Nigel has been playing video games ever since he first picked up a Master System controller in his diapers. Nintendo fanboy.
On February 26th, 2021, Nintendo and Game Freak held their Pokémon Direct and revealed the long awaited remakes to the fourth generation of games to be named Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. The reception at the time was largely negative, but many popular personalities in the Pokémon community have warmed up to it since then. There's still much we don't know so anything can change, but as it stands right now the more I think about it, the less enthusiastic I am about them.
Normally I'd be writing about why existing Pokémon games are actually horrible, but the trailer for the new games is concerning enough—and controversial enough—that it seemed like a good idea to take a break from the norm and talk about why these future games might actually be horrible.
The Art Style and Design
The first thing people will notice is the art style is designed to reproduce the art style of the original games for the Nintendo DS. This itself isn't a huge problem, but it came across as underwhelming. Part of that is expectations, and it's not always fair to expect announcements to meet unfounded expectations. Fans were expecting a remake in the game engine of Pokémon Sword and Shield, and a style similar to those games. This is not without precedent, as that is exactly what Game Freak had done with their previous remakes for the Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, and 3DS.
While it's not fair to compare fan expectations with what was revealed, this is a huge breakaway from tradition. Many are pointing to this being the result of a change of developer, with ILCA—the team behind Pokémon HOME—developing the game, but it is still being co-directed by Junichi Masuda who was the director for the original game, so it is more likely that this decision was a Game Freak decision.
The real issue isn't just limited to the art design however. It's how bland it comes across. The art style—often referred to as "chibi" because of its characters' tiny bodies and large heads—isn't the heart of the problem. A similar decision was made in The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening when it had it's own remake for the Nintendo Switch. In Link's Awakening the characters were also designed to be miniatures with large heads and the world map was designed to reproduce the map of the original Game Boy entry. But the world itself looked so much more vibrant. Even with the art direction, everything still looked so much more detailed, the lighting was absolutely beautiful and the whole world looked like it was full of life. Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl looks so bland and lifeless. Granted, what we saw was not the final build, but with the game being released later this year, I can't imagine it improving that drastically. The game looks like it was built in Roblox, whether it's the character design, the world, or the buildings and assets. Some fans may have warmed up to it, but so far, I have not and I do not anticipate that I will.
"A Faithful Remake"
The second concern is that in the reveal announcement, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl were described as "faithful remakes" of the original Pokémon Diamond and Pearl. While the reveal trailer did show some features from the expansion Pokémon Platinum, it is so far being presumed that the storyline will mostly be that of the original base games. In other words, there'll be no distortion world. It also speculated the games will not have features that made Sword and Shield so popular, such as Dynamax or the Wild Area. Right now, it's being reported that it will be a one-to-one remake with the only change being Platinum's expanded Pokédex.
So far, the closest we have to that experience is Pokémon Fire Red and Leaf Green, the remakes to the original Pokémon Red and Blue games that were released to address the fact that your Pokémon couldn't be transferred from the Game Boy to the Game Boy Advance. The majority of the game followed the original quite faithfully—including the translation—but still added the Sevii Islands, a significantly expanded postgame, and extra features such as the Teachy TV and Fame Checker.
The second set of remakes, Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver completely updated the script, added a new character, added the Pokéathlon, had a new route to the new Safari Zone, and altered the story to make the encounter with the box Legendary more meaningful to the world, plus took some story elements from the expanded Crystal version regarding Suicune.
The third remakes, Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire also updated the script, added new characters to give players a rival for Pokémon Contests, completely redesigned many of the gym leaders and Team Magma and Aqua, added features from Pokémon X and Y, such as Mega Evolution and even made references to those games in the remakes. Not to mention the new Delta Chapter in the postgame, the ability to soar, and tons of new content.
It doesn't appear as though Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl will have any of that, and reputable leakers with a proven track record seem to be making similar indications. It's just Diamond and Pearl all over again. This leaves many older players who still have their original games with very little reason to shell out sixty dollars. I'm in the middle of trying to catch every Pokémon in every version of the game. I just finished playing Platinum and getting everything: events, legendaries, swarms, even the Pokémon you need to use the dual slot feature for. I just completed it, so why would I need to play the same game with less features?
Now, I fully expect the game to have DLC further down the line, and when that DLC comes out I might consider getting the games then, if they add something significant or new. But for the first time Since the original Diamond and Pearl, there's a Pokémon game that isn't a day one purchase for me, and many others seem to feel the same way.
Of course, all this is based on the announcement and reveal trailer, with some rumor tossed in. I anticipate that there will be a handful of further announcements leading up to the games release. Maybe the developers will add cell-shading to the art, which itself would be a huge improvement in that department. Maybe Nintendo or Game Freak announce a new postgame section, or that Dynamaxing will be possible. Heck, maybe they'll announce new Mega Evolutions. I don't expect them to, but they might.
It might seem like I really hate Pokémon based on how much I complain about the games, but usually it's all in good fun and just because some fans can't admit the flaws in their favorite entries. But I love the series, I really do. I think that's why while I try to keep my expectations realistic, I was expecting a little more. Hopefully in the coming months we'll be given a little more.
But what do you think? Are you looking forward to the remakes? Am I just a whiner? Do I make some valid points? Let me know in the comments!
Nigel Kirk (author) from Calgary, AB, CAN on April 24, 2021:
Thank you! As I said, it seemed lifeless and bland, where other games with a similar style were so more vibrant, but I couldn't exactly place "why" it looked that way! You just identified it for me!
Rachael Lefler from Illinois on April 24, 2021:
One thing that is striking to me from a design standpoint in your third image is how the trees are all identical stamps. There should be more variation of tree colors and shapes to make it look more like a real forest. It could still be cartoony, but it looks amateurish to use copy + paste so obviously when it's a huge company with the money to develop better. I think the trees are kind of like a red flag.