Review by NebulaBlue

"Gone Platinum."

Another Pokemon generation, another special edition to compliment the original two games. But compared to the previous "special editions" (first generation's Pokemon Yellow, second generation's Pokemon Crystal, third generation's Pokemon Emerald), Pokemon Platinum may have the most significant changes to date. Like every Pokemon game since the era of Gold, Silver and Crystal, it's only expected that Platinum would be mostly recycled material from older games. But Platinum has managed to take the recycled material and make it all its own. Platinum brings a little flavor from every Pokemon game and flourishes it to appeal to fans, and I'd say that Game Freak did a great job of recycling and still making a great game.

Game play: 9/10. As for all Pokemon games that matter, the game play is always the same. You get your starter Pokemon, go around the country in search of the eight Gym trainers who give badges to those who overcome them, stop the local criminal organization from getting out of hand and ultimately defeating the Pokemon League's Elite Four and Champion. You don't do this on your own, however. Along your quest, you'll find those ever-so-lovable wild Pokemon that everyone loves to catch. You'll find the few you want, catch them, raise them and send them out to battle other Pokemon.

Platinum retains the revised battle system and meta-game from Pokemon Diamond and Pearl. In the first installments of the fourth generation, attacks were no longer split into special and physical categories by elemental type. The attacks are now split by elemental physical and special types. For example, Fire, Thunder and Ice Punch were special attacks in previous generations because of their special types. But in the fourth generation, they are now considered physical attacks because the imply physical contact. This was a great revision from the previous generations, especially in the cases of dual-typed Pokemon with what would have been special and physical mismatches back then. The battles, however, remain the same as it always has been. You pick an attack, the foe picks an attack, and the faster of the two Pokemon gets the first hit (except in the case of Quick Attack, Protect and other priority moves). The double battles introduced in the third generation also make a welcome return.

One thing that most people look down on in the Pokemon series is the competitive field. Casual players often grimace at the fact that they can no longer enjoy the games because the EV (effort value) training and IV (individual value) breeding that competitive players can't live without has destroyed the simplicity and entertainment of battling with friends over a DS-to-DS or Wi-Fi connection. This should have no effect on a person's decision to play this game or not. While I myself am a competitive player who finds EV training and IV breeding a fine tactic and decent time killer, you don't have to do this to get full enjoyment out of Pokemon Platinum. Battling out of the game can be as fun for casual players as it is for competitive players. Casual players can take solace into using the Pokemon they like rather than the over-used monsters that rule the competitive kingdom without worrying about losing more than winning.

But of course, battling isn't the only way to play Pokemon Platinum. Pokemon Platinum (like Diamond and Pearl) also has the Pokemon Contests that debuted in the third generation's Hoenn region. But several new factors have been added to judging Pokemon and winning. In Pokemon Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald, all you had to do was feed your Pokemon "Poke-Blocks" (special candies that improve your Pokemon's coolness, beauty, intelligence, toughness or cuteness), give them moves that can score high points and make combos, and give them hold-item scarves that improve one quality. But in the fourth generation, you now have to feed them "Poffins", which are essentially just renamed Poke-Blocks that are boring to make and can put a strain on your touch if done in excess. You can also now dress your Pokemon up with accessories you get throughout your adventure. These dress up accessories are used during the first part, the appearance phase. In the second phase, you and the three Pokemon you are competing against will dance, which is really just Simon Says made for Pokemon. If you don't match the lead Pokemon's dance, you will lose points. And then in the main event, the four Pokemon will use attacks to impress judges and try to win. After overcoming any Master Rank contest once, your Trainer Card will be upped a rank, so contests mater to people who want to say they did everything in Platinum.

Platinum also shares the Sinnoh Underground with Diamond and Pearl. The Underground had tons of potential, but it just doesn't do it for me. The Underground is laggy and slow (even when you're playing alone), and the Secret Bases have lost the luster they had in the third generation. While tons of new decorations have been added, the bases lack individuality, unless you like having rocks in your base. The rocks can even be removed after meeting certain requirements, so you can have an empty square if it tickles your fancy. But none of that really matters. What really destroyed the Secret Bases in the fourth generation is the fact that you can no longer battle your friend's teams as you could in the third generation. Instead, battling has been replaced with a tedious "flag tag" game in which you take your friend's base flag and bring it back to your own base. With the lag that the Underground has, the flag tag seems more like a chore than a form of entertainment.

As in Diamond and Pearl, Platinum also utilizes the Pokemon games for the Game Boy Advance. Inserting the GBA cartridge allows certain usually un-obtainable Pokemon to appear in certain areas. And after meeting certain requirements, you can upload Pokemon for the GBA games into Platinum and catch them in the Pal Park. But DSi users beware - you cannot use this due to the DSi's lack of a GBA slot.

