Review by Yoh_of_Izumo

"Milked Like Always, and Starting to Taste Sour"

Pokemon has survived the age of time, progressing from the Gameboy Original with Pokemon Blue and Red to now the Nintendo DS with Pokemon Diamond and Pearl. The question is…the technology has improved drastically, but has the game improved drastically. Well, no. Even though the Nintendo Gameboy Original was a black and white screen and now the Nintendo DS is a color-screen possessing over four times the viewing area of its predecessor, the Pokemon game itself has not changed – and that is what is pathetic.

It is actually quite hilarious. Just go back to a Pokemon Blue review and read that and then try out Pokemon Diamond and you will see that a review made about a game over a decade ago will suffice in trying to explain the Pokemon Diamond game. Just add some color and you are basically set. Now, I will say that there is one feature that is totally NEW!!! Wait? Did you read that correctly? Yes! After over a decade, there is something new and worthwhile that has entered the Pokemon world and that is WiFi technology! No longer do people have to worry about linking to a friend next door or having to buy another Nintendo DS and the complementary Pokemon Pearl game just to complete this game. Now people can battle each other thousands of miles away.

However, this does not vindicate Game Freak's role in ever expanding greedy market. Even if a person has access to the WiFi technology, it is highly improbable that he or she will be capable of collecting a whopping 493 Pokemon! Let me repeat that again…four hundred and ninety-three Pokemon. This is not the relaxed 151 Pokemon game of the pleasant 251 Pokemon game, but a 493 Pokemon game. Maybe in another ten years time we will be pushing the 1000 Pokemon mark. There are so many Pokemon, I cannot even remember the original 151 Pokemon by heart. Elements of the older games such as Gold, Silver, and Crystal with their daytime and nighttime effects have been added as well. Though despite so much technological innovation on the part of Nintendo's hardware company, Pokemon has failed to deliver any innovation or progress besides a slapped on layer of color. Though if you want to read a review that will basically sound the same as that of a Pokemon Blue review with some added trivial features, then be my guest, but do not expect anything fascinated, because this is one dead horse of a game.

Onto the review…

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Gameplay: 6/10
With the Nintendo DS incorporating two screens, I expect the gameplay of games that continue their legacy such as in Pokemon to drastically improve, but did the gameplay of Pokemon drastically improve? No, it actually became cumbersome with the two-screen feature and the only thing that is saving this gameplay from dropping another point of two is thanks to the wonder WiFi technology that was put in place for the new installment of Pokemon on the Nintendo DS. So then, with that out of the way, let us get down to the basics of the gameplay and expound on its simplicity, but at the same time discuss many of its flaws.

As with all role-playing games, the mainframe of such games focuses around the battlefield, because that is the place where players must battle in order to level up their characters and in this world, the characters are Pokemon. The game is exactly the same in this sense as it is a one on one fight with one of your Pokemon dueling the opponent's Pokemon. A player is allowed to have up to six Pokemon in his party so that he or she can switch out Pokemon when necessary of if a Pokemon is defeated. Once all the Pokemon are defeated, the player with the remaining Pokemon wins. This is fairly simple as during the battle a player has a choice of four commands (and three during a trainer battle). The commands allow a player to attack the opponent's Pokemon, use an item to heal his or her Pokemon, and the other option to switch out a Pokemon when necessary. The final option “run,” allows a player to run away from Pokemon battles encountered in the wild when the opponent that is being faced is an actual Pokemon commanding his or her or its own move as opposed to a trainer. Now I enjoy the simplicity of the Pokemon battle itself, except that now that the technology has increased to allow two screens of viewing instead of one, I expect to see some obvious innovations. As before, a player only has the ability to train a Pokemon to learn four moves. If the Pokemon already knows four moves and wishes to learn a new move, the new move must override an older move and thus erase it. I was understanding of this before in the older games, because of the lack of memory and space that could be provided in the older systems, but now that there are two screens, there should be no excuse as to why a Pokemon cannot retain all its previous moves. Not only is it illogical that a Pokemon can only remember just four moves, but how is possible that a Pokemon can have the capability of delivering an almighty hydro pump attack, but cannot even must a little water gun? To make matters worse, this deviates from the dogma of Pokemon, which is the anime series. Pikachu does not forget thundershock so that it can deliver thunder and neither should the Pokemon in this game. It is just ridiculous and I cannot emphasize that more, because in all other role-playing games of this generation, none of them restrict amount of attacks. Does a student forget how to add once he or she learns calculus, I think not, and neither should a player's Pokemon. It is this irrationality in logic that cripples gameplay.

Of course, let us not forget that the game creators decided to add a little more spice to gameplay battle by incorporating the two versus two system, but in a holistic picture, this is more of a side thought than anything really innovative.

Besides trying to level up your Pokemon so that they can be the greatest Pokemon and that you can be ground Pokemon champion, you must capture all 493 Pokemon. Wasn't it enough after about 251? I mean, sure, I could understand that 151 Pokemon might have been a little two small, but now that we are pushing it at 493 Pokemon, the gameplay just starts to get crippled. Soon there are no unique Pokemon, but just hybrids of each other. No longer is there a Pokemon that can be solely known for its awesome electrical ability or its psychic ability, but multiple, and this takes the innovation away from trying to come up with the ultimate team. Though 493 Pokemon seems quite a respectable number, the fact that about 300 of the Pokemon are so similar may jade a player. It is not like in nature when most people can identify with over a 1000 species of creatures and note their difference respectively, but in this Pokemon world, they merely look as though they were slapped together through ennui.

What makes the gameplay so depressing about catching all 493 Pokemon is that it is an impossibility feat if a player wishes not to spend an unreasonable amount of cash. It is so sad that games that offer so much potential are crushed by the market's greed and the game creators' greed. In previous Pokemon games, the ability to catch all of the Pokemon was confined to two game systems. If a person wanted to catch all the Pokemon in Pokemon Blue, all that was necessary was that a person link up to a Pokemon Red version. It was not an impossible feat, and I knew many people, besides myself, that successfully collected all 151 Pokemon without having to resort to the infamous Gameshark. But now in the Gameboy Advance and Nintendo DS era, it is impossible to collect all these 493 Pokemon without to access of…hold on…let me type them out and count: Pokemon Sapphire, Pokemon Ruby, Pokemon Emerald, Pokemon Ranger, Pokemon Pearl, and Pokemon Diamond...oh hold on…forget two more…Pokemon LeafGreen, and Pokemon FireRed. Now how many games does it take to get a start on completing the entire national dex? It takes eight games, and even if a person had two Gameboy Advance systems, two Nintendo DS systems, and a link cable, a person would still not be able to complete the entire Pokedex. Well then, WiFi technology did come around, and it is a big savior for the Pokemon Diamond and Pokemon Pearl series. The reason is that people no longer need to find other players close by to trade Pokemon with, but is this any good. Well, in once it is good, but in the overall sense it is bad. People are not willing to trade extremely rare Pokemon, and with the fact that everyone is trying to complete his or her Pokedex, it becomes almost an impossible, and only the easily caught Pokemon become part of this trade deal. And even if a person is lucky and happens to stumble upon the rarities through the WiFi trading, this player is still not out of the fire yet. This is where Pokemon totally looses credibility in my eyes. If a person does not live in the vicinities of New York City in New York or Lost Angeles in California, he or she can basically kiss good-bye to trying to ever complete a Pokedex of that extent. Only in special conventions in these places are promotional Pokemon handed out. And if you cannot get to these promotions, you cannot get those rare Pokemon to complete the last five to ten slots on your Pokedex. Even with the assistance of Action Replay's cheating system, I have yet to encounter a person who has even completed the three hundred or so Pokedex of a Pokemon Sapphire, Ruby, or Emerald game.

Now then if it is not enough to drive a person crazy that they cannot complete their Pokedex without cheating, Nintendo drives more pain into the original players by making gameplay Pokemon transfer trades worse than those of Pokemon Gold and Silver era. Pokemon from the older systems cannot be transferred via link cable, but instead can only be transferred through inserting a Gameboy Advance cartridge of a Pokemon game into the slot provided on the DS Pokemon games and having the DS games acknowledge it. What that does is allow the player to catch all the Pokemon from the Gameboy Advance games that a player worked hours to get into a special area that will again take hours to collect. I mean really, couldn't the game creators have offered a better way to get past Pokemon, but no, let us make the gameplay last longer, but at the same time drain its reverence.

When a player has to interact with the world around him, the gameplay is fairly simple and does not require much improvement. More only complaint again is the inability of Pokemon games on the DS to fully utilize the two-screen ability and the second screen is merely just filler material that could have just done better staying on one screen. Again, there are HMs that must be taught to Pokemon so that a player can progress through the game. Unfortunately for a player, this causes some Pokemon to be slaves to these usually underpowered attacks and forces most players' parties to be substantially weaker. Though I do not mind this, I do mind that they added an additional three HMs to way a team down even more substantially and take away from the overall gameplay of battle. This is where the ability to learn only four moves at a time becomes so cumbersome. If only Pokemon could stop be lazy or downright pathetic in its gameplay setup by allowing unlimited amount of attacks to be learned, then players would not have to sacrifice the essence of gameplay for immature gaming.

