Pokémon Brilliant Diamond/Shining Pearl Review

November 28, 2021

Continuing Nintendo’s trend of periodically remaking older Pokémon entries for modern hardware, the inevitability of Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl comes as no surprise to those of us who can feel ourselves rapidly ageing into sallow sacks of pudding. The remakes have occasionally been testing beds for newer mechanics like Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu!/Evee!, but Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl definitely hew fairly close to the DS original from 2006, resulting in a faithful remake of a good, and one of the last really classic-feeling, Pokémon titles.

Visually, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are technically an improvement over the tilted 2D landscapes of original games, bringing them fully into the third dimension, but the results are a mixed bag. I can certainly appreciate the developer’s willingness to emulate the style of the original, with chibi-style caricatures of characters on the main map, and proper models in battles, but in practice the decision feels like it holds back the content. Pivotal scenes with the villainous Team Galactic, while excusably simple on the DS, are almost laughable when their baby-styled representations bump into your hero on the map, with no particularly convincing animation. Cinematic angles don’t really help matters either, revealing weirdly low-resolution textures on characters’ faces. A subtle depth of field effect has been added, but unlike the remake of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening which used it to add charming tilt-shift to its art direction, the effect doesn’t do much for the visuals here.

Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl follow the same basic template laid out since the first generation of Pokémon games, as your send your child character on their own Pokémon journey to catch all the relevant pocket monsters out in the Sinnoh region and prove their worth by beating gym leaders, elite trainers and even foil a criminal scheme by Team Galactic. Despite the somewhat grander ambitions of Team Galactic, it’s a fairly standard blueprint which Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl closely follow, resulting in a game that feels like the last of a classic era of Pokémon before things got changed up a bit more with Black/White and X/Y.

That’s not to say there aren’t changes to the gameplay of Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, to modernise them for newer fans of the series. For instance, EXP sharing is activated by default just as it has been since Pokémon Let’s Go!, and HM’s don’t have to be taught to a Pokémon anymore to be able to use them (a wild Pokémon will kindly come in their stead to do whatever action is needed). The original’s dual-screen functionality has been replicated with a somewhat awkward picture-in-picture system that can be brought up with the R button, which brings up your “Poketch”, a Pokémon watch I suppose which has apps that have variously helpful functions. A Pokémon buddy is able to follow you outside their Pokeball which is kind of cute, and you’re able to decorate your Pokeballs with stickers – although to be honest, I could never really tell much of a difference with any I did. There’s also a rhythm game that’s been added to the Pokémon Super Contests, a kind of fashion show mini-game, which is pretty interminable.

Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl can at times feel challenging, particularly towards the Elite Four in the back portion of the game, but there’s also vast swathes that can be steamrolled depending on your team. My starter Chimchar was able to flatten just about every encounter in the first three gyms with no issue, with EXP share meaning that at no time did I really need to swap anyone out unless it was an emergency like the water-based fourth gym leader. There are opportunities to get creative later in the game, especially if you take advantage of the Grand Underground, but it does often feel like the game harries you into relying on certain types of Pokémon with a limited roster, and for long stretches that doesn’t make for the most exciting gameplay.

However, the core experience of Pokémon remains tried and true, and there’s plenty of cool Pokémon to catch with designs I quite enjoy. As mentioned, the Underground from the DS original has been expanded into the Grand Underground, a maze of tunnels and special rooms that run underneath the entire Sinnoh region, conforming to its general shape and providing another layer of exploration and opportunities to catch some rarer Pokémon. It feels a bit like other underground sections you might have played in newer RPG’s like Persona 5, and there’s actual Pokémon roaming on the map rather than hiding in random battles, which makes it feel a bit different to the rest of the game.

If you have nostalgia for the original Diamond and Pearl games, then I think you’d probably get a lot out of Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, as they faithfully re-create moments you loved while adding in little enhancements here and there to somewhat modernise the gameplay. It’s a solid and traditional Pokémon adventure, but maybe not the most memorable in the series, at least not for me, and might be almost too much of a step into the past for today’s Pokémon fans when there’s something much newer and more exciting coming on the horizon, with next year’s impending Pokémon Legends: Arceus. While I don’t think everything came together in quite the way the developers were hoping for in this package, at the very least Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl scratch that Pokémon sized itch that’s existed in my lizard brain since primary school, making it a solid choice if you suffer from the same affliction.


-Faithful remake of a solid era of Pokémon
-Expanded Underground area adds a fair bit more to do
-Small quality of life improvements like EXP sharing and HM updates


-Visual upgrade is a little rough
-Not the most balanced in the series

Overall Score: