Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl’s underground gets renovated

Image: The Pokémon Company/ILCA Inc

Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are “faithful remakes” of their 2006 predecessors, Nintendo says. But those games were weird. And they were Nintendo DS games, after all, with features specific to its dual-screen hardware.

All this leaves fans wondering what from the original Pokémon Diamond and Pearl will make it to their Nintendo Switch remakes. From the 40 minutes of gameplay Polygon saw in a preview event, we can say that developer ILCA has preserved the quirks of the original games, while blending in quality-of-life updates from more recent entries like Pokémon Sword and Shield.

By and large, the game looks like it will bring a lot back from the originals. The preview showed Route 208, an early area of the game just outside a mountain, and looking at the area, we saw the route remade with all its normal landmarks and characters, except with updated graphics. Even quirkier features like the Pokétch, a smart watch with apps, have made their way to the remakes. In this game, you will be able to use the app to do things like count your steps, and leave notes using the Switch’s touch screen.

Quality-of-life features seen in Pokémon games on the Nintendo Switch make up the bulk of the changes we saw in Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. The remakes get an autosave feature, for starters. In Pokémon battles, every Pokémon in your party gains experience after a battle, and you can swap Pokémon in and out of your storage system at any point, too. You’ll also no longer need Pokémon with specific Hidden Moves in your party to fly or ride on the water anymore. Say goodbye to needing one Bidoof that knows Surf, Cut, and Rock Smash!

There is also one tiny, but immensely important change in the battle menu: Your list of attacks will tell you how effective each move is. If you have a Pokémon that knows a water-type move and you’re facing a fire-type Pokémon, the menu will tell you that a water-type attack like “Water Gun” is, of course, super effective. Players no longer need to look up what’s super effective against what.

Image: The Pokémon Company/ILCA Inc

Diamond and Pearl’s special area, the Underground, will also change up in a pretty significant way. In the originals, players could mine for items and decorate a secret base there. While the remakes will preserve the mining mini game of the original, the secret base is swapped out for “Pokémon Hideaways,” little rooms where you can battle and catch Pokémon while exploring the tunnels.

Though the Underground still has secret bases, you will no longer be able to decorate them. Instead, you’ll fill out your base with Pokémon statues you collect while dowsing. Combinations of these statues will have special effects on the rest of the Underground. For instance, if you place three statues of bug-type Pokémon in your secret base, you’ll see more bug-types in the rooms elsewhere in the zone.

Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, by ILCA, Inc. and The Pokémon Company, launches Nov. 19 on Nintendo Switch.

Comments

Excited about this ! 4th gen is one of my favorites. I would argue that this is the last gen I genuinely enjoyed until Sword/Shield (yes, I did think Sword was a good pokemon game). I’m also hoping that this being an outsourced remake will bring some polish to the games (yes, I did think Sword was a buggy game and that Game Freak should strengthen their developers team – but I still liked it).
I’m curious about what kind of Pokedex we can expect in this. I’m thinking gens 1 to 4 like the original, with a few extras from more recent games, but we’ll see.

Are there plans to enable the National Dex in any of these new games? I have a nice collection of shiny pokemon sitting in US/UM that I’d love to bring over and continue adding to. The fact that they don’t allow you to transfer over your entire collection anymore ended my plans to pick up a Switch along with Sword/Shield.

Do you have access to Pokémon Home? I store most of my most valuable Pokémon there to ensure that I don’t lose them all in case of data loss, cart theft, etc.

You should also be able to transfer eligible Pokémon from US/UM to Pokémon Home to Pokémon games on the Switch this way.

I had Pokemon bank – I think was the name. The "eligible Pokemon" thing is what is keeping me from jumping into this new Gen. I’m looking to move all of my shinys into the new Gen and continue the collection like I’ve been doing for the past 5+ years. I don’t believe this is currently possible.

There’s a Torchic in the Amity Square artwork on the official website, which suggests either the National Dex up to Gen IV or a significant expansion from Gen IV’s Platinum Dex (which we know we’ll have at least that much of, thanks to seeing Houndoom in one of those hideaways.)

