Review by Robshi

"Bends times and space, but not the Pokemon game formula."

It's been many years since the Pokemon craze was taking the world by storm, but even several years later the franchise is still going as strong as ever. The formula for the main Pokemon games has been well tested and these games never seem to disappoint. Even though I left the Pokemon franchise for a long while the nostalgia value dragged me back in and the games now have me well hooked once again. There's a compulsive attraction to these games and they'll have you playing them for a long time, determined to catch them all and become the greatest trainer ever.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Pokemon series for whatever reason, Pokemon are an enormous variety of creatures of all shapes, sizes and types that can be captured and stored in pocket size ball devices, or Poke-balls for short. You can then train your Pokemon and battle with others who have Pokemon of their own, or Pokemon trainers as they are called in the game. These games have you travel around a region, which for this game is the region of Sinnoh, and try to beat Gym Leaders: trainers who are skilled specialists or a particular type. Once you defeat a gym leader, you earn a gym badge as proof of your victory. The aim of the game is to collect all eight gym badges of the region and then successfully challenge the Pokemon League, a group of four elite trainers who you must face in succession as well as the regional champion. That's not all to the game though, you have a Pokedex to complete, which is an electronic encyclopedia which updates itself with every Pokemon you see or catch. There is also the evil Team Galactic to deal with as well as a rival who is also striving to be the best trainer ever. Not to mention a collective heap of sidequests available to do, including Pokemon Contests and searching through the underground of the whole region.

Graphics

You'd think that now these games are on the DS that Game Freak might try to update the graphics and give us some stunning 3D sprites and battle animations. Instead we get the usual Pokemon graphics: a variety of 2D sprites, with an overhead view when you're controlling yourself on the world map and a standard 2D Pokemon sprites and health bars for wild encounters and trainer battles. Still, this tried and tested formula works well enough, and there are some fairly impressive battle animations as well as a cool 3D cutscene for one part of the game. The graphics look decent enough when you consider how much content is crammed into the game.

Sinnoh is an interesting enough region, although the towns and cities of the game aren't anything really exciting or original when compared to the other Pokemon games. There is an interesting area covered in snow and later in the game there is a really cool dungeon to explore that looks really radical and psychedelic. So this region does have some lovely areas to explore.

The Pokemon themselves look rather intriguing. You'll be familiar with a lot of them already if you've played any of the other Pokemon games and the new Pokemon included in this generation have some very appealing designs which I am sure will capture the hearts of fans. For example the starters are endearing takes of existing animals from our world, being based on a chimp, a penguin and a turtle.

Sound

The soundtrack for this game is rather good, and I can't think of any piece of music in this game that irritates me and makes me want to mute my DS. Some of the battle themes are really catchy, in particular the battle themes for Team Galactic and the Champion battle theme. Sadly the gym leader theme for this game isn't that impressive compared to other Pokemon titles, but it's not awful by any means. The rest of the soundtrack is done rather well and gives some pleasant listening as you play through the game.

The sound effects for this game are rather typical for a Pokemon game. Fans of the series will be familiar with cries of Pokemon when they appear, and some of the newer Pokemon do have some rather interesting roars and fit in well with the older Pokemon. Other sound effects are rather typical for the series, with the short fanfares that play when you find an item and the stock sound that highlights your pressing of the A button when reading text. Nothing unusual for a Pokemon game and no real issues to complain about with the soundtrack.

Gameplay

Well, if you've ever played a game from the main Pokemon series you'll already be rather familiar with the controls for this game. If you've never played a Pokemon game, don't worry. The controls are user friendly and very easy to get used to and the game will even begin by explaining how the controls work. You use the D-pad to move around or highlight different options on the menu; A is the button for selecting things, talking to people or anything else you want to do, so it's effectively the action button. B is used to cancel choices or exit menus, the Y button will use an item that you have registered with it and the X button will open the games menu where you can save your game, use items or examine your Pokemon squad, plus a few other things. The touch screen is also used for selecting battle commands and using the Poketch, a device that I will explain later. It's a rather standard setup that works very well, and I don't see why anyone would mess with it. One nitpick I have with this game though is that it takes a long time for the game to save compared to other Pokemon games, you're in for some long waits if you like to save often.

Now I effectively explained the basics of any Pokemon game at the start of this review, so I'll move onto some specifics. Sinnoh has a good variety of new Pokemon, although you will encounter many Pokemon from the older games as you play the game. Certain Pokemon like Geodude and Zubat appear in nearly every cave in the game, and there are other Pokemon who appear so often that you will get sick of seeing them. Thankfully, Sinnoh's native Pokemon are rather well designed and fun to use in battle, so you'll enjoy catching and raising these new faces. The starter Pokemon are well designed too, and in this game they all evolve into Pokemon with two types, which is an interesting twist. Annoyingly though, the fire type starter for this time evolves into the same dual type used in the previous game. You'd think Game Freak might try something different this time around.

