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Pokemon: Brilliant Diamond (NS)

Pokemon: Brilliant Diamond (NS) - Review

by Paul Broussard , posted on 30 November 2021 / 3,673 Views

Nintendo is a company of ups and downs. For every Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, there must be a Paper Mario: Color Splash to balance things out. For every Pikmin 3, a Star Fox Zero. Yin and yang, maintaining some bizarro world sense of balance. And after the release of October’s excellent Metroid Dread, I was worried I might be starting to build up a dangerous amount of goodwill towards Nintendo. Fortunately, Pokemon was happy to oblige and take the blow to ensure we all remember that Nintendo-published games can be disappointing just as often as they are exceptional.

Perhaps that sounds overly harsh. Still, I don't think it's an unfair assessment to say that Pokemon Brilliant Diamond is one of the worst remakes, or remasterings, or whatever you want to call it, that I've ever played. Nearly everything that a revised version of a game should do, Brilliant Diamond does not. Does that mean that there is still a halfway decent game at the core of Brilliant Diamond? Sure; if you enjoyed the original Diamond and/or Pearl on DS, then you'll probably still enjoy this. But as far as what a remake/remaster should accomplish, it's hard to view Brilliant Diamond as anything short of an absolute failure.

Pokemon has long been a series that’s done the absolute bare minimum to innovate between titles, so putting out a low effort remake of a past game feels like standard operating procedure in a way. I’d spend this time summarizing the story, but these things basically come pre-installed with the Pokemon sourcemaker at this point. Some child with far too little parental supervision (that’s you), gets recruited by a professor who very obviously isn’t answering to any IRB. Said professor tasks you with wandering around and researching a variety of wild animals by making them beat each other into unconsciousness. Your player character proceeds to traverse the island of Sinnoh, exploring the different environments and engaging in some… “research”, either with wild Pokemon hiding in bushes or the occasional domesticated Pokemon hiding in someone’s undoubtedly massive pokeball.

Nothing much has changed with respect to the story from the original title (or indeed much from the very beginning of the series), so let's talk about the gameplay instead. Unless you’ve spent the last 25 years living at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, you almost certainly know what a Pokemon game entails. Travel between towns, occasionally foil the plans of whatever group of local idiots is attempting to use a legendary Pokemon to create a perfect world (in this case named Team Galactic), fight some gym leaders for their badges, and then once you’ve beaten everyone else’s domesticated attack dogs up you can challenge the most powerful attack dog owners in all the land for the right to become champion of turn-based dog fighting. The strategy remains exactly what it was back on the DS and indeed in every mainline Pokemon release: form a team of Pokemon who have type advantage against most of the major Pokemon types and you’ve pretty much won the game, bar 20 or so hours of disinterestedly shuffling around Sinnoh and having old men demand you stop every few feet so they can fight you.

But let’s focus on the differences that do exist between the original DS title and this version, small though they may be. Organizing your Pokemon is easier than it has been in many past installments, carrying over Sword and Shield’s fast swap mechanic. Exp share is also a welcome boon from Sword and Shield, at least for people like me who don’t quite find any psychotic joy in slowly grinding up 50 different Pokemon on the same file, although it does mean the difficulty curve breaks in half around the second town and never recovers. The stupid context sensitive blocks from the original game that would just randomly wall off certain pathways in the overworld and could only be broken with specific attack types that were almost never useful in battle are back, but at least you can now basically automatically use them as long you’ve learned the prerequisite move, rather than having to carry a Bidoof around as one of a limited number of slots.

The biggest change in terms of content is the Grand Underground, an expanded version of the Underground from the original titles. The Grand Underground basically serves as a big area for finding and grinding certain Pokemon types, although the practical upshot of this meant that I was able to absolutely shatter whatever semblance of balance still remained by going underground, capturing some higher level Pokemon, and then just running roughshod over the ensuing gyms. But, hey, it’s a nice thing to have to cut down on the grinding required to beat the game, and it is optional, so you can ignore it if it makes things too easy for you.

And that’s about it. While all of these are fine additions, a game with the price point of an entirely new title needs to put in a lot more effort to justify its price point. Nintendo has consistently made a habit of putting out low effort remasterings for full price for a while now, and quite frankly it's getting old. It's not like there wasn't additional room to improve; there are plenty of QoL features that Pokemon could really stand to benefit from like harder difficulties, cutting down on tutorializing, and greater accessibility options, and a remastering like this is probably the easiest place those features could've been implemented, given much of the game's design is already laid out. Alas, these are nowhere to be found.

