Gen 4 is one of Pokémon's most beloved gens with many fan-favourite Pokémon and human characters originating from this gen and a lot of nostalgia generated from those that grew up during this generation. While it has its detractors, Gen 4 has a place in many Pokémon fan's hearts and is often seen as a good gen or one of the best gens in Pokémon history.
So naturally, GameFreak would want to cash-in on this nostalgia for Gen 4 by making remakes of the Diamond/Pearl/Platinum games (or more accurately they got ILCA to do it for them) and thus we have Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, which I reviewed in my previous post.
Which games are the best? The originals or the remakes? Let's find out as the battle begins between Pokémon Diamond/Pearl/Platinum and Pokémon Brilliant Diamond/Shining Pearl...
Section 1: Best Story
The story of Pokémon Diamond/Pearl/Platinum is nothing particularly new by Pokémon standards. It's your standard adventure story where you play as a ten year old trainer who traverses the world catching Pokémon, having battles with your rival and other trainers and also fighting off the villains who stand in your way while you fight your way to the top to become the Pokémon Champion. It's a formula that the series has perfected at this point and Gen 4 delivers what we're used to in spades here.
However, the story of Pokémon Diamond/Pearl/Platinum does have its own little twist on the formula to make its version of this classic Pokémon story unique to itself. The Gen 1 games have you go up against Pokémon smugglers, the Gen 2 games is pretty much the same but in a new region and the Gen 3 games have you up against essentially eco-terrorists with warring ideals on whether increased landmass or increased water levels are the right thing for the environment, essentially making them a commentary on climate change. Gen 4 on the other hand talks a lot about the meaning of life and its many complexities. The mascot Legendary trio of this gen are even personifications of time, space and anti-matter, one of the new Mythicals introduced in this generation, Arceus, is literally THE GOD of all Pokémon and the villain's main motivation is to create a world without feelings and spirit as he feels emotions are the biggest problem with the world at large. This is all reflected in the game's world-building where you can read a lot of stuff about Sinnoh's past and learn some of the stories behind the Legendary Pokémon you meet here (though naturally nothing about Hisui is mentioned here as these games existed years before Legends Arceus did!)
The story behind the legendary trio and Arceus is really fascinating and provides some of Pokémon's most interesting lore to date. I know that even to this day, fans still gush about how interesting the lore of the Sinnoh region is and as a result has led to it becoming one of Pokémon's most beloved regions in the fandom. While Diamond and Pearl did a good job setting all this up, Platinum was when the story was at its best for many fans. Platinum included a few plot adjustments to the whole Team Galactic plot and making Cyrus's motivations more clear while also expanding his backstory a little. Heck, you can even meet his grandfather, which you couldn't in Diamond and Pearl, and he even adds a little more to Cyrus's character when you talk to him. But of course, the main new addition Platinum gives us is the entire scene with Giratina in the Distortion World. That encounter remains one of Pokémon's most memorable scenes in the entire franchise and for damn good reason! It's trippy as all hell and somewhat frightening to think just WHAT it is and how Giratina must've been one terrible Pokémon if Arceus banished it there!
Also I dunno how many people called it, but I personally thought Cynthia being the Champion was an excellent twist that I didn't see coming. I'm sure some may have guessed it but I didn't and I really applaud GameFreak for catching me off-guard like so.
The story isn't perfect, as no story is. The plot is still very paint-by-numbers as far as Pokémon plots go, it doesn't really break any new ground like Black and White or Sun and Moon did and Platinum even adds in a pointless new character in the form of Looker. I get that he has fans and I don't mind the character or anything. It's just...what does he add to the story by being here? Whenever I play Diamond and Pearl, I don't miss him whatsoever and Platinum adding him there doesn't change the story in any way. He's THAT pointless!
Now comparing it to Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl...actually no, there's no comparison to be made because the plot IS EXACTLY THE SAME AS BEFORE! As mentioned in my review last time, the remakes were too overly focused on being faithful to the originals that they made no changes to the story in any way. They didn't even include the added plot elements from Platinum. They just copied Diamond and Pearl's story specifically. The fact it just copies the original plot and doesn't even attempt to do anything new with it or fix any problems with the story is why the originals win in this regard. It told its own story with its own version of the standard Pokémon formula and then Platinum came out and made it even better with its own new additions to the plot whereas the remakes just copied the original Diamond and Pearl story scene-for-scene and word-for-word. They didn't even give it a new post-game story like Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire did. If the remakes had AT LEAST given us a new post-game plot starring Giratina or Arceus, I would've liked that.
