Review by Gilgamesh1317
"The definitive Pokémon game?"
Pokemon Platinum Version (hereafter referred to as Platinum) is the third main Pokemon RPG on the DS, following up the Diamond and Pearl versions. It is something of a mix of the two previous games and a slew of new elements to the game, along with various changes to graphics and even parts of the game itself.
Pokemon Platinum is the "third version" of this generation of Pokemon games. Starting with Yellow, way back on the Gameboy, every Pokemon generation had a third main game that had considerable differences and improvements over the previous two main games of that generation. Platinum arguably has the largest amount of changes from the previous two games, from little stuff like sprite changes to the bigger things like remodelled Gyms and an entire new area to explore (the Distortion World). Most of the changes are quite nice, but ultimately I cannot rate this game higher than a 7. Why? Well, read on and find out.
The graphics are quite nice, particularly for a Pokemon game. The art style is some sort of pseudo 3D style, and it is quite impressive. 3D models are used throughout the game, too, most frequently in Gyms but you do see the odd building here and there in proper 3D. It all looks quite lovely, and the Distortion World part of the game, short as it may be looks pretty damn nice. The Gym leaders now have animations at the start of battles, as does your rival. Several Pokemon have received new sprites, and quite a few look better than their Diamond/Pearl counterparts. The 3D parts of the game (essentially the Gyms and Distortion World) prove that the developers could change the Pokemon formula up a bit with proper 3D graphics and models, and I'll bring this up again in a bit.
The music is actually pretty...meh. With the exception of the Legendary Pokemon battle themes, most of the music is bland and uninteresting, which is a damn shame given some of the catchy tunes the previous games have thrown up. To be fair, Pokemon music isn't very good in general, but compared to previous games, this one is just lacking quite a bit in musical quality. I can only really remember the Legendary Pokemon themes; most of the other songs in the game are quite forgettable.
The gameplay is for the most part standard Pokemon fare. Get starter Pokemon, travel around, weaken wild beasts and capture them, then use them in combat to fight other people and ultimately conquer eight Gyms (essentially boss battles) and the Elite Four, the strongest trainers in the game. Platinum does actually differ from previous games in one way, though: it's quite easy to notice that the game kicks up the difficulty level a few notches, which is quite pleasing given how pathetically easy the previous games, Diamond and Pearl, were. But despite that, it's the same Pokemon fare, and it's actually getting a bit boring by this point. It doesn't help that most of the Pokemon in this generation (the fourth, for those not in the know) are generic creatures. I always end up picking the Water starter, Piplup, simply because it isn't as ugly and generic as the other two starters. It's really disappointing, especially when you consider that all three previous generations have pretty good starters.
The Pokemon formula is getting a bit old and boring by this point. It needs refreshing. For the most part, this game plays more or less exactly like all the previous games. While the second and third generations built on the basic formula quite nicely, the fourth one doesn't do much. Platinum is especially disappointing in this regard, as the third games of the previous two generations actually brought in more than a few changes. It's getting old, and when you see how Platinum shows off the 3D capabilities of the DS in the Distortion World, it makes you wonder when Nintendo will consider giving the gameplay a reboot. They tried to with some of the spinoffs, like the Pokemon Ranger games, which were good games, very enjoyable games in fact. Nintendo needs to kick-start the next generation with a new style of gameplay. They could, I dunno, maybe have real-time combat where you have direct control of the Pokemon in a 3D environment, with the usual four moves mapped to A/B/Y/X buttons or something.
Platinum does shake up the Wi-Fi side of things a bit, with things such as Mystery Gift item downloads from Nintendo (the Member Card for Darkrai, for example) and the brand new Battle Recorder, which allows you to record your online battles and then show them off for bragging rights. Apart from that, battling online is still a fairly enjoyable experience when you don't run into ragequitters and hackers.
Pokemon on its own is still a bit flawed, with the usual cheating AI you find in pretty much every RPG. The computer can decide whether or not your status effects will land, and whether or not you get criticals. Around the third Gym in the game, I had only seen around 25-26 Critical Hits, and about three or four of them were dealt by my Pokemon. It's aggravating seeing the AI opponents, now smarter and better at handing you your rear, can still land status effects and crits a lot more than you can. This is a problem with RPGs in general, though, but it's particularly prevalent throughout the Pokemon games.
I recall hearing that the composer for the series, Junichi Masuda, said that Platinum was the definitive Pokemon game. I have to heartily disagree. Platinum is a good game, don't get me wrong, but it's the same song and dance as the previous horde of Pokemon games. Beat the eight Gym Leaders, stop the bad guys from taking over the region you're in, face off against a Legendary Pokemon or two, beat the Elite Four and then be crowned the greatest trainer in the land. And if you've already played either Diamond or Pearl, you've largely seen it all already. The Distortion World, nice as it is, is a ridiculously short segment of the game, about half an hour in length. Really, I can only recommend this to people who haven't gotten Diamond or Pearl, or hardcore Pokemon fans that get all the different versions of the Pokemon games as they come out.
The series needs a reboot, and after Nintendo gets Heart Gold/Soul Silver out the door around the world, they need to bring the franchise back to the drawing board and consider changing up the formula. The gameplay is getting stale, just like the Harvest Moon series was. And just when it seemed like they didn't care about changing it up, they released the Harvest Moon: Rune Factory spinoff series, which mixes the farming simulator gameplay of Harvest Moon with some action roleplaying game elements. And it was a success! The first game was a legitimately good game, and it proves that good things can happen when you shake up a franchise. Pokemon really needs to follow this example, otherwise it'll start to lose fans (apparently it already has; you'll hear from a lot of people about how a certain generation turned them off the series (usually the third or fourth generation)).
I wouldn't recommend it for newcomers to the series, given the upped difficulty, and I'm finding it hard to recommend it to regular Pokemon fans. Give it some thought before purchasing.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 09/04/09
Game Release: Pokemon Platinum Version (EU, 05/22/09)
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