the series after a popularity decline from Generation three. So dive into the nostalgia and get ready for a challenge as Cynthia prepares her Garchomp and destroys my Nuzlocke run of the game.

The Good

I'm going to start with the strongest feature of the remake, and that is an actual challenge that is presented through the "boss" battles of the gym leaders, the Ellie 4, and especially with Cynthia. I'll be focusing primarily on the final challenge of the Elite 4 and Cynthia in this review as this is where it is most noticeable. Their teams are specialised with certain strategies in mind, making use of held items and competitive mechanics like IVs and EVs, which results in a critical hit build Drapion that can almost 100% guarantee a critical hit, or making use of stat buffs and Baton Pass. Genuinely, it's great to have a challenge again in Pokémon, featuring battles that don't feel like they're simply handed to you on a silver platter. And then there's Cynthia; her whole team is exceptionally powerful and it capitalises on certain abilities and held items for each Pokémon, like the absolute tank of Marvel Scale/Flame Orb Milotic or her terrifyingly powerful Garchomp that uses Swords Dance and then proceeds to slaughter your party. However, you can cheese out the fight with enough revives to wear her Pokémon out of PP.

Carrying over from Pokémon Sun & Moon is the removal of HM moves being required and in Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, they've been relocated to the Pokétch app where either a wild Bidoof, Bibarel or Staraptor will perform the HM for you, continuing the Bibarel is your HM slave trope from back in the day. Also, walking with your Pokémon can now happen freely after you take any of them into Amity Park which results in some really cute and clever animations. Some of my favourite examples are of Spiritomb not being able to keep up, Rotom zipping around as a ball of energy and occasionally blipping into it's form or Golem rolling around like a giant marble.

The Sinnoh Grand Underground has been expanded upon to include areas that allow for wild Pokémon that you wouldn’t normally find until later in the game. It's like a wild area lite with the addition of an addictive side activity in the form of mining and building a base. It's a GRAND update that helps bring a modern touch to this classic game.

TL;DR

  • Challenging battles
  • Quality of life improvements
  • Expansive underground

The Bad

Unfortunately, unlike the other remakes of previous generations, there isn’t a lot of additional content added here. What’s more upsetting is that Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl don’t include any of the improvements that Pokémon Platinum had introduced.

Personally, I quite like the new art direction, however there are a few moments that just feel a bit awkward when you change over to the realistic proportions during battles. This brings forth another problem; the trainers feel unlively most of the time in battle, merely standing there in the background most of the time compared to the sprite era of Barry stomping from side to side which highlighted his overactive nature.

While there aren't too many issues in terms of bugs and glitches, there were a couple minor ones, as well as a few problematic situations I've seen encountered online. For example, the two biggest glitches that have gone around are the surf glitch that allows you to surf in the air, which allows you to access areas that normally aren't accessible (such as the Shamin event area), and then you have the softlocking issue where you could potentially get permanently stuck in the ice gym if you keep on auto save and don't break the snowballs in the middle section of the gym first.

TL;DR

  • A bit too faithful
  • Lack of trainer personality
  • A few minor bugs

Final Score: 8/10

Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Pokémon Shining Pearl feel like one step forward in some aspects but one step backwards in others as the legitimate challenge in the Elite 4 was a welcome change but the lack of additional content to a remake has the game feel a bit empty. In saying that though, this is a great way for newer players to experience the fourth generation without having to resort to expensive or illegal methods. Overall, these remakes are solid experiences for players to enjoy with options of self imposed challenge runs for more seasoned Pokémon enthusiasts, which becomes more accessible for me thanks to the Sinnoh Grand Underground as I go and start my mono-fire type run.

Thank you for checking out our Pokémon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl Switch review, thank you to Nintendo AU/NZ for providing the review code and thank you to our $5 and up Patreon Backers for their ongoing support:

For more reading, check out our review of Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon.