Pokemon Pearl Review
The generation of gamers that I was a part of grew up with the NES. We had games like the original Super Mario Bros and The Legend of Zelda to take up our time after we got out of that elementary school classroom. And boy, did we play those games a lot, as simplistic as they may be. That has led to a fondness for almost any remake involving titles people are nostalgic about, with “dire consequences” if a company manages to wreck a franchise (see Sega and their terrible attempts at next-gen Sonic games for an example of how rabid fans can get).
Over the past decade, another breed of gamers have been brought into the fold. Growing up with more powerful game systems, they may have less of an idea of what an old 2D world should look like when realized in 3D, or may focus more on shiny graphics instead of the gameplay that we focused on in the mid 80s. However, one game has gone a long way to define the gamers of the past decade, and that game started as a simple adventure on the original Game Boy – Pokemon. With the first title hitting American shores in the fall of 1998, the game became a huge hit. Following in its wake was the anime brought over from Japan, the collectible card game and an absolutely insane amount of various Pokemon trinkets. Now, over 8 and a half years out from the original release of the game, Nintendo has released the first two titles in the traditional Pokemon style on the DS – Pokemon Diamond and Pokemon Pearl. Note that, while this review focused on the Pearl version, it is just as applicable to the Diamond version, with the only difference being that each version offers some Pokemon that are exclusive to that cartridge.
Pokemon Pearl is, as I already mentioned, Nintendo's first foray into the classic Pokemon-game style on the Nintendo DS. While there have been a few spinoff titles, none were the adventure fans have grown to love. For the uninitiated, here are the basics. You are a boy or girl that lives in a world filled with Pokemon. These Pokemon are a creature that can take many different forms, from the smallest of bugs to the largest of dragons. They all have one thing in common, though – they can be stuffed into a tiny little ball and made to follow your every command. You can fight with them in battle with other trainers like yourself or take them out into the wild in an attempt to catch other Pokemon. You can enter them in contests or just try to become the “Pokemon Master”. However you look at it, though, there's a little something here for everyone.
The first change that those with experience with the series will notice is the graphics. Instead of being a pure top-down perspective like Pokemon games in the past have been, Pearl tilts the camera a bit, giving a near-3D look to the world. The colors are also more vivid and the graphics just feel better overall. The sounds didn't improve nearly as much, though, with most Pokemon cries still sounding very similar. With more powerful hardware, this area could have easily been improved on. What fun is exploring this world, though, if actually playing the game sucks?
Thankfully, the game is the same design that you're used to and is, as I'm happy to report, just as fun and addictive as ever. There are even more Pokemon now, up to a whopping total of 493 of the little critters. You can only catch 150 of them when you're playing through the game (not counting special event ones) but can, once you have seen all of the Mons in the new area's (Sinnoh) Pokedex, you unlock the National Dex. This lets you do something that I'm so thankful for – transfer over Pokemon from previous GBA games (sorry, no Red/Blue/Yellow/Silver/Gold/Crystal transfers here). If you had a team you loved and trained in Emerald, you can move them over and use them to battle online with a buddy or someone random from around the world.
Yes, I said online – another feature that has been highly anticipated by the Pokemon community. You can now take your game online and trade or battle with anyone from across the world. First of all, the trade system is cool – select a Pokemon and put it up for trade while also listing what you'd take in return. Others can search this, potentially letting you get a new Pokemon from a Japanese player. The main fault here is that you can also end up with “hacked” Pokemon – if you're the type of player that would be offended by that, you might be unhappy. However, online battles are where, I feel, the meat of the online play is. Though beware – the world of competitive Pokemon battling is surprisingly cutthroat. I'd recommend you do some reading up online if you want to be one of the more competitive players.
Outside of multiplayer, the singleplayer game will last you a good 35-40 hours if you just go through and try to beat all the bosses and get the National Pokedex. However, there is over 100 hours worth of gameplay here if you're the insanely obsessive type that will need to collect every Pokemon and do everything there is to do in the game. You'll want to do a lot of breeding, some EV training, search out the really rare stuff (Feebas, for example), enter some contests and just catch them all. If you're the type that is going to get upset when you can't quite catch them all, though (some Pokemon are only given out in events), you're going to be unhappy with this game.
This really is the Pokemon game that we've all come to know and love, with a couple of new things tossed in.. You've got the same strategy elements that were around before, the addictive “catch-em-all” gameplay and the most-desired feature, WiFi capability. There are a metric buttload of Pokemon to catch and you'll be hard pressed to finish everything this game offers in under 100 hours, much less 150 or maybe even 200. The Pokemon universe is pretty wide reaching should you choose to go all the way. The best part of it, though, is the fun and addictiveness even if you don't want to try to catch em all – the game is still a blast. DS owners, this is the Pokemon adventure you've been waiting for.