When last week’s Pokémon Direct was announced, fans immediately began speculating what the big news might be. Would we be getting an announcement for the almost inevitable Galar set followup to Pokémon Sword and Shield? Would the presentation spend twenty minutes on Pokémon Home? Or would we get something fans have been waiting a long time for: remakes of Pokémon Diamond and Pearl?
Since Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire were released in 2014, fans have wanted a remake of the Sinnoh games. Announcements of impending Pokémon news almost always spark speculation that Diamond and Pearl remakes are coming, and any usage of Generation IV Pokémon in promotional materials leads to comments of, often jokingly, “SINNOH CONFIRMED.”
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Fan interest in Sinnoh remakes goes beyond nostalgia. Even the biggest defenders of the Generation IV games will admit that Diamond and Pearl had their flaws, many of them having the do with their presence on the Nintendo DS. Diamond and Pearl were the first main series Pokémon games to appear on the then relatively new handheld. The DS’s capabilities far exceeded what the Game Boy Advance could do, and Game Freak wanted to take advantage of what the new hardware could do.
Unfortunately, not all of Game Freak’s ambitious choices worked well for players. After introducing overworld weather effects in Generation III, Diamond and Pearl expanded on the feature by adding weather to several routes throughout the Sinnoh region, taking advantage of the DS’s improved graphics to pull it off. While it did make these routes feel unique and distinct from the rest of the map, the negative gameplay effects of hail and fog made traveling throughout the region frustrating and slow.
Other design choices made Diamond and Pearl difficult or annoying to navigate. Marshy areas on Route 212 are unavoidable and can trap the player. Hidden Machine moves, moves like Fly and Surf which are usable in the overworld and cannot be deleted normally, are needed to get through Sinnoh. Out of eight HMs, six are required at various points to progress through the game. Fly, while not technically essential, is necessary in order to fast travel, making Defog the only HM that is completely avoidable for most players.
Diamond and Pearl’s gym order also doesn’t make a lot of sense. The player is unable to challenge the Hearthome Gym upon their first visit to the city. While Kanto had a similar situation in which the player encountered the Viridian Gym first but challenged it last, this was justified by the story, gave players something to work towards, and made sense given where the player had to travel next. The fact that the gym order was changed for Pokémon Platinum proves that, unlike the Viridian Gym, Hearthome Gym’s placement within the game was entirely arbitrary and made a slow-paced game even slower.
Speaking of the story, Team Galactic, the evil team introduced in Diamond and Pearl, are not particularly memorable villains. Their goal is to use the legendary Pokémon of Sinnoh in order to destroy and recreate the universe, though their reasons for doing so are not really fleshed out. Platinum gives their leader, Cyrus, a bit more motivation, but a brief conversation with his grandfather that establishes his backstory is entirely missable.
While no team will ever eclipse Team Rocket in terms of recognizability, other Pokémon games have made efforts to distinguish their evil team from the rest. Team Galactic lacks Team Aqua and Team Magma’s unique dynamic as rivals, the compelling motivations of Team Plasma, and the quirkiness of Team Skull.
Despite their issues, Diamond and Pearl are beloved games for many Pokémon fans. The Sinnoh region’s focus on mythology expanded the lore of the Pokémon world and incorporated its Legendary and Mythical Pokémon into the world better than other games in the franchise. Generation IV also introduced fan-favorite Pokémon like Lucario, Darkrai, and Garchomp to the series.
Diamond and Pearl also introduced new features and items that have become integral to competitive battling including the Physical/Special split, the Life Orb, and the Choice Scarf. As the first DS Pokémon games, they were the first to use Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection to battle and trade over the Internet.
A remake of Diamond and Pearl on the Nintendo Switch would be a great opportunity to celebrate all of the innovations that made the originals great while fixing some of the games flaws. The Sinnoh region’s diverse landscapes and cities would come to life on a modern console whose graphics far exceed what could be accomplished by a handheld game in 2006. The game could also benefit from the quality of life changes to the franchise introduced in more recent games, such as the removal of HMs and random encounters and easier access to the Pokémon storage boxes.
The recently announced Expansion Pass for Pokémon Sword and Shield will be this year’s major Pokémon release, meaning that Diamond and Pearl remakes probably won’t be released until late 2021 at the earliest. When the time does come, however, they will be a welcome and much-needed addition to the franchise.