The appeal of Pokémon might be universal but that doesn't make it logical. The title is flat out counter intuitive, defying logical at every turn. It's a 30-hour role-playing game, but it's beloved by kids with miniscule attention spans. It's supposed to be for children, but it's obsessed over by far too many adults. And yet somehow, over the course of a decade, at a time when even classic franchises have lost their footing, it's more popular than ever. Why? Because Pokemon: Diamond and Pearl are outright addictive, even if they are much like the ones you've already played through a few times.
At least the addiction is straightforward. This is a game that you can play just about anywhere, while you're doing anything but paying complete attention. It's the most casual RPG, with minimal button pressing necessary for advancement. You can map the buttons so that you can easily play with one hand. It's a blessing and curse. I found myself playing in all the usual spots: on the couch, in bed, on the pot. But I also found myself playing while writing, while playing another game, and even while driving (certainly not recommended). It's amazing that a game that often seems to play itself can hook you so thoroughly. It's all part of the charm and allure of Pokemon.
Pokemon: Diamond and Pearl are outright addictive, even if they are much like the ones you've already played through a few times.
The allure to this series has certainly never been the story, and that hasn't changed. You play the role of a young boy or girl who stumbles into the world of those cute little Pokemon. Of course, it wouldn't be much of a game if it didn't quickly become your job to protect the world of Sinnoh from the evils of the Team Galactica. It's not that imaginative, but it doesn't need to be. The game revolves around the battle mechanic and the collection aspect.
Pokémon has always had random battles, with wild Pokemon appearing as you traverse across the land. There are plenty of trainers waiting to challenge you as well. The battles are simple but satisfying affairs. As usual, success is a combination of having the right moves, the right level and the right type of Pokemon. It's rock, paper, scissors for the tech set.
As you progress through various towns, you'll come across some strange characters and strange Pokemon. You'll find a few weirdos stressed up as Pokemon, too. As you move from town to town, you'll collect badges by defeating the gym leaders of the various towns. The badges are essential to battling your way to the Pokemon League, in order to become the Pokemon Champion. It's the dream of every trainer. Of course, there are some legendary Pokemon you'll want to try to catch along the way as well.
It's the ever-present carrot of those Pokemon that keeps you playing at all hours of the night. The goal of all the Pokémon games has always been to "catch 'em all" and the newest entry in the series is no different. However, that daunting task is made easier by the addition of an online trading system. While it may appear minor, this new addition to the series really adds a lot. You can nab some hard to find Pokemon early on, and those critters that you've trader for gain XP faster. You'll want to put your own extras up for trade though, because searching for Pokemon you want is almost useless, as the requests border on outrageous.
The other major addition to the series is the ability battle friends wirelessly. Unfortunately, the battle system is a bit gimped by the fact that you can't battle random strangers. You need the ridiculously asinine friend codes to battle. Still, it's a step forward for the series, it's just too bad Nintendo didn't take the implementation of online battle as far as they could. They did manage to include voice chat for trash talking during those online battles, which works surprisingly well.
While the move to the DS takes some steps forward with wireless trade and battle, it doesn't do a whole lot to update the graphics, or utilize the touch screen for that matter. The animations are still minimal and there isn't much difference in look between the DS version and the old GBA games. As far as the touch screen is concerned, the upgrade is minor as well. You can select moves during battle and navigate the menu, but not much beyond that.
Yet, playing Pokémon has never been about new technology or graphical prowess. It's been about collecting and battling. With over 100 new Pokemon and the ability to trade and battle online, Diamond and Pearl add just enough to the series to keep the frenzy going. Like the old saying goes, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."
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