Game Review: Pokemon BDSP

Photo Courtesy: Unsplash by Branden Skeli

After 15 years and endless clamoring from the online community, Game Freak finally released a remake of their fourth-generation games, “Pokémon Diamond” and “Pokémon Pearl.” Titled “Brilliant Diamond” and “Shining Pearl” (“BDSP”), the community had finally been given what they wanted. However, Game Freak was coming off a string of underwhelming games, with some believing that 2010’s “Pokémon Black” and “Pokémon White” were the last good games in the franchise. Furthermore, when Game Freak revealed that the art style would be designed to resemble the chibi-like features of the Nintendo DS titles, it felt like a step back because they weren’t properly utilizing the technology of the Nintendo Switch.

After much speculation and an unsurprising amount of pessimism, the games finally launched on Nov. 19, and they delivered a solid remake for long-time fans. The art style, while off-putting at first, quickly becomes charming and even nostalgic as it invokes memories of the Nintendo DS.

The nostalgia does not end there. Everything about these new titles would bring long-time fans back to their childhoods. The characters didn’t lose their vibrant personalities and the plot stays true to the original. The player-named rival, traditionally referred to as Barry, is still as hot-headed and, despite losing to the player constantly, he still gets the gym badges first. The gym leaders carry their own individual levels of ego and compassion, and the gym challenges are fun to conquer. Everyone’s favorite champion, Cynthia, makes her return as well, and she is as elegant as ever.

Everything feels directly copied over. The Pokémon pool is exactly the same, for the most part. For example, you can expect the same lack of fire-type Pokémon that posed an issue 15 years ago. The music as well is simply a more modernized version of the original’s, which took me by absolute surprise. It is masterfully done and filled my mind with memories of the original.

Of course, this bears the question: Why should you bother spending retail price on what is essentially a 15-year-old game? While for some, a remake means they know all of the twists, I propose an alternate viewpoint. The last few generations of “Pokémon” have been filled with experimentation as Game Freak has added and stripped away various features, for better or worse. However, the end result has been that optimization in the game has gotten too complicated for its own good. With the two remakes of older, more traditional games, fans of the franchise can reject this new age of gimmicks in their “Pokemon” games and return to a simpler time. No more mega evolution, no more Z moves, no more dynamaxing. Just you and your Pokémon against Team Galactic and the Pokémon League.

That doesn’t mean there are no changes. It’s 2021 now, and you can expect all of the quality-of-life adjustments that have become standard in “Pokémon.” The EXP Share is automatic, Hidden Moves no longer restrict your team (Now you can use Bidoof’s actual move pool) and you can access your PC anywhere to change your team as you see fit. The biggest change is the expansion of the Grand Underground era, where it is transformed into something resembling the wild area from “Pokémon Sword/Shield,” albeit on a smaller scale. There, you can pick and choose the encounters you have, and with any luck, you might even find a Togepi.

The downside of these changes is that Game Freak stays true to the theme which has become more apparent as time passes. The games are getting easier, perhaps too easy. I am among the many that crave a “Pokémon” game that makes me think and put in the effort to excel at. “Pokémon BDSP” does not do that. It’s easy to follow, and the changes to grinding have streamlined the process further.

Whether or not that’s a good thing is up to you, but I am not surprised that Game Freak has continued to market its games towards children. So instead, I relish “Pokémon” for what it is. It has gorgeous music, fun creatures to meet and capture, and visually pleasing aesthetics all the way through. “Pokémon BDSP” is far from a perfect game, but long-time fans will appreciate the nostalgia, and newer fans would do well to experience what “Pokémon” was like long ago.