What really makes Platinum different from Diamond and Pearl is the resurrection of the Battle Frontier, originally introduced in Pokemon Emerald's Hoenn region. After defeating the Pokemon League Champion, you will be invited to the Battle Zone. There's the Fight Area which is the home of the Battle Frontier (which replaces the Battle Tower in Diamond and Pearl), the Survival Area, which hosts a cafe where you can battle Gym Leaders and special trainers you teamed up with at times in the game after going through a certain scenario, and the Resort Area, which has a Platinum-exclusive house that you are given for free, with no strings attached. Platinum's Battle Frontier is rather toned down compared to Emerald's. To start, the trainers are almost too easy, and meeting the Frontier Brains are just as simple. Compared to Emerald's seven Battle Facilities, Platinum only hosts five, two of which are revived from Emerald's. Platinum's Battle Frontier consists of the Battle Tower, a hardened slobber-knocker where trainers battle until they lose or beat seven other trainers. The Battle Hall, one of the new facilities, lets you use one single Pokemon, which fights ten consecutive one-on-one battles with other trainers of a type you choose. The Battle Castle, another new facility, is almost the same thing as the Battle Tower, but with a twist. You battle for Castle Points, and if you want to heal your Pokemon after a battle, you have to cough up Castle Points per Pokemon. The Battle Roulette, the last new facility, is also similar to the Tower, but with a roulette. This roulette can be used in your favor, once you know how to work it, which makes the Battle Roulette one of the easier facilities. And the last facility, revived from Pokemon Emerald, is the Battle Factory. This facility hasn't changed much at all compared to it's Emerald predecessor. You choose three rented Pokemon, and if you win, you can swap one of yours for one your opponent's.

Music And Sound: 7/10. Pokemon Platinum shares the same sound track as Diamond Pearl, give or take and update or two. Platinum has a few new sound tracks to account for the new areas and exclusive battles it has, and the new tracks work well. But this game's sound track just isn't something I'd listen to regularly. It doesn't pack the punch that the sound tracks the second and third generations had.

Story line: 8/10. Platinum's story line has been almost altered into a story different from Diamond and Pearl's. Two new characters have been introduced that play a role in the story. The first is a policeman going by the codename "Looker". He is investigating Team Galactic (Sinnoh's underground crime organization) because he feels that the team is up to no good. The second is a scientist working for Team Galactic. His name is Charon, and he's almost as scary-looking as his dark boss, Cyrus. The game has never gone as in-depth with a character as they did with Cyrus since Team Rocket's Giovanni. The Platinum story adopts the same story as all Pokemon games up until you get up to the Mount Coronet and Spear Pillar scenarios. Rather than fighting the cover Pokemon in Diamond and Pearl (Dialga or Palkia), a new dimension named the Distortion World is opened up, where, predictably, the cover Pokemon is faced. The Distortion World really put Pokemon graphics to the test, as the laws of physics are broken even further when you walk on walls and surf up waterfalls. At the near end of the story, you face the Pokemon League as you do in every Pokemon game, and that's the end of the main story.

Wi-Fi: 9/10. Nintendo delivers online play beautifully in Pokemon Platinum. While you still need Friends Codes to hold personal trades and battles, Platinum has added new ways to use the Wi-Fi connection. Platinum keeps the Global Trade Station introduced in Diamond and Pearl, but it does more than trade Pokemon now. You can now post data such as recorded battle videos, pictures of dressed-up Pokemon and pictures of your Pokemon boxes online for others to see. You can also view records online, but the record system seems flawed. Platinum also introduces a Wi-Fi Plaza, a place where you can interact with people worldwide (no, you can't battle them or trade with them) and play mini-games with others. This seems fun the first few times, but gets boring after a while. It's only good for a few minutes of time killing.

But the best Platinum-exclusive Wi-Fi utility is the ability to play in a co-op Battle Frontier with friends. Largely updated from Diamond and Pearl's downloading trainers online for the Battle Tower, you can challenge any of the five Battle Facilities with a friend in tag double battles against generic computer trainers. Teaming up and planning attacks is the best way to win in the Wi-Fi Frontier. And for what it's worth, you can still download trainers for the Battle Tower online in Platinum.

Pokemon haters will look for anything to make Pokemon games seem too bad or childish, when chances are they haven't played them themselves. But it's frankly their loss. Pokemon Platinum is a great game in many fields. It's great for casual players who just want something to kill time with, or competitive players who want to be the king of the Pokemon world. I guarantee that anyone who partakes in this game will find at least one thing they liked about it.

Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 06/08/09

Game Release: Pokemon Platinum Version (US, 03/22/09)

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