As is, the games with the far superior story are the originals.
Pokémon D/P/Pt: 1
Pokémon BD/SP: 0
Section 2: Best Characters
Gen 4 has introduced some of Pokémon's most memorable and popular characters that have ever spawned from this franchise. Even now, there are people who still love characters like Dawn, Cynthia, Cyrus, Looker, Riley and (weirdly enough) even Barry. Dawn in particular went on to go from player character to companion character in the anime's Diamond and Pearl season and has become one of the most popular female companions of all time, rivalling even MISTY in that department! But I'm comparing the characters from the games, not the anime, so how are they in the originals and the remakes?
The characters are the kind you usually meet in Pokémon. You have your professor, your rival, the Gym Leaders, the villains, the Champion and more. But the games also have the occasional NPC you can run in to and battle together for a while. These include Cheryl, Riley, Marley and Buck who all have their own individual personalities and type of Pokémon they specialize in. While they're not important characters to the story, it does make them memorable NPCs that stand out from the crowd and I imagine some players even found themselves befriending these NPCs as they battled alongside them. And while the characters aren't the most developed bunch out there, a lot of them REALLY make their mark in the franchise for what they are. The Gym Leaders are all memorable in their own right, as is the Elite Four and Cynthia has traumatized many a player with what an insanely powerful Champion she is. Even now, she ranks as one of, if not THE most popular Champion in the history of the franchise and has become a franchise mainstay as a result, appearing in other games and appearing in multiple seasons of the anime. That says a lot about what an impact you leave on your franchise when you're still talked about for how terrifyingly strong you are years later!
And let's not forget Cyrus either. He's become one of Pokémon's darkest and most intimidating villains for his emotionless glare and nihilistic personality in where he feels emotions and spirit are problems in the world at large and not what makes us greater than what we are and he seeks to remake the world with the power of the Legendary Trio to get rid of all that. Before there was Ghetsis in the next Gen, this guy was easily Pokémon's most messed up villain and his backstory only serves to make him creepier when you think about it. Giovanni and Teams Magma and Aqua may have been good villains for us to face in previous gens, but Cyrus was something else entirely and I'm sure many will agree on that.
And let's not forget how this gen introduced a lot of memorable new Pokémon while also improving old ones with new evolutions. I guarantee that Pokémon fans nowadays are still using Pokémon like Garchomp, Lucario, Honchkrow, Weavile, Electivire, Infernape, Starraptor and more in their playthroughs of the games. The Legendary trio of Dialga, Palkia and Giratina have especially left an impact on fans and the games also introduced to us the god of Pokémon itself, Arceus. You can't get much bigger than that in terms of new Pokémon! A new generation should do a good job on introducing new Pokémon and Gen 4 gave us some really awesome new editions to the franchise.
Of course, not all the characters here are great. I personally can't stand Barry and wish I could just catapult him into the Distortion World every time he shows up, the rest of Team Galactic aren't as developed or interesting as Cyrus is and Looker is one of the few new editions from Platinum that really didn't need to be there. But honestly, Gen 4's cast has little to complain about for me.
Much like with the story, the remakes don't do anything new with the characters. They're exactly the same as in Diamond and Pearl, which is a downgrade for many fans as they felt some of these characters, especially Team Galactic and Cyrus, were improved in Platinum so the remakes essentially take a step back and give us the lesser versions of the cast. Keeping the cast the same and doing nothing new with them is one thing, but going back to the lesser versions really shows how faithfulness to the original doesn't always mean "better". The remakes don't even introduce any new characters either so we don't even get to meet anyone new like in Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire.
So once again, it's a no-brainer. The games with the superior characters are the originals.
Pokémon D/P/Pt: 2
Pokémon BD/SP: 0
Section 3: Best Gameplay
Gen 4 is notorious for changing Pokémon as we know it forever in how the game's played in one single way: the Physical and Special split. Back in the day, Special stats were their own thing and Pokémon had attacks that worked off of either their attacking or special stat. With this split, while moves like Hyper Beam aren't as strong as they used to be, Pokémon become a lot more usable thanks to it now players can give them moves based on which of their attacking stats is higher and all moves are labelled with either physical or special to determine what kind of attacks they are. This gen also introduced a lot of powerful new moves for types that were often lacking in good moves so many Pokémon of those types were able to learn more powerful STAB moves to make them more viable in a battle. Redefining the gameplay of Pokémon going forward is always commendable and I give Gen 4 a lot of credit for making these revolutionary changes to the formula.