But I think Gamefreak is 100% sincere when they say they can’t keep adding new Pokemon and supporting the National Pokedex indefinitely – having to support almost 1,000, with modeling but also balance in battle and what moves can be inherited by other Pokemon in this egg group and all of these other little details is a genuinely massive task, especially when you add in the fact that Gamefreak is not a large studio all told (less than 200 people total I think, and that probably includes things like payroll and the like) and are releasing on an annual schedule. I think they tried as long as they possibly could manage, and in hindsight it’s clear they tested the waters with Gen III (no transfers from the GBC) and Gen V (no returning Pokemon until postgame in B/W). Which didn’t go over well, so they kept maintaining it into Alola, but the constant need to add more Pokemon, always, to fuel the Pokemerch machine is clearly getting to them. Especially because they’re releasing on an annual cycle and don’t really get to make anything but Pokemon anymore. Remixing what Pokemon are available every game and running through the whole roster eventually seems like the best compromise that’s realistically possible. (Even having Pokemon releases every other year, I still don’t think that’d be enough time to keep maintaining the entire National Dex and adding more indefinitely. Nintendo and The Pokemon Company aren’t going to let them stop adding more Pokemon. Fans get tetchy when there ISN’T whatever new Pokemon game they want every year, as evidenced by the response to the DLC as a clear equivalent to the third version and not Sinnoh remakes, so there’s no way they can go longer than skipping one year, tops between releases. And if they’re spending all that time maintaining the Pokedex, that’s time that’s not being spent on any new features that would have to work with every single Pokemon. There’s just not enough time and manpower to do everything.) It’s not the answer anyone wants to hear, but that doesn’t make it inaccurate.

I appreciate the wall of text reply. While I understand the complexity that can come with the design/balance of having 1000+ Pokemon, this is the most profitable media franchise in the world. They can make it happen if they want.

having to support almost 1,000, with modeling but also balance in battle and what moves can be inherited by other Pokemon in this egg group and all of these other little details is a genuinely massive task, especially when you add in the fact that Gamefreak is not a large studio all told (less than 200 people total I think, and that probably includes things like payroll and the like) and are releasing on an annual schedule.

OK then they can hire more people and release every two years instead of every year. You’re claiming these like they’re obstacles that can’t be helped, but they’re choices. The people in charge make more money by limiting the scope.

Okay, every two years, add X number of modelers and X number of programmers and Y number of payroll and HR and all those other jobs that aren’t direct game development but are required to manage more people. But they don’t need, say, advertising, because The Pokemon Company manages that part, yay. Of course they also make a lot of the money from all the other aspects of the Pokemon franchise that aren’t the games, which is almost certainly MOST of the revenue Pokemon generates. But, sure, say they hire another 100 staff to Gamefreak for the next big games and can support the entire Pokedex.

And then add those numbers of new hires again in five years from that, to support Gen XI which has 1,078 Pokemon plus regional variants and alternate forms and all that other stuff. And the gameplay itself isn’t really changing, this is just to support the transition to a new system with a new engine and all their time is being spent on the Pokemon. And I’m assuming we’re only adding exactly 60 Pokemon per generation.

There, you can skip the second wall of text to the next comment I made before this, that is the problem. ‘Just hire more people and take more time’ still isn’t sustainable when new Pokemon have to be constantly added, and that is ultimately the most important thing the games have to be doing for the greater Pokemon franchise. Eventually the amounts of people and time added are too large to be practical, and you STILL have to cut Pokemon.

"new Pokemon have to be constantly added" – this is not a law. This is what the executives are demanding. EA’s executives demanded Dead Space be full of microtransactions and Ubisoft’s have turned Assassin’s Creed into a live service game. We’re free to criticize what that’s done to the end product of the games, why is that not fair with Pokémon?

Gamefreak should probably staff up. They have less than 200 employees and are trying to push things out every year. COD and AC do yearly releases, but they have a huge team supporting them. Breath of the Wild was made by a team of 300, but they had four years to make a masterpiece. Why doesn’t Pokémon deserve a masterpiece?

If "all their time is being spent on the Pokemon" then that is just mismanagement. They’re reusing models and animations across gameplay that’s been the same since 2003, and it’s not like these games are especially balanced for challenge. There are plenty of games being made that are more complicated than Pokémon – they just are made by studios that give the developers the time and the resources to actually make a good game. The Pokémon games ever since the jump from 3D have been full of corner-cutting and unrealized potential. It’s just such a huge bummer.

Nintendo is a massive corporation and Pokémon is a major cash cow for them. If they’re charging subscription fees for a service like Pokémon Home it’s really icky that they’re being this restrictive with what you can do with your ’mons, especially given that this is the largest money-making franchise in the world.

Where are fans mad that there aren’t new Pokémon releases every year? The consensus I’ve seen across pretty much all social media is that it’s fine for them to take a break. Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Animal Crossing all do it…

Believe me, there were people pissed about the DLC last year instead of Sinnoh remakes. IIRC there were commenters on this site pissed about it last year. The Pokemon fanbase is too large to ever be fully sated, so I don’t know what proportion, but oh, there was some vocal whining.