I suppose the devil's advocate position would be that Brilliant Diamond justifies its price point with the graphical overhaul, but that definitely doesn’t cut it here, because Brilliant Diamond somehow manages to look worse than the original DS title. The player characters have this weird chibi design which makes Sinnoh’s residents look like characters from Jetpack Joyride that got turned into 3D models. The DS version’s sprite-based style has aged wonderfully since the mid 2000s, while this change to 3D models is far less enjoyable to look at. It also robs the game of any tension or realistic chance of being taken seriously at all when the main antagonists look like bobbleheads that have come to life.

Granted, games don’t need to look great to be good, and questionable visuals don’t usually break a game. It does however raise the question of how Brilliant Diamond justifies its price tag. It certainly isn’t for the graphical changes, and the few gameplay alterations that make exploring more convenient, while nice, certainly aren’t worth $60.

The final nail in the coffin of what is unfortunately a waste of time is that Brilliant Diamond is missing most of the extra content that came with the initial “definitive edition” of Diamond and Pearl, namely the new features in Platinum. So if you were hoping to play around in the Distortion World, or hang out with Looker again, then you’re just as well off spending your money on a giant tub of peanut butter to bury your sorrows in. Brilliant Diamond doesn’t even measure up to the better version of these games that came out a decade and a half ago now, and if that doesn’t guarantee that it isn’t worth your cash, I’m not sure what does.

What I’m trying to get at is that Brilliant Diamond isn’t just not a significant improvement over the previous versions, it’s a downgrade from the actual definitive version. Paying full price for a worse version of a title isn’t just questionable, it's flat out loony. Remastered versions of games should have more content than the previous versions, not less. Remastered versions of games should look better than the previous versions, not worse. Buying this title is paying $60 for less content and worse graphics, in exchange for a few quality of life improvements. There are very few worse value propositions on the market today.

The lone bright spot in the midst of this sea of disappointment is the soundtrack, which is quite good. There are some very audibly-pleasing remixes of the original Diamond/Pearl tracks, and I’d be remiss in not acknowledging the work done by the composers here. I can’t imagine it must have been easy to come in and put in actual work every day when the rest of the dev team certainly wasn’t.

In short, Brilliant Diamond is frankly exasperating. The Pokemon Company is an entity with resources beyond most developers’ wildest dreams, and yet it consistently creates some of the least inspired and unadventurous titles in the industry. Brilliant Diamond is no exception. Even with the leeway for not changing things up that being a remake carries with it, this is just a rip-off. Please, don’t financially support this; hopefully someone at Pokemon eventually takes notice and realizes that they need to start putting in a smidge of effort to warrant continuing to get people’s money.

VGChartz Verdict


This review is based on a copy of Pokemon: Brilliant Diamond for the NS

Read more about our Review Methodology here

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sundin13 (on 30 November 2021)

I get that you want the game to have more new content, but giving a game a 2.5 ("Irredeemably bad. Games in this category are among the worst and most infuriating on the market." according to your review methodology) without actually engaging with what the game is as opposed to what it isn't is laughable. This has to be one of the worst reviews I've read, coming off more like a metacritic user review rant than an actual professional review.

It always amazes me how little QC VGC actually puts into what they are willing to publish.

  • +7
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Darwinianevolution (on 30 November 2021)

Game Freak has been putting less and less efford in their games since the 6th gen, and now it has reached a frankly absurd point. It is frustrating to see a franchise that could (and has been) excellent dwell in mediocrity and laziness as it is right now. Paying more for less has been the deal for GF during the entire Switch era, and the only reasn they are getting away with such blatant franchise-milking is the fact that it's pokémon, and it will recover whatever fans it loses anyway. Either new people will buy the new games without regards of current quality, or the fans will complain and will buy it regardless. I remember all of the outcries and cries to the heavens when Dexit happened, and then they made Sw/Sh the second best selling game of the series regardless. People can't put their money where their mouth is.

P.S. I know this was not made by GF, but it really doesn't change the direction in which the series is heading. Unless they prove the time and resources taken to make Arceus instead of the remake was worthwile, they are still on the wrong track.

  • +7
SecondWar (on 30 November 2021)

I get that the graphical style isn’t to everyone’s tastes and there are a few QoL features (or lack of them) that are annoying, but the review really reads like the reviewer had a fixed opinion on this game before starting it due to all the littles snipes in the third and fourth paragraph. He even basically says he was disinterestedly shuffling about the region for 20 hours.

  • +7
StraightArrow SecondWar (on 02 December 2021)

Youre missing some context my guy. He said once you've made the optimum team, you shuffle disinterestedly around Sinnoh because (context clues) there is no challenge once youve exploited Pokemon's sole, increasingly archaic, rock-paper-scissors formula. If there's no challenge, there's only so much interest you can glean from scenery changes, especially from a game that's released in 3 forms already, you know?

  • 0
SecondWar StraightArrow (on 02 December 2021)

That was just one example of what gave me a perception of his pre-determined option. There are several other comments used in the review that imply he was disinterested from the start.
Plus making an 'optimum team' is not completed so early in the game as many choice Pokemom aren't available until much later when there are far less than 20 hours left to run.
I agree that, whilst I'm having my own fun with the game, it overall is disappointing because of lack of ambition but the review seems to have a pre-established bias.

  • 0
Zippy6 (on 30 November 2021)

I would have preferred they just released the DS version on the "virtual console" that doesn't exist.

  • +6
JCGamer55 (on 30 November 2021)

Unpopular opinion: almost everything said in this review is actually right.

  • +4
SecondWar JCGamer55 (on 30 November 2021)

I would agree it makes some valid points (for example the Exp Share breaking the difficulty curve very early in the game), but it doesn’t put them across well - particularly in the first half of the review.

  • +2
Kaio_felipe (on 30 November 2021)

Perhaps that sounds overly harsh. Still, I don't think it's an unfair assessment to say that this review is one of the worst that I've ever read.

The premise that Nintendo has one bad game for every good game is questionable, if not laughable, to say the least. The review says more about the author's frustrated expectations than about the game itself. I started playing Pokémon BD last week and I'm really enjoying the game. Retro aesthetics are far from being an issue; on the contrary, I find it a welcome counterpoint to the innovations to come in Legends just two months from now. I missed an old-fashioned Pokémon game, so I really appreciated these remakes.
Unfortunately this review just repeats the passionate and aggressive stance of certain fans and journalists to anything involving Pokémon games in recent years.

  • +3
Vodacixi Kaio_felipe (on 30 November 2021)

No, no, you are not too harsh. This is a terrible review

  • +5
Kakadu18 (on 30 November 2021)

Lol, do you know how huge this games sales are right now? They are still continuing to get peoples money.

  • +3
Darwinianevolution Kakadu18 (on 30 November 2021)

Good sales do not equal a quality game.

  • +12
Kakadu18 Darwinianevolution (on 30 November 2021)

That wasn't my point. I was referring to the last sentence. There is no incentive to put in more effort because they make tons of profit regardless.

  • +4
Darwinianevolution Kakadu18 (on 30 November 2021)

Oh, absolutely. The only incentive GameFrea has right now is to pump out as many games as possible, and milk them as much as possible, so as to not be superceded by The Pokemon Co's mobile effords. With competition like Pokemon Go, of course they are going to be pushed to try and keep up.

  • 0
2zosteven Kakadu18 (on 01 December 2021)

you see a game like this with little effort for the same price as a game such as last of us or skyrim. makes no sense

  • +1
PAOerfulone (on 02 December 2021)

Seeing just about every other Nintendo 1st party franchise from Mario, Zelda, and Animal Crossing to Kirby, Metroid, and Fire Emblem all take steps and leaps forward while Pokemon continues to take steps back is what makes this all the more frustrating!
The Pokemon Company has all the tools, resources, and finances at their disposal to really put their best foot forward and give Game Freak everything they need to get Pokemon to THAT level, but instead they're just content with doing as little as possible to make more money because they know it'll sell regardless.
As a Sonic fan who has stuck with the blue bastard even through '06 and Boom, I know EXACTLY where this train is headed and as someone who loves this franchise dearly and has fond memories of it, it makes me so angry to see that same kind of disaster about to happen to Pokemon!

