20 May, 2009

Pokemon Platinum Review

DS Review | Gotta catch 'em all... again.
It's hard to believe, but it's been over ten years since the release of the first two Pokémon games, Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue. In that period of time we've gone from 150 Pokémon to a whopping 493. and played through countless spin-off titles. Despite this, the core of the RPG games has remained the same. With the same air of inevitability of each new generation of Pokémon comes the compulsory third game. Each pair of conventional Pokémon games has wound up with another to complete the triumvirate, a game that balances and corrects certain aspects of its cousins, while introducing some minor new elements. Red and Blue had Yellow, Ruby and Sapphire had Emerald, Gold and Silver had Crystal, and now Diamond and Pearl has Platinum.

As always, you take on the role of a budding Pokémon trainer, who, alongside an eternal rival, takes a starting Pokémon from the local professor and sets off into the world to become a Pokémon master. This usually entails defeating a sinister organisation along the way, defeating Gym Leaders to earn badges and eventually facing off against the Elite Four. Each time you defeat a Gym Leader you'll earn a badge, which will entitle you to use a new ability. These abilities, which are taught to Pokémon and can also be used in battle, allow you do to things like cross water, smash boulders, cut down trees or scale cliffs in order to reach new areas. It's straightforward and linear, and to many this part of the game will seem like a formality compared to the greater quest of putting together strong teams and catching the more elusive Pokémon.

Winning: it's the point of the game.

Winning: it's the point of the game.

The Pokémon game formula is a very good one, and relies on two primary sources of appeal. The first is the sheer joyful addiction of catching and collecting the Pokémon, and the second is the distinct pleasure of making them beat the hell out of one another until the little dears fall down. Platinum delivers wholeheartedly on both counts.

The battles are pure strategic joy. On the surface the battle system is incredibly simple. Two teams of up to six Pokémon face off, one on one at any given time. Those Pokémon trade blows from a range of four different moves each until one of them falls. The next Pokémon steps in and the process continues until one side has been eliminated. But as simple as that concept is, Pokémon turns it into something resembling a science, where the numbers and statistics involved are as important as a sound strategy, taking into consideration the strengths and weaknesses of every Pokémon. Trying to nut out a strong, balanced team is an addictive and thoroughly enjoyable process. It's also a little bit tougher, with trainers using Pokémon at higher levels and more intelligently, using healing items and switching out injured Pokémon more regularly.

The soggier the attack, the better.

The soggier the attack, the better.

The game's presentation is neat and elegant. In the field, your trainer wanders the top screen, with your Pokétch, an all-purpose clock/calculator/love calculator occupying the touch screen. In battle, the fight animations take place on the top screen, while you make all of your battle selections on the touch screen. The visuals overall are pleasantly bright and crisp, and some of the moves have received overhauled animations. The music is as chirpy as you'd expect, tending to either fall on the annoying side or the catchy side.

The consistently impressive thing about the Pokémon series is that, despite its surface appearance as a child-oriented game, it is overwhelmingly deep. Breeding and Effort Value training can easily derail the player from the 'actual' game because they're so broad in scope and time consuming. They can be entirely embraced or entirely ignored. Then there's the depth of battling itself. Think of it in terms of comparison against your average RPG. You might have a roster of somewhere between eight and twelve characters to level up and develop over the course of the game. Pokémon has nearly five hundred potential characters, each with their own identities and attributes.

What those who have played Diamond and Pearl will be mainly concerned with is how (and whether if) Platinum differs or improves upon those games. The changes that have been made range from the aesthetic and insignificant to the quite noticeable. The weather of Sinnoh (the region the game takes place in) is a little colder now, reflected by a different outfit for both versions of the Trainer (male and female) and some more snow about the place. The Pokémon available in Platinum differs somewhat to those available in Diamond and Pearl, with an extended Sinnoh Pokédex meaning more are readily available. The battle sprites of both Pokémon are now animated instead of just your opponent's, and some of the more important trainers have been given improved animations. Some areas have been redesigned and retooled, such as the layouts of several of the Gyms. The story has been tweaked and fleshed out in several ways, including the introduction of a new investigative character called Looker, though it makes very little difference to the game overall.

"And it will be a magnificent world, full of marshmallows and pillow fights!"

"And it will be a magnificent world, full of marshmallows and pillow fights!"