Oh, let me add some of the other older innovations that the Pokemon games for the Nintendo DS have decided to reappear again. The appearance of night and dark has once again shown up and this has effected when certain Pokemon can be caught and evolved. Not only have those been added, but even morning settings have been added so that a person who is really interested in collecting Pokemon will be forced to wake up a little bit earlier in the summer or have to sneak a little playing in while traveling on the bus to school or before eating breakfast in the morning. The berry feature is still in the game, and while it is rather trivial and annoying, thanks to the dual-screen and added features, a play can now easily see where he has planted his berries so that he can come by add pick them for use in the Pokemon contests and in the Pokemon battles. The dual-screen has allowed the Pokemon navigational device to sit on the bottom screen, and while this may seem beneficial, it is merely more icing on a stale cake. Features such as the amount of steps tracked ever since the beginning of the game may prove helpful to someone trying to write an amount of steps to hatch guide, but for other players, allowing more than four moves to be learned for a Pokemon could serve a much better benefit.

I will leave on a final note of what saved the gameplay of this game and that is the multiplayer aspect mixed with the wireless technology. Though the WiFi requires codes so that only friends can link up and play against each other and trade with each other, there is much communication throughout the internet to facilitate such. With the multiplayer setup, players will enjoy squaring off with human counterparts instead of unfair artificial intelligence in the Pokemon Arena setups or the sadly easy artificial intelligences of the rest of the trainers in the Pokemon world. Nonetheless with such interaction there will come cheating, but that is a risk worthwhile in the sense that hopefully Game Freak will improve their gameplay every time.

Story: 5/10
Well, I got to say, mundane like always. Will I continue to write basically the exact same story for every single Pokemon game? I mean, yes in games such as Mario, the story is always that Bowser takes Princess Peach away and Mario must save her. Of course, the way that Mario gets to that objective is always different. Whether it is collecting stars by walking around in paintings, getting to the end of a side-scroller, or gleaning the gunk off an island, the game's development of plotline to reach Princess Peach is always different. It can be related to the Harry Potter books: Harry always goes to school and Harry always goes back home, but the events that occur between the beginning and the end are always different. Would I want to read seven Harry Potter books that had the exact same events as always? I think not, but that is what Pokemon games continue to be, and I still do not understand how there continues to be craze for them. Let me see…hold on, I'll use my memory from Pokemon Blue and try to guess the storyline for Pokemon Diamond…hmm. Okay, so you start from a hometown, you walk through the Pokemon world, collect Pokemon along the way, get stronger, fight trainers, fight bad guys, defeat the eight gym leaders, become Pokemon Champion by defeating the Elite Four, and finally catch the best Pokemon in the game after becoming Pokemon Champion. So…how close did I come, well, I was dead on. Apart from you not being Ash from Pallet Town, walking through the Kanto region, and facing trainers such as Lance in the Elite Four, it is the exact same game. Oh hold on, they have something else, Pokemon Beauty contests…big deal. They are so easy to win, it is just as equally or even more pathetic then the main storyline. Now if you have never played Pokemon in your life, then by all means, enjoy this Pokemon game, because the storyline will be unique to you, but if you are one of the original Pokemon players out there, stick to Pokemon Crystal or before and enjoy something that has yet to come about in the more technologically advanced systems.

Graphics: 3/10
Okay, so we have advanced from the single screen of the Gameboy Advance to the double-screen of the Nintendo DS. We have watched in awe as games such as Mario DS became ported from the pristine N64 to the portable world, yet did Pokemon make a leap into such a world. No. You would think that after viewing such leaps, that Pokemon would follow pursuit, but no. With the dual-screen as it is, you would think that Pokemon would focus on making the top-screen a Mario 64 like three-dimensional world with a player being able to see the Pokemon world in third person perspective and have the bottom screen allocated to the top-down view of former Pokemon games, but no. And to make matters even worse, the battle setup is the exact same as that of Pokemon Blue and Red – the same cheesy sprites and even cheesier moves. I mean, you would think that Pokemon would change their battlefield setup after watching so many other role-playing games hitting the portable world that now mimic Golden Sun and Final Fantasy setups that Pokemon would get around to making their battles similar to the very pleasing Pokemon Stadium setup. I mean, take some innovative steps. I will refuse to buy more Pokemon games until a new battle system is put into the works. So they may never change the storyline, but if they can at least change the battle setup, the game would be so much worthwhile to play. All players can see through the horrifically graphically depressing setup of the battlefield just by the fact that players have the option of turning off the attacks. The attacks are so pathetic that sometimes I find the attack graphics of the Pokemon original games to be better than those of the Pokemon Diamond and Pearl series – take Dream Eater as an example. The out of battle graphics are okay and polished, but in a community that have seen such graphics for the past five years, there could be changes. First off, such graphics are not the wave of the future anymore and are outdated and now the three-dimensional world should be the way to go such as that of Pokemon Snap for the Nintendo 64. Thanks to the dual-screen setup, the worldview should now be a setup for the bottom screen and allow for epic graphics on the top screen. Will Pokemon take advantage of this in the next game? We'll see. But if they continue to be these decade-old graphics, then the game will continue to be dismal in my opinion.