  • +2
CourageTCD (on 30 November 2021)

I'm a pokéfan and I'm of those guys who says Pokémon is getting worse and worse due to Game Freak's lazyness.. And even I felt like this review is bad. You're considering not the game itself but what it could have been. Personally, this game should be rated as as good as the regular Diamond/Pearl since it is so faithful or a little bit lower in its score due to lack of Platinum content and bare no new content. The game is medicore due to it being a no-improving remake but it's good because Diamond/Pearl was good. So I would rate BDSP with 5~6 not 2.5

  • +2
MTZehvor CourageTCD (on 01 December 2021)

I'll go ahead and respond to this here since this seems to be a point of contention for a lot of people replying;

With respect to remasterings, our review philosophy focuses primarily on evaluating the changes between the original product and the remastering itself. In fact, the score is solely based around the improvements (or lack thereof) from the original title to the updated version. A 2.5/10 doesn't necessarily indicate that the quality of Diamond/Pearl itself is an awful game, but rather than the quality of the remastering is poor. In short, the review aims to answer the question of "how worth a purchase is BD compared to someone who has already played the previous version of the game?"

The score is not some attempt to somehow combine the quality of the base game with the quality of the changes made and get some sort of average of the two. This was point of contention for a while within the writers group, because some people leaned more heavily towards basing the score off the original game's quality, and others leaned more heavily towards scoring based off the improvements made. This resulted in an inconsistent application of review scores, and so the decision was made to just have scores for remasters be entirely based on the new content, graphical changes, or other improvements made.

Or, to summarize all of that, I would argue that I've fairly scored what you've described as "a good game with a lack of Platinum content and bare no new content" according to the methodology that I've agreed to use in writing reviews. I think critiquing the methodology itself is potentially fair in that respect, even though I personally support it, but my job is to exclusively score remasters like this based off of their changes and not on the original content of the game (beyond giving some leeway to better games inherently having less room for improvement).

  • +2
Slownenberg (on 02 December 2021)

I heard it was just a pretty straight port. Don't see how that deserves such a terrible score. Seems like they didn't try that hard on the if they had done the style of the GB Zelda remake that woulda looked real nice.

  • 0
StraightArrow (on 02 December 2021)

This review was so funny and accurate, had to make an account to say HELL YEAH. Love the line about "research" ? I don't know about all you sore sports but I appreciate this reviewer had a little fun and honestly took the repetitiveness of the series to task. It's not a good review cuz he's tired of pokemon and gamefreak's lazy crap? Nonsense! Most of us who've played it are! There are other reviews from fresh perspectives. Legends Arceus will really test if game freak has any talent left in their studio or if little town hero was truly a sign of the end times.

  • 0
LivncA_Dis3 (on 30 November 2021)

agree with the post they did gen 4 dirty

  • 0
TheLegendaryBigBoss (on 30 November 2021)

I can't believe they didn't put mega evolution in this. I thought it worked so well in OR and AS remakes.

  • 0
SecondWar TheLegendaryBigBoss (on 30 November 2021)

They were in ORAS as they’d been introduced that generation with XY, but they’d been ditched with Sword&Shield.
It was more likely that they put Dynamaxing in these games, and it is a bit surprising that they didn’t.

  • +1
xMetroid TheLegendaryBigBoss (on 30 November 2021)

Am i the only that finds those mechanics of Mega-evolution and Z-move annoying and game breaking ? They made fights so easy it's ridiculous. Most pokemons that have a mega evolution are fan favorites and already strong, makes no sense. I would rather have them give some third evolution to those pokemon that are lacking one.

  • +2
Darwinianevolution xMetroid (on 30 November 2021)

I don't really think so. Mega-Evolution was fine in concept, give some pokemon that are struggling to find a competitive niche a new form to play with. It was abused in the way that many of the pokemon that got it were quite powerful already, but the basic idea is sound. Plus they take away the item slot, which in competitive is essential. Z-Moves are harder to balance, since they have to be a single-use move, thus they have to be powerful enough to make them worth losing the item, though because of this they are much easier to counter.

I do agree that they should be limited to picking one or the other in competitive play. Otherwise they become too dominant.

  • +3
xMetroid Darwinianevolution (on 30 November 2021)

That was my point tho, mega evolution take too much time for them to make a lot of em and they only gave it to few needing pokemon and the rest was fan favorite/already powerful onee. GF is too lazy to push this idea to it's full potential and i feel like it's better to just left it behind in that case instead of having a handful of new ones every other game.

  • +2
Darwinianevolution xMetroid (on 30 November 2021)

I agree, their attitude of treating every feature as a one use disposables makes them unable to actually fix and tune them correctly. That is affecting to most of the series' features, not just megas.

  • +4