The two biggest additions to Platinum are the Distortion World and the Battle Frontier.
Distortion World is the domain of Giratina, the scary looking Pokémon on the front cover. It's an area you'll reach in the latter parts of the game in which you'll be running around upside down and across walls, noteworthy purely for the fact that it's a new addition to the game, and not because it's any kind of enthralling gameplay experience. The Battle Frontier is an advanced series of fights that can be accessed at the end of the game, putting you through endurance contests under different conditions, though you can only use 'rental' Pokémon, which will disappoint those looking to challenge their team of Level 100, EV-trained whatevers. You can play it cooperatively over Wi-Fi however, which is a considerate inclusion.

Speaking of Wi-Fi, Platinum expands the amount of things you can do online. In addition to battling people and trading (functions that are very solidly implemented, though Nintendo's Friend Codes are still a pain), you can now record your battles and upload the data for others to see. There's also a new Wi-Fi Plaza where you can participate in a few basic mini-games against other players, though the excitement derived from these is short-lived. All aspects of battling and trading cross over with Diamond and Pearl, meaning you'll already have a gargantuan online community to engage in. Platinum is compatible with the Wii's Pokémon Battle Revolution, but not with Wiiware title My Pokémon Ranch, which has received a compatibility update in Japan only thus far.

Pokémon is enjoyed by philosophers/mathematicians worldwide.

Pokémon is enjoyed by philosophers/mathematicians worldwide.

So we return to the question of whether Platinum is worthwhile for those who played Diamond or Pearl to death? Does it warrant returning to a moderately different version of a game already played? The answer largely depends on how big a Pokémon fan you are. There's little doubt that Platinum is the definitive Pokémon title to date, the tweaks and improvements making it a decidedly better game overall than the other two in the trinity. If you haven't played Diamond or Pearl, this is the version to get. If you have played them, and especially if you're one of the players who put countless hours into them, you could understandably find the prospect of doing it all again an exhausting one. On the other hand, it's that section of the audience who would be most likely to embrace an improved version of the game. Perks like the Versus Recorder and the Battle Frontier might be enough to make it worthwhile for the hardcore fans, but for everyone else these are relatively superfluous features. Many of the alterations are purely aesthetic, and you aren't missing out on very much if you take a pass on this and settle with Diamond or Pearl. At its core it is essentially still the same game, but importantly for new players, it's also still very good.
The Score
Though by no means a large step away from Diamond and Pearl, Pokémon Platinum is on its own merits a deep, engrossing and virtually endless game, and a crown jewel for the Nintendo DS. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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4 years ago
Great review. I played Pokemon Pearl to death, but I might have to purchase this one to get back into it. I quite love the pokemon games. It takes a few hours to get into it which can be a bit of a bore, but after the first one or two gyms the game's real charm sets in.

4 years ago
there is definitely a disproportionate amount of shit taken when you look at the actual quality of pokemon games. That said, im going to give this one a pass.
4 years ago
I used to play all pokemon games to death, all the ones i own have been, i pretty much got all pokemon to lvl 100 on pearl and ruby, or somewhere near it, got every pokemon on ranger, got every legendary, and a fair portion of the pokemon on mystery dungeon, only didnt get celebi, that was literally impossible, i have no idea... but yeah, i played everything, so much, if you checked my play times on them, theyd all be well over 200 hours each, yeah, i really had way too much spare time on my hands... I'm thinking im gonna give this a pass, may still get the apparent new gold + silver though, wanna try them out again, hopefully they wont be as bad as leaf green and fire red... I think one can only own so many Pokemon games.
4 years ago
I might play it for the pure nostalgia for Pokemon. It was all the rage back then, but I kind of dropped it at R&S. Not sure how to feel about popping right into this, without playing D&P.
4 years ago
meier wrote
Not sure how to feel about popping right into this, without playing D&P.
Go ahead, it's not like they're prerequisites. As the review states, Platinum is the definitive Pokemon game at the moment, don't worry about what you have and haven't played.
4 years ago
I have 5 badges, and am still feeling that nostalgia.
Truth be told, I was actually kinda sceptical about this, what with me having Diamond and all that. But it is a generally new (they've changed the story tiblits around a little. Getting an Eevee in your first visit to Hearthome is rad.) and extremely fun experience. And I'm not even half-way through the game! icon_biggrin.gif
4 years ago
admeister wrote
meier wrote
Not sure how to feel about popping right into this, without playing D&P.
Go ahead, it's not like they're prerequisites. As the review states, Platinum is the definitive Pokemon game at the moment, don't worry about what you have and haven't played.
If anything, it's better you didn't play D&P, as Platinum will feel more fresh.
4 years ago
As the review says, this is definitely the definitive version for new players, but even if you have already been to Sinnoh, the game has enough changes to feel fresh again. And if you've put in as many hours as me (400+), you probably won't remember much about the story anyway icon_smile.gif
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  14/5/2009 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $69.95 AU

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