Something else to note with the new Pokemon designs is the fact that there quite a lot of new evolutions for older Pokemon in this game. So if you were a big fan of certain older Pokemon but feel they were a bit short-changed on the competitive front thanks to other new Pokemon, you might be pleased to find an awesome new evolution to solve things. It even makes sense to have a lot of new evolutions since the professor of this region specialises in studying evolution. The only flipside to this is that there are fewer original Pokemon in this generation if you look at the regional Pokedex. Still, there is plenty of variety to choose from at this point.

There is also the return of tag team battling, a feature which was introduced in the last generation of games and that thankfully has been fixed so that now a Pokemon can't be send out and mauled by attacks before you can even give it a command. This little fix hugely improves the tag team battles, which are now used for official Pokemon tournaments. This feature is mainly used in certain dungeons where an ally character will befriend you and follow you through the dungeon, battling alongside you and healing your squad fully after every battle. This is a nice way to implement the tag team battle feature, but really blows away any difficulty for these areas as endurance is taken out of the equation. There aren't any hard fights in these areas where you're likely to be wiped out and even if you take heavy damage, it's all healed up at the end of the battle. Sadly there are precious few tag teams battles apart from this, there are only a few storyline battles where you team up with someone and a fair few optional fights, most of which you can do daily.

This game is rather easy to beat, with only one or two fights that might give you some trouble. The gym leaders in this game provide a reasonable level of challenge, and your rival will give you a good match, but you shouldn't really struggle to beat them aside from one gym leader who I feel was made too powerful for the part of the game when you have to challenge him. The Elite Four can prove difficult as well, but it's fitting to have that challenge at the climax of the game.

Speaking of the Elite Four, usually when you defeat them you unlock a variety of sidequests you can complete for the post-game if you're still want more from the game. Annoyingly though, in this game they make you complete the regional Pokedex as well as defeat the Elite Four before a lot of the sidequests are unlocked. You'll probably have done this during the game since you only need to see the Pokemon to complete the criteria, aside from maybe one or two optional Pokemon that you may have missed completely. I still think it's a little irksome that Game Freak make you do this though when usually just becoming the regional champion is enough.

One new addition for this game is the Poketch, a digital watch which has a number of various apps that you collect through the game, rather like modern mobile phones. There are modes such as coin toss, roulette, dot artist and several others, a few of which that are very useful through your adventure that will help you out a bit. However, you will probably never use a lot of the features since they have no practical use other than to play around with them if you get bored in the main adventure. It can also be rather fiddly to find the app you want when you get so many of them later on. There should have been a way to order them or use a quick-select.

The Poketch has also come with a price. For some reason the game developers decided to ditch the Pokegear which has been a great feature of the past two games, so you can no longer phone up and talk to other trainers. To compensate for this there is the Vs. Seeker, which will show you what trainers nearby will accept a rematch from you. The only bad thing about this is that you have to know which trainers will give rematches and where to find them. The Pokegear system of rematches was much simpler and I will admit I've never really used the Vs. Seeker whilst playing the game other than to test it out. Also, after using it you must recharge it by walking a set number of steps. For me this is one feature which has been a downgrade from previous games. Thankfully the gym leader rematches have been made easier to obtain in this game, as there will be a bunch of gym leaders willing to battle you each day in a particular location after you beat the game.

The Battle Frontier is included in this game, making a return from the previous generation and has been updated somewhat. A lot of the game features from Ruby Sapphire and Emerald have been removed but there are still five different areas to complete, each with their own twist on Pokemon battles. Your Pokemons levels are set and they don't gain any experience, but winning series of battles here will win you some BP, or battle points which can be exchanged for prizes to make your Pokemon even tougher. You can also team up with a friend and challenge the Battle Frontier, if you tire of battling and trading with each other. The Battle Frontier is an excellent which can keep you playing long after you complete the main story, and there is also some serious challenges here for the hardcore player, as some of the later battles are more difficult than any you will face in the main story.

If you feel that constant Pokemon catching and battling will bore you after too long, you'll be happy to know this game offers some alternatives. A new feature included in this game is the Underground, where you can explore the earth beneath Sinnoh and dig out fossils, items as well as ores and shards which can be exchanged for items or even to teach your Pokemon special moves. The Underground also lets you build and decorate your own secret base, a cool little feature that makes a return from the previous game. There is also a capture the flag minigame you can play with your friends if that is more to your fancy.

Pokemon Contests have also come back and with quite an upgrade from the previous games. You now dress up your Pokemon with accessories, and play a little dance minigame as well as the usual contest round where you try to make the best impression on a panel of judges. Personally I preferred it when the contests were simpler, and I think it might have been better if these were just separate minigames rather than three stages of one long one. I'm sure these revised contests will be much harder to win and more frustrating for some, especially with the small variety of accessories at first.

The contests once again use their own set of stats for the appeal round, with stats like Beauty and Smartness. You build up these stats by feeding your Pokemon poffins, which are made from berries with another minigame which uses the stylus to mix the poffin as it cooks. It's a very basic minigame which gets fairly repetitive quickly and is fairly easy to master. You obtain berries from picking them from trees dotted around Sinnoh, rather like in previous Pokemon games. Like in the previous set of games you can grow more berries in fertile soil. Berries can have other helpful uses like healing your Pokemon from damage and curing status conditions.

