Feature

Opinion – Game Freak Shouldn’t Remake Pokémon Diamond And Pearl

by Matthew Stolpe on Dec 08, 2014 at 09:30 AM

The arrival of Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire (ORAS) marks the fourth consecutive year of releases in everybody’s favorite monster-filled adventure games. Nintendo has quietly annualized the core Pokémon series. If the franchise follows this new established trend then we’re likely to see a third installment in the X and Y generation, a brand new generation of Pokémon, and (surprise!) remasters of Diamond and Pearl all in the next three years.

But Game Freak and Nintendo would be wise to buck their formula and reconsider remakes of Pokémon’s fourth generation. For a series mired with criticism of stagnancy, Diamond and Pearl stand out as the least ambitious, and safest Pokémon titles.  They are at their core dull games that did little to reinvent the series, and it’s unlikely that new bells and whistles can alter that.

Unplanned Obsolescence

Setting aside potential profit, the Pokémon remakes transparently exist to push players toward the singular goal established in Red and Blue: Gotta catch ‘em all. Completing a Pokédex became an increasingly daunting goal over the years as Game Freak pushed out massive new generations of Pokémon on Nintendo’s ever-evolving portable lineup.

At first, remaking past titles like Red and Blue and Gold and Silver was necessary to give fans a fighting chance at nabbing every monster. Ruby and Sapphire were not backwards compatible, meaning you couldn’t carry over Pokémon from previous games. The remakes remedied this issue by making rare and legendary Pokémon formerly exclusive to older generations more accessible to the new ones.

But a peculiar thing has happened with the past two installments in the franchise. Thanks to a bevy of new features, players can effectively catch every non-event Pokémon in franchise history across X and Y and ORAS. Never before has Game Freak so readily given players the tools to catch them all – even generation exclusives like the fourth generation’s Dialga and Palkia are available through ORAS’ mirage spots. In other words, if your intention is to truly catch them all, ORAS has made the need for Diamond and Pearl remakes, and by extension Black and White remakes, obsolete.

The Lamest Generation

While you can catch them all, you might not want to with this batch of unsavory creatures. The Pokémon introduced by Diamond and Pearl are far and away the worst in the franchise, and are in my opinion the start of what many deem to be lazy creature designs.

This is the generation that fundamentally misunderstood the inherent value of legendary Pokémon. Past entries would only include a handful of these rare beasts, but Diamond and Pearl oversaturated its batch with a whopping 14 legendaries. It set an unfortunate precedent for the series that minimized what made these Pokémon rare to begin with. It wouldn’t be reset until X and Y.

The fourth generation is also woefully overpopulated by new, convoluted evolutions of classic Pokémon. Remember how cuddly and adorable the Togepi line was? Hope you like fleshy, obese aircraft, because that’s what you get with Togekiss. Remember your steadfast brute Rhydon? He becomes a barely-functioning, craggy mess when he evolves into Rhyperior. In nearly every case, these additions felt like a product of an arbitrary “evolution = good” ideology rather than actual desire to see new forms of these monsters.

Sure, not all of the new Pokémon were awful, but the genuinely good (and useful) creatures like Lucario are outnumbered by regrettable mistakes like Bidoof. Having to live with these guys as permanent additions to the roster is torture enough and remaking Diamond and Pearl would only give them more time in the spotlight.

[Next Page: What did Diamond and Pearl do to advance the series? And what's Sinnoh all about anyway?]

 

Baby Steps

Diamond and Pearl did little to push the series forward or differentiate itself from its predecessors. While many aspects of the Pokémon series stay constant in each core entry (you always collect badges, you always take down a crime syndicate, you always become a champion), new games typically make an effort to advance the series with new gameplay mechanics and features. Silver and Gold introduced breeding and postgame content to the titles, while Ruby and Sapphire overhauled combat by introducing double battles, natures, and significantly deepening the EV and IV stat systems.

In comparison, Diamond and Pearl took baby steps forward. The new physical and special attacks make for an important wrinkle in combat, but they pale in comparison to past entries’ additions. Diamond and Pearl’s most significant contribution to the series was the introduction of online trades and battles. But odds limitations made using the new Global Trading Station a hassle. In particular, players could only trade for Pokémon they had previously seen, and certain event Pokémon were barred from trading. This made it difficult, and in some cases impossible, to use the service to complete the pokédex. X and Y removed the first restriction, but some event Pokémon still cannot be traded.

Banal New World

As far as setting is concerned, Sinnoh is Pokémon’s most nebulous region. While not terrible by any means, the area lacks a defining sense of character. Sinnoh has many hotspots to be sure (Mt. Coronet being a particular favorite of mine) but they don’t coalesce into a strong, unified identity like other regions do. 

Sinnoh’s blandness comes from its creative origins. The area is based off of the Japanese island of Hokkaido and its neighboring regions. Despite its well-known, real-world analogue, the area’s defining characteristic is its sense of mystery. Even the name Sinnoh is derived from a Japanese term that means “mysterious”. Mystery can be a fine central theme, but it falters at center stage in a Pokémon game, where discovery and adventure are its core tenets.

Every new Pokémon region has some degree of mystery. It’s the players’ task to uncover its secrets through exploration. Diamond and Pearl’s attempts to amplify this sense of mystery only led to identity crisis. Sinnoh is mysterious, but when the smoke has dissipated and the mirrors are put away, Sinnoh is more of the same. Its key topographical features, the mountain and the many lakes, had been done before, and arguably better. The marshes – Sinnoh’s one truly new environment – are a chore to get through and require the otherwise useless Defog HM to navigate.

Ruby and Sapphire’s Hoenn is crammed so full of exotic locations that it’s hard not to imagine the region as anything other than a vacation spot. Black and White’s Unova stuns players with its sprawling metropolises. X and Y’s Kalos punctuates its urban hubs with idyllic pastoral countrysides. Diamond and Pearl’s Sinnoh takes players to the top of an admittedly cool snowy mountain, but punishes them with crappy swamplands and an overabundance of lakes.

I understand your mileage may vary on my arguments, but I strongly feel Game Freak’s energy would be better spent trying to take the core Pokémon titles in new directions and regions, rather than focusing on more remakes. What about you? Where do you fall on Pokémon’s fourth generation? Are you a jaded fan like me, or do you think Diamond and Pearl could benefit from makeovers?