Not the best there ever was, pretty good though
I’m not the guy who’s played every single Pokémon release or the girl who’s caught every single Pokémon and has a living Pokédex. I’m a kid who played Red and Blue when I was in Year 7 of High School, way back in…1998…and has dabbled with some of the releases since then.
I’m a fan, but not a rabid fan. I’m certainly not someone who remembers the original Pokémon Pearl and Diamond, despite playing Pearl on a Jetstar flight from Melbourne to Osaka.
These days, I’m more of a Pokémon GO player. I can aimlessly piff Pokéballs at random ‘mons’ while I walk my dog and hatch eggs. Besides, anything beyond Gen I really goes over my head. Even when I’ve played later games, I’ve really just stuck to the catching and evolving.
I know there’s all sorts of fashion shows and egg hatching, Nuzlocking and various other weird activities, but for me, the pure experience of Pokémon has always been enough. Hence, Pokémon Shining Pearl has been a delightfully soothing experience, best played while I binge watch The Office (again) and don’t need to pay too much attention.
Pokémon Shining Pearl Review
Here’s the deal. Pokémon Shining Pearl (and Brilliant Diamond) are remakes of the original Gen IV releases for Nintendo DS. As far as remakes go, these ones are pretty faithful with the majority of work being done on upgraded visuals, sounds and animations. Shining Pearl is presented in the same, isometric, top-down view as the originals, but like other recent remakes, players aren’t locked to a grid. And while that change is welcome and makes Shining Pearl feel closer to Sword and Shield, going back to not being able to see Pokémon on the field is a big step back.
Understandably, developer ILCA wanted to keep the remakes as close to the original experience as possible, but there are decades of Pokémon games now with all manner of improvements and upgrades that could and should have been applied here. I don’t think we should have expected a Pokémon Legends: Arceus style departure, but given the new game is a prequel to this remake, having some shared design, mechanics or aesthetics would have been nice.
However, gripes aside, there’s no denying that Pokémon games remain enjoyable regardless of how many or how few you’ve played. The simplicity of the core design philosophy is the key to the series longevity and Shining Pearl is a testament to that.
It doesn’t matter that I’m 36 and tired after work and grumpy and frustrated that my life didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to. Because, as soon as I lay on the couch and boot up Shining Pearl, I’m immediately relaxing and enjoying the dopamine flooding my brain as I catch, level up and force cute animals to maim one another.
That’s all there really is to it if I’m honest. I’ve read complaints that EXP share makes things too easy, but that’s just the way I like it. I don’t want to grind Zubats into dust in order to prevent digital COVID just so I can beat the next Gym. I like to stroll through each route, obliterating the Bug Catchers and Cute Girls in my way, stealing their lunch money and laughing as I ride off giving them the finger. In my opinion, people who enjoy Pokémon battles to be long and difficult probably also think playing Dark Souls with a weapon is cheating.
That kind of challenge isn’t for me. But, here’s the good thing, if it is for you (you freak) you can play Pokémon Shining Pearl and make it as difficult as you like. Sadly, no, you can’t turn off EXP Share, but after so many years of games, fans have come up with all sorts of ways to play and up the challenge. Nuzlocke if just one example.
Take Sejun Park’s six Pachirisu team challenge. You don’t have to go that crazy, but it’s just an example of the many ways Pokémon can be played to suit your own taste. Me, I like my Pokémon like I like I like my job; very little challenge and with minimum input required by me.
Sure, it’s not perfect but so what. Pokémon Shining Pearl and Brilliant Diamond are decent remakes of classic Pokémon games and they’re just as playable as they originally were, if not moreso. If you’re a fan of the franchise you’ll enjoy the remakes, even if you go on Reddit and complain about the, I guarantee you’re still going to be putting in hundreds of hours just to hatch the perfect Whatever-chu. Plus, if you really want to be a masochist, be like those guys on TikTok and restart an infinite number of times until you get a Shiny starter, cause that’s way more fun than just playing the game, right?
Pokémon Shining Pearl was reviewed on Switch using a digital code provided by Nintendo.