Finally, there is one big brand new feature in this game, and that is the GTS: the Global Trade Station. You can now connect online wirelessly with your DS and make trades and do battles online. This is a huge revolution for the Pokemon games, since you no longer have to rely on your real life friends to make a trade or have a fun battle. The only major downside is that there is no real restrictions on the trades people can offer, and thus the GTS is flooded with grossly unfair trades where people will ask for legendaries in return for a common Pokemon, or even ask for a Pokemon you cannot legitimately obtain. It makes finding a worthwhile trade really frustrating and I sorely wish the developers would lay some authority down and clear up these stupid offers.

That said, there is countless hours of multiplayer fun to be had with this game, be it battling each other, trading, exploring the underground together or teaming up to take on the Battle Frontier. You'll enjoy this game so much more if you have a friend with their own copy of this game, or even Diamond and Pearl.

Story

I've already covered the basic premise of this game with collecting gym badges and challenging the Pokemon league, but there is a little plotline thrown in with the evil team that seems to be another tradition for Pokemon games. This game features Team Galactic, a group of people with very strange outfits and uniform hairstyles who have a weird plan of making a perfect new world. I did rather enjoy this premise for an evil team, and if it wasn't for their “will do by any way and at any cost” attitude you wouldn't necessarily think they were evil. There plans also tie in with a few of the legendary Pokemon in the region rather like those of team Aqua and Magma in the previous game. The only flaw is that, just like any other evil team in Pokemon, their members inexplicably use Pokemon like Zubat and other weak generic Pokemon. That said, the executive members do prove to be quite tough to beat.

There isn't much else to the plot in all honesty, except your challenge of the Pokemon league. Your rival acts like he's on one serious sugar rush, being really impatient although he can be rather funny at times. He is your childhood friend and acts supportive whilst also being determined to be the best ever, and I personally think he's a much better rival than May was in the previous generation. You will also occasionally meet Professor Rowan, who really fits the generic professor role and only stands out by the fact that he studies evolution. His daughter Dawn is a more interesting character, but you don't really see too much of her, which is a shame.

The gym leaders for this game are well designed and are a bunch of interesting characters. You'll also encounter a mysterious blonde haired trainer in black not too far in the game. So although there is not much plot content outside of the Team Galactic storyline there are some intriguing characters to keep your interest in becoming the greatest trainer in Sinnoh.

Lastly I will return to the legendary Pokemon, as not all of them are covered in the main storyline. In fact, Pokemon Platinum, Diamond and Pearl have the most legendaries for any one region in the Pokemon series. This is a double edged sword however, as although they make up a lot of sidequests, it also means there are more annoying roaming Pokemon and also a few event exclusive Pokemon which will now be impossible to obtain without trading or more likely, cheating. These event Pokemon also render a few sidequests void or pointless now that these events are long since done for this game.

If you aren't familiar with the Pokemon series, roaming Pokemon are legendary Pokemon who will flee from the sight of you rather than battle you. This then starts a long-winded goose chase across Sinnoh where you will hunt the Pokemon down, only to get one turn in battle against it before it flees again. This is immensely time consuming and frustrating, as although you do have a Poketch map to track them, it is still difficult to encounter the Pokemon as it will often predict your movements somewhat and move on the next area as you go where it was. This would be hard enough with one or two Pokemon, but in this game there are five of them, including one which is part of a trio where the other two are regular wild encounters. Three of them are Pokemon from an earlier generation, despite the fact they were rereleased in a game not long prior to this one. You'd think there were enough legendaries in this game without Game Freak adding in more from the previous games, although it is nice that you don't have to get an earlier game to obtain them exclusively.

Lifespan/Replay Value

The Pokemon league and the main storyline will keep you going for a very long time, and if you are interested in completing all the available sidequests for this game you can easily clock up to around 100 hours for this game. Even with this the Battle Frontier and the Pokemon Contests can keep you playing indefinitely, and the online capacity for this game will let you have endless multiplayer fun. This game will definitely give you value for money in terms of playtime.

There isn't much of a reason to replay this game, but you'll probably really enjoy playing the main game the first time and you might want to replay the whole game just for the sake of it. Better yet, if you buy Pokemon Diamond, Pearl, Soul Silver, Heart Gold, Black or White you don't have to worry about losing your trained Pokemon since you transfer or trade them over to the other game before erasing your file and starting over.

Final Verdict

This is a really good game, although that can be said of most of the main Pokemon series and I feel that this isn't the best, although it certainly does have a lot of good points. The story has some very cool and surprising points and the gameplay is just as engaging as all the other Pokemon games. The only flaw is that this doesn't shake up the tried and tested formula for Pokemon games, and the numerous legendaries and the slow save game feature do prove to be a bit irritating.

That said, this game is definitely worth trying out, whether you are a hardcore Pokemon fan or a Pokemon novice. This will give an enjoyable experience either way.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 06/25/12

Game Release: Pokemon Platinum Version (EU, 05/22/09)


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