This week's edition of the regular Critical Reception column
examines online reaction to Pokémon Diamond
and Pokémon Pearl
, a pair of sequels that critics are hailing as "the best Pokémon games yet."
Spawning numerous spinoffs and countless imitators, Nintendo's Pokémon
series has enjoyed worldwide success for almost a decade. Like its predecessors, Pokémon Diamond
focus on the collecting, battling, and trading of a variety of cute and marketable creatures against an RPG backdrop, and sport an addictive quality that has kept the series popular since the days of the original Game Boy.
Apparently, the classic Pokémon
formula is still effective today. While critics note that Pokémon Diamond
are largely similar to previous games in the series, both are impressive enough to warrant an average review score of 84 out of 100
GameSpy's Gerald Villoria scores Diamond
at 4.5 out of 5 stars
. "This latest pair of games makes use of the Nintendo DS Lite's dual screens while also providing a heftier package than seen in any Pokémon
game to date," he writes. "They bring everything that has come before together in a well-rounded package, making them the best Pokémon
Villoria notes that many changes and improvements can be found in Diamond
. "The series' visuals have been enhanced, so you can look forward to an attractive pseudo three-dimensional world that, while simply designed, is a pleasure to explore," he praises. "The colors are vibrant throughout, and each area of the game has a distinct look that keeps each town memorable and every route ventured different from the last."
However: "The new sprites aren't any more detailed than those we've seen from previous games, and the artwork still has the same look and feel that Pokémon
fans are used to. Sadly, the screeches and yelps haven't changed much either in all these years, and the game's audio sensibilities aren't quite on par with the other strides that the series has made since its inception."
"Perhaps the most significant addition to the Pokémon
series was made by adding robust online functionality," Villoria says. "Adding online support to the Pokémon
franchise was inevitable, and despite the hiccups you may encounter that often involves router security settings, and the lop-sided trades on the GTS, the online features will contribute immeasurably to the life of the game."
In all, Villoria finds little fault with either game, aside from some minor concerns regarding audio and graphical quality. "These are the best games in the series by a considerable margin, and should provide you with entertainment for weeks to come," he concludes. "If you've never played a Pokémon
game before, then Diamond
make for an excellent place to begin your love affair with this series."
Jeremy Parish at 1UP.com is similarly enthusiastic, rating Pokémon Diamond
at 8.5 out of 10
. "Pokémon Diamond
are absolutely everything you've come to expect from major Nintendo sequels, and that's probably more for the better than for the worse," he begins. "Twilight Princess
was brilliant, but that brilliance hewed closely to the framework laid down 15 years prior in A Link to the Past
. Metroid Prime
, fantastic as it turned out, was unabashedly Super Metroid
gussied up with fancy 3D polygons."
"And so it is with the latest Pokémon
," Parish continues. "Yes, the series' fourth generation is largely the same as the past three -- but it's also, without question, the best to date."
The pair's many subtle gameplay tweaks are described as being particularly noteworthy. "The differences between Diamond
and their predecessors are small, but they add up," says Parish. "Refinement is paramount here -- refined balance of battle skills, refined relationships between monster types -- as is expansion. The pokédex has been upped to nearly 500 creatures total, new abilities and powers have been introduced, and new battle modes are available."
Parish also argues that Diamond
have the potential to appeal to a broader demographic than one might expect, as was the case with previous Pokémon
titles. "Hardcore gamers tend to turn their nose up to the Pokémon
series, but the secret of its success is that it isn't designed for the hardcore," he explains. "Look beyond the cheaply-made anime and the overblown collectible tie-ins, though, and you'll find that the foundation upon which the whole endeavor has been constructed is an enjoyable and often addictive RPG with a fantastic social element."
At Games Radar, Darryl Vassar also rates Diamond
high at 8 out of 10
, despite noting that little has changed in the series over the years. "Unsurprisingly, Pokémon Diamond
don't try to stray from the series' well-established formula," he writes. "The RPG gameplay is still surprisingly deep and balanced, but it doesn't get in the way of casual play. It's a huge and addictive game, and leveling up your Pokémon is the perfect way to pass a bus ride or complement your favorite TV show."
"What's new, and what make Diamond
in particular so compelling, are the refinements to the series' excellent gameplay and the additions that round out the product as a whole," Vassar continues. "Foremost among these additions is online play. While hampered somewhat by Nintendo's clumsy friend code system - you have to trade long codes with your friends outside of the game to connect - online battle and trading open the series' best features up to a whole new audience, and the voice chat really livens things up."
Certain gameplay issues sometimes mar the experience, however. "While the move to 3D is a nice one, your character moves pretty slowly as a result, especially compared to previous games," Vassar critiques. "The DS interface also feels half-done - while movement requires the D-pad and face buttons, battles are best played using the touchscreen, which is an awkward combination."
Regardless of his complaints, however, Vassar admits that Diamond
have undeniable appeal. "For those of you that have done this before, you know the drill, and you're probably going to do it again. But those of you that haven't? Well, there isn't a better time to start than now," he states. "Pokémon Diamond
are not only the best Pokémon
games yet, but some of most enjoyable on the DS."
With millions of copies sold in Japan and more than 500,000 preorders accumulated in the months prior to their American release, Pokémon Diamond
and Pokémon Pearl
are all but certain to repeat the success the series has found with each new release. Judging by critical reaction thus far, gamers expecting a fun, addictive experience worthy of the Pokémon
series will not be disappointed with Pearl