As is, the gameplay is still your typical Pokémon adventure game where you battle trainers, Gyms and villains with your Pokémon and grind your way to the top to become Champion of the region. The gameplay works well enough for Diamond, Pearl and Platinum but much like all 2-D Pokémon games, the games do feel rather slow and tedious by comparison to today's games (especially Diamond and Pearl and its infamously slow battle and surfing animations). Grinding still takes way too long half the time, TMs are single use only which has always been annoying and HMs are still as intrusive as ever. It's even worse in this case as we're forced to have a Flying-type Pokémon that knows Defog to get through foggy areas. It's a useless move in actual battles and just eats up a space for a more useful move our Pokémon could have instead. Sinnoh is even noted to require a ludicrous amount of HMs just to travel the region, and this is the region that came after Gen 3 and its infamous "too much water" travelling that required THREE HMs that were all water-based!
Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl on the other hand gives for a more fun and breezy experience by fixing most of those issues. TMs are easier to get than in Diamond, Pearl and Platinum, the battle animations and Surfing are much faster, HMs don't take up space in your Pokémon's movepools as they're an app on your watch now, the EXP share system saves a lot of time in grinding your Pokémon up while also making it easier to have rotating rosters (which is WAY more fun than sticking to one team) and biggest of all, the Grand Underground is worth spending time in and has way more to do than before while also helping with the original's poor Pokédex issues and providing ways to get certain evolution items quicker than before. As such, I personally find the remakes a more fun playthrough than in the originals.
As is, the remakes don't have perfect gameplay either. The EXP share system is still easily abusable and for some reason, you still can't turn it off, Contests have been given a huge downgrade to the point there's no real reason to play them anymore, there's no Distortion World level like in Platinum which is a huge missed opportunity and of course, the remakes didn't fix ALL the problems with Diamond and Pearl's gameplay like Platinum did. Certain items are still off-limits until the post-game like the Razor Fang and Move Tutors aren't around like in Platinum. NOT bringing those back was a big mistake if you ask me. As detailed in my review, the remakes have the confusing case of fixing some problems and undoing the repairs made to other problems, which is just bizarre to me.
The originals are hailed as an example of Pokémon at its most challenging. To me, it only really gets hard when you face Cynthia and the remakes, while easier because of the EXP share system, at least put in more effort to make the game challenging by having your opponents use Held Items and by giving Cynthia a stronger version of her team such as that Swords Dancing Garchomp she has. And then the post-game makes them EVEN HARDER to the point you have potentially the most challenging post-game in all of Pokémon! The originals didn't have that so kudos to ILCA for adding a new challenge to the game!
While the originals redefined Pokémon games forever with the physical and special split, the remakes gave us a more fun and breezy experience by comparison. When it comes to gameplay, I judge them by how fun they are to play and for me, the remakes are far more enjoyable than the original games to the quality-of-life improvements and how they're not as tedious to play through thanks to the EXP share system and how it makes it possible to use interchangeable teams in a playthrough. That and improving the Underground really helps too.
So the games that have the best gameplay for me, are the remakes. It's a close one, but I think the remakes just edge out on top here.
Pokémon D/P/Pt: 2
Pokémon BD/SP: 1
It was quite a battle, but in the end, the the originals win this round. Pokémon Diamond, Pearl and Platinum gave us a generation that changed a lot of things for the better, gave us a memorable story and an equally as memorable cast and has become one of the most beloved Gens in recent years as time goes on. The remakes did improve on some parts of the gameplay, but they stayed too faithful to the originals and thus didn't give us anything unique story or character wise and thus you're basically just playing the originals but with a new coat of paint. While the originals are superior games, I still think the remakes are more fun to play so I'm more likely to play them again rather than the originals. But that won't change that the originals are better, though whether you enjoy a game based on what's better and what's more fun of course is up to you. I like both for different reasons and I'll happily journey through Sinnoh again, whether it's the original or the remake of Sinnoh...
And that's it for this blog post. I hope you liked it and feel free to express which games you feel are superior in the comments below. Tune in next time as I count down the Top 10 Badass Disabled Characters. Don't miss it!