Sound: 5/10
No longer can sound be considered the strength of the Pokemon World, because now thanks to the innovation of speaker technology in the Nintendo DS, the sound quality must improve, but it is still the same as that of the Gameboy Advance series and only a slight step up from the older Pokemon games. The tunes are cheesy and synthesized and usually and get quite boring rather quickly. The only worthwhile tunes in my opinion are those during a gym battle and those during the battles with the Elite Four. Other than that, it continues to be droll. Now then, what are some things that could improve the sound quality of the Pokemon games for Nintendo DS. Well first of all, add some more quantity of music to the world, so I do not have to deal with the exact same world song throughout the entire game, and eliminate the need to use highly pitched and pinging notes as the main melody. High notes are usually not the essence of a well-placed musical no matter how synthesized it is. Another note, would actually add some voice acting to the sound now. I mean, we do not need to hear the actually words but actually make it sound as though the character is talking. Despite this though, the sound is probably the best aspect in this horrible Pokemon game.

Replayability: 6/10
The fact that this game lacks a pleasing story, adequate gameplay, and appropriate graphics for a Nintendo DS game really hurts the replay factor on this game. It is not the fact that it has such a number for its replay score, but had it not had as long of a game length as most Pokemon games have today, it may have seen a replay score severely lower. It is quite possible to take this game and have it lost over a hundred hours, and then again it is possible for it to last only a mere thirty hours. If you are new to the Pokemon world, there are many benefits to this game, because it is really a pleasant role-playing game to start your role-playing adventures. But once you have progressed onto more mature role-playing games such as those of Final Fantasy, it is time to never touch such a game again. Until Pokemon becomes a game that fully utilizes the technologies that given to it as discussed in the gameplay section, the story section, and the graphics section, then it is merely a fad game that most mature gamers will continue to snigger at. One saving factor in the replayability is thanks to the WiFi technology and the ability to share friend codes, people can battle over WiFi connections. As with most games that offer the ability to play multiplayer, the multiplayer earns precedence over the story of game, especially when the story is bad (e.g. Halo 2). Besides that factor though, this game is truly depressing and has nothing to offer.

CONCLUSION
Using my rating system for role-playing games:
20% Gameplay, 30% Story, 20% Graphics, 7.5% Sound, 22.5% Replayability

Overall Game Rating: 5.025

OVERALL RATING: 5/10
Suggested Action: Do not buy, and only maybe try – a pitiful RPG for the Nintendo DS.


Final Comments: As the trend continues, the Pokemon games continue to remain to same, while the technology they fail to use continues to get better. How would a gamer feel if he or she was playing a Mario game for the Nintendo Wii and it was the exact same side-scroller setup as a Mario game for the SNES? Well, I could tell you, Mario would definitely fail. I still do not understand how Pokemon continues to thrive despite its inability to improve. My only conclusions on that is that the immature role-playing gamer continues to buy a game that gives quick gratification without requiring brain power. It is such an ego boost to an immature gamer when he or she reads the in-game text before solving a puzzle and it says, “Nobody has been able to solve this for centuries,” and he or she is able to pick it up and shove it into place without a thought. I am not sure, but that is probably the reason. It is simple and fun, but to people who have experienced the true essence of role-playing games such as the all-powerful ones on the TV consoles to very classic portable ones, Pokemon becomes rather a oxymoron of how games succeed. For a gamer who has never had the taste of a real-time strategy game and is in elementary school, this is a very excellent game to start on, but for those who have played former Pokemon games or who have played other well-known role-playing games or who are older than ten years, then Pokemon is not the game for you: it is for the immature, and whether it continues to remain an immature game is for time to tell.

Fin


Reviewer's Score: 5/10 | Originally Posted: 07/23/07


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