I feel obliged to start this article by admitting that I was wrong about Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl. I wasn’t wrong about whether the long-awaited Gen 4 remakes were going to be good or bad. I didn’t have any extravagant theories about Ramanas Park or the Grand Underground. I obviously didn’t expect Seto Kaiba to show up from an alternate dimension with a party of six Blue-Eyes White Dragons.
What I was wrong about, reader, was… well, just about everything else! After putting a lot of time and effort into an admittedly outrageous but nonetheless cohesive (I think) 3,000-word Pokemon Legends: Arceus theory, the lack of narrative ambition in Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl has left me starving for something that isn’t stale 15-year-old PokeBread. There was so much potential here to make a meaningful link between Sinnoh and Hisui in a way that catapulted the series towards a whole new kind of storytelling. Instead, we’ve got remakes that are so faithful to the originals they can’t even look at other Pokemon games without feeling dirty.
The vast majority of postgame content in Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl is identical to how it was in Diamond & Pearl, which isn’t a spoiler given that the latter are older than my dog, who is almost 77 in dog years. While I was pretty okay with playing the same base game again, it would have been incredible to see something like the Sevii Islands or Delta Episode at the end of BDSP. Ramanas Park is relatively enjoyable, if not extremely grind-intensive, and the improvements to the Grand Underground make spending time there slightly more enticing than it was back in 2006, but ILCA and Nintendo really missed a trick by not spicing things up beyond that, by which I mean BDSP’s spiciest component is probably a berry you can’t pronounce the name of.
For a while, my hopes were high. I played through the entire main story of Pokemon Shining Pearl, completed my Sinnoh Dex, and caught Giratina, Cresselia, Palkia, and all three Lake Guardians. Given the presence of Giratina in particular, I was convinced I could figure out how to get a Member Card to access Newmoon Island and catch Darkrai. By extension, I was also banking on both Shaymin and Arceus itself being here, the latter of which could potentially segue into January’s upcoming blockbuster that is slated to reinvent the way we perceive Pokemon in general. So far, the only thing I’ve seen that is in any way linked to Legends: Arceus is a new book in Canalave Library, which hints at Manaphy – who is already in the game – and potentially a Hisuian variant of Qwilfish, which, cool, yeah, but also, not necessarily the grandiose narrative bridge I was hoping for, is it.
It’s certainly possible that BDSP could get DLC. Sword & Shield received two hefty expansions and BDSP has already established itself as the most successful Switch game of 2021 in the UK, at least in terms of boxed sales. The idea that these hypothetical expansions could launch prior to Legends: Arceus, however, is a stretch. Not only are we already within the shortest window between mainline games in history – how could Nintendo expect people to cough up 60 quid for BDSP, a further 15 for its associated DLC, and then yet another 60 for Arceus just two months later? I’d love to see DLC designed to link the two games shadow drop in late December, but is it going to happen? Sure, when Grumpigs fly. Not Bounce, fly.
So where does that leave us? Well, at the moment, it leaves us – or at least me – disappointed. I’ve written about how Pokemon needs to explore various different settings within settings before, by which I mean adventuring through the same regions during different eras could drastically accentuate how real they feel. We’re already kind of getting that with Legends: Arceus, but the fact that Hisui is so tentatively linked to Sinnoh is annoying. That horror ARG tape that was canonically restored by Professor Oak? The aforementioned new book in Canalave Library? The fact that Gen 4 as a whole – and now Gen 8 by extension – is extremely interested in how an area’s mythology informs its future? To actively refrain from linking BDSP and Legends: Arceus is to do both of them a disservice.
On top of that, given that BDSP is already out and Legends: Arceus doesn’t launch until January, going backwards at that point would make no logistical sense. We need to either get DLC before – which won’t happen – or after in a way that bolsters Arceus instead of pushing us back to BDSP. Will that happen? Probably not. Will both games be worse off as a result? Definitely yes.
I’ve enjoyed my time with Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl a lot and I can’t wait to get my hands on Pokemon Legends: Arceus in a couple of months. At the moment though, it’s hard not to feel disheartened at how much amazing context has been lost by keeping the two apart from one another as separate individual entities that would be much better served as one cohesive whole. It’s sort of like how Pokemon has outgrown the need for two games per generation and should invest more time into making definitive versions like Yellow, Crystal, Emerald, and Platinum off the bat. Just another one of those things that makes a lot of sense, but will probably get ignored in favour of putting stickers on your PokeBalls and having your Pokemon dress up for a panel of Tory judges.
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