And the thing is, because Pokemon keep needing to be added? Yeah. They could hire a bunch more people and release it every two years… and that might keep afloat with the current number of Pokemon. (And you’d get the people complaining they spent extra time but the trees still look bad and it’s not as expansive as they want. That would be ‘every two years to keep making Pokemon, formulaic as it is.’) But is that going to be managable once they actually pass 1,000? 1,200? 1,500? Even with smaller new generations, that day is coming unless someone says ‘fine, you can stop making more Pokemon,’ and I don’t exactly anticipate that for anything short of ‘the end of Pokemon as a franchise.’ We’re a ways out from the higher numbers, but there were only three years apiece to Gens VI and VII. Hitting 1,000 will probably occur within the next decade, and might occur within the next three to five years depending on just how big Gen VIII is. (The Galar Dex goes up to 898, I keep misremembering that we haven’t QUITE hit 900. But that excludes regional variants, which are counted as the same Pokemon as their base forms. Count the variants separately – and at current count with the confirmed Hisuian forms, there’s 38 with Meowth having two variants – and we’re at 936 already, plus the new Hisuian evolutions which DO get separate numbers and aren’t in the Galar Dex.)

Realistically, the franchise will keep expanding the Pokemon roster indefinitely, because new Pokemon sell merch. Also realistically, the massive Pokemachine isn’t going to let five years go between major infusions of new Pokemon to change up the anime and TCG and everything else, much less longer than that. They haven’t for quite some time now. They could if they wanted to, but they clearly don’t want to. (That is to say, The Pokemon Company doesn’t want to. You get the definite sense Gamefreak is burned out on Pokemon and wants a break. But the games aren’t actually the thing that make Pokemon the biggest franchise on Earth so much as they’re supplying Pokemon for the anime and the massive merchandising empire that are the real moneymakers.) It’s… unlikely, at best, that Gamefreak would be able to continually expand its staff to keep pace with the new Pokemon they are expected to add, indefinitely. (What would they be doing when their part of development’s over? How many people do you have to add for HR and back-of-house stuff to support those new people?) Eventually there is no amount of extra time and employees that can keep the full Pokedex maintained forever. Or the amount of extra time starts looking like, yeah, one Pokemon game a console generation, but without the changes to core gameplay or scale that justify a once-a-generation game to its fanbase like Mario or Zelda because all that extra time is going to the Pokedex. No big new features or graphical shakeups, just new Pokemon. I don’t think that’ll satisfy the fanbase, either, and I know the length of time won’t satisfy TPC.

The line had to be drawn at some point. It was always going to suck – my first game was Crystal, and I still miss my very first Pokemon, I get it – but it was getting too large to reasonably maintain and it will only keep getting larger over time. Even if Legends Arceus includes all 900-some Pokemon with all regional variants and forms, ten years down the line they’ll be running into the same problem with 1,100 Pokemon. (And I am lowballing that number for a decade.)

These are all conscious business decisions though, not some unstoppable landscape shift they have to deal with. It would be one thing if they were cutting down on Pokémon per game in order to focus on graphics and gameplay, but the latter is stagnant and the former is really janky looking. It’s telling the best-looking mainline game since the shift to 3D isn’t even made by GameFreak (the Sinnoh remakes).

If they changed to once or twice a console generation, they might actually have time to focus on the gameplay (and the Pokédex, frankly). But why would they do that when they can sell just fine as-is and even legitimate criticism (IGN pointing out that Hoenn has too many same-y water routes with only Tentacool and Wingull encounters) is met with years-long harassment and bad faith memeing from the fans?

They’re compounding a bad business decision over time, understaffing the dev teams making these games and throwing new features into the series every game just to strip them out again. It’s baffling how every other franchise will get dragged for this stuff but this one gets a pass despite being the most valuable in the world. Pokémon is a product released by a media company that’s always been on the expensive side and especially now that they’re monetizing it through subscription services that "home" your Pokémon you can’t use in games we ought to be more critical of greedy moves like this.

I really hope these games are fun. I’ve been replaying Pokemon Crystal on the 3DS and I’m loving the sense of exploration and adventure in those older games. I’m not one of those "modern Pokemon games are too easy" types, because they’ve always been pretty easy (barring a few difficulty spikes, like Red at the end of GSC) but the newest entries feel different somehow. It’s like the entire game is pushing you towards your goals, and there isn’t even the illusion of challenge.
I don’t mind the chibi art style, and I’m cool with whatever they choose to do with the Dex, but I’m worried about my whole party leveling up and the lack of HM necessity. I really hope they don’t bring back switching out Pokemon from anywhere like they did with Let’s Go, because man, that game had zero challenge.

but the newest entries feel different somehow

The old ones are exploratory and adventurous like you said, while the new ones have millions more textboxes and camera cut scenes and interruptions. It’s the same problem as what happened in later Mario and Zelda games compared to early ones. The direct honest straightforward videogame-ness was killed off by misguided designers.

In Pokémon battles, every Pokémon in your party gains experience after a battle

So I’m assuming this means I won’t have the option to turn the experience share off? I really don’t understand what the reasoning is behind this decision, I really wanted to give these games a chance since I missed out on the original releases

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