Review: Pokémon Brilliant Diamond – From diamond to brilliant?

The Pokémon franchise has been around for a long time. After remakes of the first three generations (Kanto, Johto and Hoenn) it is time to (again) explore the Sinnoh region. This time, however, the development is not with GameFreak, but with the relatively unknown studio ICLA. Curious about the result? Then quickly read the review of Pokémon Brilliant Diamond.

The original was already brilliant

Pokémon Diamond is already from 2007 and then appeared on the Nintendo DS. At that time it was a wonderfully fresh Pokémon game on a beautiful handheld. The Nintendo Switch version certainly goes the extra mile and, in my view, manages to find exactly the right balance between innovation and nostalgia. The original was actually a really good game. I think the story is one of the best in the series. Although it is not necessarily about deep storylines in Pokémon games, it is nicely put together with Diamond. While playing the game, I re-discovered how big and expansive the world is, even compared to, say, Pokémon Sword & Shield. There is so much to experience and discover. This means you will linger a bit longer in various areas, such as Hearthome and Veilstone City. Oh, and forget the beautiful Mt. Coronet not. The showpiece of Pokémon Diamond.

Brilliant Diamond, Pokémon, ICLA, Nintendo

So is Pokémon Brilliant Diamond a worthy remake? For me yes, but I can well imagine that someone who has not played the original has his reservations.

What exactly is different?

Developer ICLA has tried to stay true to the graphic style of the original while giving the game an ICLA jacket. This has worked very well in many places. For example, water looks very nice and Pokémon battles have been given a modern upgrade. In addition, many well-known villages and large towns look recognizable, but also refreshing. Floaroma Town is a good example of this. What’s missing from the developer’s approach is daring. Dare to do something rigorously different in the familiar spots above ground. I also understand ICLA’s caution for such a large project as Pokémon. Let’s hope there will be more opportunities for this talented company, because the work on this game really shows their potential.

Especially if you go underground in the Sinnoh region. The Grand Underground is an incredibly cool new environment. Partly based on mining from the original, but with completely new areas and the opportunity to explore together (online). I could spend hours wandering around looking for items or special Pokémon to be found there (after a long, long search). By the way, the Grand Underground isn’t the only new area in Brilliant Diamond, but because of spoilers I can’t elaborate too much on that. In any case, the game has a really increasing difficulty. Where I was able to beat all the gyms quite easily, it gets very interesting from the Pokémon League!

In addition to all the graphical changes, a lot of gameplay has also been adjusted compared to the original. Many modern applications, such as HMs that no longer need to be taught to Pokémon. If you’ve played newer Pokémon games like Sword & Shield then it won’t be any changes for you. Most of the tweaks keep the game up to today’s standards (and shorten the span or impatience of many gamers). Finally, the music has been completely renewed and I am very positive about that. The original soundtrack has been given a worthy update in many places.

Brilliant Diamond, ICLA, Nintendo, Pokemon

Where is the pain then?

The pain in this game is in the missed opportunities. Extra content from Pokémon Platinum, for example, has not been used at all. A shame as far as I’m concerned, because the Battle Frontier and the Distortion World were really great.

I also think it’s a shame that you encounter a lot of the same Pokémon. It has been decided not to add all newer Pokémon to the game. I think that’s a good choice, by the way. However, for much of the game, there is so little variation in Pokémon. That was already the case in the original, but it’s a shame that ICLA didn’t choose to change this. A small consolation is the Grand Underground where slightly more different species can be found.

A big irritation is the option that automatically gives XP to all Pokémon in your party. This is the case with modern games, but I really hope there will be a button to disable this in an update. It makes Pokémon Brilliant Diamond a lot easier than the original. Personally, I like it better to switch tactically during battles to give a weaker Pokémon that extra XP boost. Or possibly with an old-fashioned Exp.Share. At least let gamers choose.

Oh, and online there are still a few features missing. I always find it disturbing that publishers don’t decide to fix this in advance rather than release updates. Anyway, this is more of a general ‘problem’ that I might write a column about.

Pokémon, Brilliant Diamond, ICLA, Nintendo

Just not brilliant

Developer ICLA couldn’t have gotten better games to remake. Pokémon Diamond was already very good. With Pokémon Brilliant Diamond, The Pokémon Company goes a step further with extra and improved areas, nice gameplay upgrades and a wonderful soundtrack. It’s just a shame that GameFreak has probably been panting on ICLA’s neck. It feels a bit as if ICLA is inhibited in their creativity. The game lacks daring. Dare, for example, to vary more in Pokémon types or to do even more in terms of graphics.

For now I am very satisfied with Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and maybe some irritations will be solved with software updates.

Publisher: The Pokémon Company, Nintendo
Developer: ICLA
Release date: 19-11-2021
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Played on: Nintendo Switch