Review by Psalm51
Not played Pokemon before? Read here first...
So, this is my first playthrough of a Pokemon game... I wasn't entirely impressed with the experience, but more on that later. Let me take you back to Fall 2009 for a moment. I was in Canada at the time and my Mother asked me for advice on what DS games to buy my Sisters for Christmas. One Sister was twelve and the other one fourteen, so I was not on the lookout for games for children, but I wanted the games to be fun to play. After some looking around I came up with Pokemon Platinum (newly released at the time) and Mario and Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story. I was satisfied that I had done my job well (although I had not yet played either game, I was going on Critic reviews) and my Mother thanked me for helping out. Thirty months later I decided to see whether my choice was wise (for the Pokemon game, anyway) and I am currently not sure that it was. Anyway, moving swiftly on...
Introduction - Let me make it clear from the start that, on one level, Pokemon Platinum is a "perfect" JRPG. Since the series began way back in 1995, each new game has improved on what already a brilliant gameplay style and has now given us a full-rounded experience. The catch-em-all formula works well and the difficulty never spikes, just moves up gradually. The games also offer an appeal to both (older) children and adults and thus come across as games for everyone. With all this praise, you will be surprised when you see that my overall score for the game is just 70%. To explain this anomaly, let my finish the introduction by asking you a few simple questions. Q1. How important is story in the computer games you play? Q2. Do you like solving sometimes tricky environmental puzzles in what is advertised and reviewed as a turn-based battling game? Q3. Do you like being offered (many) aspects of gameplay which are of particular use in Multi-Player (MP,) which you have no real need of in the Single Player (SP) experience? In other words, there is more than meets the eye in this game of Pokemon!
Gameplay - 8 out of 10. Catch-em-all, train-em-up and watch-em-fight. This formula is at the heart of most Pokemon games and it works extremely well. You have six slots in your party to fill and, ultimately, a choice from about 160 different Pokemon to fill these slots. Each Pokemon has different strengths and weaknesses and you should obviously try to build a balanced party. Baddies come in all shapes and sizes but it is the Gym Leaders that will try your skills (and patience!) And then along comes the environmental puzzles... These appear in the Gyms you visit and are also a big feature of the final level of the SP, the Torn World. The puzzles are not THAT hard but can frustrate. They come as unexpected after the way the rest of the game is shaped. The puzzles are not as hard as those on show in the Golden Sun games and some would say that they are fun. Anyway, you have been warned and there are FAQs for these things!
Story - 5 out of 10. In two words; weak and insubstantial. The story sadly lacks twists and turns and these are needed in a game that will take you 40-60 hours to complete (the SP anyway.) Sure, I know that story in computer games is a contentious issue. But RPGs should feature good stories, even if they are missing in our best shooters! Again, I know that the chase-me, chase-me formula works well enough for a bare-bones story in computer games but my words to Game Freak are; MUST TRY HARDER and give us a better story in our computer games. We know that you can...
Graphics/Sound - 7 out of 10. The graphics are defiantly old-school 2D, which is a minus point. As it happens, I like 2D games of all kinds but the DS had been out for over three years by the time this game was launched and 3D on the DS was in great shape by then. Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon was also released as a 2D title and at a similar time to this game, and that lost review points for sticking with 2D. Golden Sun: Dark Dawn was released a little later and that showed what could be done with 3D on the DS, in a JRPG. As for sound, it was almost faultless, with a huge variety of town and route themes to listen to as the game progressed. Sadly, the battle theme(s) are the same throughout and simply get boring by mid-game. Why developers can't come up with a variety of battle theme tunes beats me.
Play Time/Replayability - 8 out of 10. It took me over 60 hours to finish the SP in this game and that was too long. Even so, the game seemed to end before it really came to an end, and that feeling was odd. Getting back to Professor Rowan in Sandgem after exiting the Torn World and hearing him praise me for finding all the Pokemon was fine and all, but I wasn't sure whether the SP game had really finished. I might well also add here that I felt under-levelled for the big battle in the Torn World and that came as strange, after I was correctly or even over-levelled for much of the rest of the game. Play it again? For me, no, as the story wasn't strong enough to want to play through again. Sure, there are an infinite variety of Pokemon to train up and battle with, but I'm guessing this is appealing more for MP players.
Final Recommendation - 7 out of 10. I am sorry to say that my first playthrough of a Pokemon game left me with a feeling of being underwhelmed and a little confused. Maybe Platinum wasn't a good game to start playing the series with; maybe it is a "weak link" in the chain of games Game Freak have produced. I am glad that I have the earlier Pokemon GBA title LeafGreen in my collection and perhaps that will change my mind about Pokemon games. I have also just bought one of the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon games, so that also might further enlighten me! My final thought here is that the SP game in Pokemon Platinum feels like a warm-up for the MP experience. If it is then I say bravo and all the best luck with that. Just give us a better SP story next time, please...
Rating: 3.5 - Good
Product Release: Pokemon Platinum Version (EU, 05/22/09)
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