reviewed on NDS
Embrace the Cash-Cow
Pokemon has been around for a while now, and its first outing just happened to have been released at the perfect time for me, because I was at that age where anything captivating enough would forever become a favoured piece of warm nostalgia. Pokemon is also a multi-billion dollar franchise, with its anime episodes (in Japan) up to episode #500, and a trading card database that almost rivals Magic: The Gathering. However, despite most kids 'growing out' of openly expressing their love for the series, the video games (particularly the handheld RPGs) have always remained strong. The new outings on the DS are no exception to this rule. Perhaps this has a great deal to do with hype, and the original strength of such an established franchise, which is perhaps proven by the fact that I pre-ordered mine from America (seeing as us Brits have to wait for a date to be confirmed in late '07), and have sunk my teeth into an embarrassingly high play count, I can quite safely say that this new Pokemon adventure is not only the biggest one yet, but also the most enjoyable.
Team 'X' do something evil and Player 'X' has to stop them
A division amongst fans: The basic premise of the game has remained primarily unchanged. Your player starts off in a small town, with a rival (2 in D&P) and sets out to become 'The Best Trainer in the World'. Along the way, you encounter a sinister group of villains who use the little critters for evil, and while travelling along, trying to reach the elite four, you manage to stop them, and hopefully capture the Legendary Pokemon they were out to get in the first place. This can be either a good thing, or a complete put off, though I'm sure avid fans aren't particularly swayed. Despite this continuity, the story is still well delivered, if a little predictable, but still retains a decent amount of exploration - the game restricts you from travelling to places you shouldn't be going yet, but allows enough freedom for the player to remain comfortable. The story is very similar, but it's the little additions and differences that will pluck at the heartstrings of Pokemon fans, such as NPCs who join you for double battles, or the new DS features such as Wi-Fi and backwards compatibility.
Beyond Kanto & Johto, the 32-Bit worlds...
The quest to catch-em-all, on the DS, is an auditory and visual pleasure. The world is no longer entirely 2-D. The buildings, and sprites, are strangely isometric, but altogether very pretty. Traversing the long grass along the routes is a joy (despite the 25% increase in encounter rates). In battle, the Pokemon have an opening animation, for example Luxion will glow yellow and shake his tail, but this is the only sprite animation in battle itself, unless you count your rival sliding in and taunting you as animation, but this shouldn't put anyone off, as Pokemon was never about impressive graphics; though as the power of the handheld improves, the game manages to match it. A good example of its graphical power is a certain cut-scene, when the game's main Legendary Pokemon is let loose, which shows off a very impressive 3D graphics engine. Returning to my copy of Sapphire, which at the time was a pleasure to behold, it felt small and lacked detail in comparison, which is certainly something in Diamond/Pearl's favour.
'Can you Catch-em-all?'
Yes. Yes you can. Cast your minds back, if you can, to the announcement of how Ruby and Sapphire would not be backwards compatible with Gold and Silver. Well, Diamond and Pearl contains a Pokedex of a staggering 493 Pokemon, and only around 40 of which are 'unobtainable' (however, this only means within the game itself - they are easily available through the Pal Park).
With the player's main aim still being the preoccupation in catching everything in the Pokedex, there is no end to features aiding you in this, such as the Pokeradar (which highlights patches of grass, indicating rarity, and if they are shiny), and a new Safari Zone. Once the player has seen all 150 Pokemon in the original pokedex, professor Oak (of anime and kanto fame) arrives to upgrade it to the 'National Dex', and it's at this point that the game gets that much bigger - more Pokemon, more areas, and the capability to 'migrate' Pokemon from the GBA games, in order to complete the Diamond/Pearl Dex. There are also new evolutions as an added incentive, like Magnezone- and evolution of Magneton, for example, as well as new methods such as new stones, area specific evolutions, and necessary moves, such as Lickitung having to know rollout to evolve into its new form.
No Pros and Cons at this time