By Makeda Byfield
When you think about it, longtime video game players really aren’t that different from children during the holidays. They both burst with excitement as they anticipate the release or arrival of something new to play with. Pokémon fans basked in a sense of nostalgia as they awaited the release of Pokémon Brilliant Diamond. The re-mastered version of a game that many players enjoyed back in the early 2000’s was made available on the Nintendo Switch last month. You’d think this would excite fans of the game … right?
Sadly, many fans were disappointed. With the exception of a new chibi-art style, Brilliant Diamond did not explore anything that we haven’t seen years ago. Players revisited the same Sinnoh region that the original game focused on. They saw similar Pokémon and had almost identical tasks. The underwhelming “remake” just didn’t seem to cut it.
That is, it didn’t cut it for the people who already knew and loved this game. My experience was different.
Before I played Brilliant Diamond, I never got the hype about Pokémon games. Sure, I listened to my classmates rave about it back in elementary school. And I know we all remember Pokémon Go! from a couple years ago. I sort of just sat back and watched everybody else enjoy themselves. That all changed when I played Brilliant Diamond.
Yes, the game follows the general structure that is seen throughout the entire franchise. “Trainers” make their way around a region to collect and battle adorable little animal-like pocket monsters called “Pokémon.” As you make your way through the game, your Pokémon level up and evolve. My party was pathetic at first; I was traveling with one Chimcar, a fire Pokémon that wasn’t really used to battle. I’ll give Chimcar some credit, though – he was dependable enough to make it through hours of gameplay. Our little crew eventually grew to include water Pokémon like Psyduck, bug Pokémon like Kricketune, and more. This diverse group gave me the chance to handle all sorts of creatures during battles; while Chimcar was best for grass battling, his skills weren’t as effective when dealing with water-based opponents. Having other pocket monsters that weren’t weak to certain types of opponents made me feel more prepared for whatever Pokémon may have come my way!
Once I understood the basics of battle, I was able to enjoy the storyline that we are supposed to follow. One kid happened to stumble upon a professor that was researching wild Pokémon; soon enough, that same child was asked to with assist with the professor’s research, ultimately defeating an evil enterprise, and becoming a powerful trainer! These tasks take players through several towns and underground tunnels that could keep you entertained for hours upon hours.
I originally told myself that I wasn’t in a rush to get through the game. There wasn’t one big reward that I absolutely needed to see at the moment, which allowed me, I believed, to take my time. I’d pick up my Nintendo Switch in the early afternoon with the expectation of playing for an hour. So imagine my surprise when the sun had set before I put the game down! While the constant battles with low-level trainers became annoying early on, the opportunities that await at literally every corner are one enjoyments that made this game so fun! Players are allowed to interact with town members, bond with their Pokémon, and complete “side-quests,” which offer some new thrills!
If it isn’t clear, this first-time Pokémon player does not agree with the hate that the game received. While old players look down on the game, I was introduced to a new world that I enjoyed being in! Besides, the game was technically marketed as a “faithfully reproduced” version of the original. Nothing new was promised.
This is where I might contradict myself … the disappointment encountered by long-time fans is understandable. Nostalgia is arguably the largest component of the game’s charm and fans want a little more with a remaster. If $60 is the usual price point for games like this, it seems a bit expensive to me. If old-time fans of the game are paying this much for a game they have already played, it’d be nice to include something fun and new for them, right?
This may be the root of the game’s low rating from other critics. The price and the gaming experience don’t match. If it were cheaper, I’d scream “Kids, NOW is the time to beg your parents for the game, especially when those after-Christmas sales are in effect.” By keeping the game exactly the same, the game producers eliminated the chance to reel in older players; there was an opportunity to bridge the gap between the generations of Pokémon fans by keeping the game fresh. Alas, the cost of the game and the lack of new content caused Brilliant Diamond to end up on so many people’s naughty list this year.
For me, though, I am transported to a fascinated world as I play my first Pokémon game. Everything feels new and bright. It really is a Brilliant Diamond.
Makeda Byfield is a New York Videogame Critics Circle intern, part of our ongoing partnership with Bronxworks.