Eight years. That's how long we've been playing Pokémon games in the UK, ever since Pokémon Red and Blue on the original Game Boy arrived on our shores in October 1999. Now we're two handheld generations on and yet still we're more than happy to run about catching those beasties with Poké Balls.
The big question, however, is this - for those of you who've already captured in Kanto, jogged through Johto and hiked through Hoenn, are there enough differences and new features in this new outing to warrant doing it all over again for a fourth time?
Well, the short answer is this. If you're playing in single-player then it depends on how much you enjoyed the previous games, but if you plan on using the multiplayer features on offer, then it's most certainly worth another trek.
In terms of the single-player adventure, it's not even a huge leap from the original Game Boy adventures, let alone the more recent GBA titles. Although there are undoubtedly loads of new tweaks, like the Pokétch (a watch on the touchscreen which gives you access to a wide range of functions) and a fun dressing-up feature (you can earn accessories for your Pokémon and customise its appearance, then enter it in competitions), the fact is that the main story and the basic goals are still near-identical to Pokémon Red and Blue. Meet a Professor at the start of the game, get a starter Pokémon from him, set out to capture more Pokémon by weakening them and throwing Poké Balls at them, train them up until they're at a
high enough level, defeat the gym leaders, then beat the final Elite Four trainers. The layout (of the main adventure, at least) is exactly the same as it was eight years ago.
Out With The Old
This may sound like we're being negative about Diamond and Pearl but the fact is, this familiarity isn't necessarily a bad thing. After all, if you're going to be playing what is essentially an enhanced remake of a decade-old game, you could do far worse than Pokémon, which has remained incredibly addictive throughout the years. In fact, it's a testament to the original's gameplay that the DS version, while an almost identical experience, still feels fresh and current-gen.
In terms of audio and visuals the game isn't exactly pushing the DS to its limits. While it's graphically decent, with the main game world in 3D (just about) and the Pokédex and battle screens featuring detailed 2D Pokémon portraits, the combat still looks wooden.
Sound-wise, the music is pleasant enough and some of the previous games' themes make a pleasant return in a slightly remixed form. But a real disappointment comes in the form of the Pokémon's battle cries, which are heard whenever you select them in battle or access their entry in the Pokédex. Although the 100 or so new Pokémon have new, realistic cries, the older Pokémon retain their old cries, meaning Pokémon veterans like Psyduck and Bulbasaur still sound like their original Game Boy generated-bleeps. Surely a little freshening-up of the sound effects wouldn't have been too hard?
Bells And Whistles
That said, while this review seems mostly negative, do bear in mind again that it's simply because these pages are otherwise full to the brim of boxes showing all sorts of innovative improvements and new stuff on offer. The various Wi-Fi options open up the world of Pokémon, and never before has the invitation to "catch 'em all" actually seemed so achievable, thanks to the Global Trade Station feature .
The problems we've mentioned are still minor complaints in the grand scheme of things. If you're looking for an enjoyable RPG adventure that's going to have you playing for months on end, there's nothing to beat Pokémon Diamond and Pearl on the DS. Just don't go expecting any huge surprises if you've played through any of the previous games.