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Two new 'Pokemon' games breathe new life into Nintendo DS classics

Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl.jpg
Posted at 4:48 PM, Nov 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-22 16:48:30-05

TUCSON, Ariz. — The diabolical marketing genius behind mainline "Pokemon" games is that they always come in pairs. Play through one, and you'll be reminded that you're missing key Pokemon from the other one.

That's the case in Nintendo's new duo: "Pokemon Brilliant Diamond" and "Pokemon Shining Pearl," which are pretty much the same game, save for some subtle differences, as well as the presence of distinct "Legendary" creatures you can't find in the other version.

"Brilliant Diamond" offers legendary Pokemon steel dragon Dialga, while "Shining Pearl" boars water dragon Palkia.

You may ask, "is it worth spending $60 on another game just to get one more Pokemon?"

The answer, for a Pokemon fan, is "of course!" After all, the slogan is "gotta catch 'em all," not "let's catch most of them and call it a day."

The answer for any other rational human being is "Nope."

If you can set aside your FOMO, you'll be fine choosing either "Brilliant Diamond" or "Shining Pearl" and never looking back. Either way, you'll be treated to a briskly-paced adventure that gently guides you up the ladder of Pokemon trainers aiming to become king of the hill.

The remakes take the framework of the 2006 DS games, completely overhauling the visuals while adding several quality-of-life modernizations. The most impressive enhancement is in the combat scenes, which provide close-up glimpses of the throw-downs between the creatures. Getting a vivid look at the combat offers a thrill that leaving the confrontations to the theater of the mind never quite reached.

There's something inherently satisfying in "Pokemon" about scouting, tracking, and capturing Pokemon that will allow you to take on whatever sassy trainer has been taunting you through dialogue boxes so you can swing by to deliver the smackdown.

There are deep levels of strategy at play. Still, it generally takes firepower — meaning collecting stronger Pokemon and evolving them into more ferocious forms - to win the higher-level battles. It's a testament to the developers that all the grinding it takes to advance seems more like a treat than a chore. Every interval you spend with one of the games feels like a significant step forward in your goals.

Also new is a multiplayer feature that lets you team with friends either locally or online to explore the world and dig up hidden treasures. Since the game is usually a solo experience, the mode adds a touch of "Animal Crossing"-style community to the fun. And if you're lucky, you may even get a more profound experience.

I spent a sizable part of my weekend using the multiplayer feature with my 9-year-old. I let him lead the way and followed along as he barked ever-serious instructions at me. When I first played "Diamond" and "Pearl," I had no idea fatherhood would lie in my future. Glimpsing the world through his eyes made me choke back tears.

Moments like that — you just got to catch 'em all.

The publisher provided review codes.

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