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[DISCUSSION] Generation 4 Retrospective: Pokemon Diamond & Pearl
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Generation 4 Retrospective: A Look into the History of the 'Best' Generation

Time for a Review on the most beloved Pokemon titles of all time, Pokemon Diamond and Pearl. I won't be covering Platinum, as the changes make it different enough to be reviewed separately, so definitely stick around and I'll review that too, but for today we're just focusing on the titles that kicked of the cult classic that is Generation 4. Widely revered as the best Generation by many fans, and Diamond and Pearl being seen as the best games in the franchise, do the titles really hold up as well as we remember? Or are we just blinded by Nostalgia?

Plot

When the game begins, the player watches a newscast about a sighting of a red Gyarados in Johto's Lake of Rage. The player then heads to his or her best friend Barry's house and heads to Lake Verity with him to search for Legendary Pokémon. When they arrive, they notice Professor Rowan and his assistant (Lucas or Dawn, depending on the player's gender) discussing the professor's work and his search for something in the lake. The pair notice the player and hurry off, leaving behind a briefcase. As Barry approaches the briefcase, two wild Starly attack. The player and Barry open the briefcase, which contains three Pokémon they must choose from to fight off the attacking Pokémon. Barry, who later becomes the rival, takes the Pokémon that has a type advantage over the player's choice. After the battle, the professor's assistant will briefly appear and comment that the Pokémon have been used before exiting with the briefcase. The player and Barry return to Twinleaf Town. Back in Twinleaf Town the player's mother gives him or her a pair of Running Shoes before the player leaves for Sandgem Town. When the player meets Professor Rowan in Sandgem Town, the professor gives the player the Pokémon chosen at the lake and a Pokédex. The player then sets off to explore Sinnoh and defeat Gym Leaders in order to advance further in the plot, challenge the Elite Four, and become the Champion of Sinnoh.
During the course of the game, there are many conflicts with the evil Team Galactic and its leader, Cyrus. When the power of Dialga or Palkia, summoned by Cyrus, begins to overwhelm Sinnoh, Uxie, Mesprit and Azelf appear and negate the power flow, and the player is then forced into a battle with the Legendary Pokémon.
After the player defeats the Elite Four, there are further activities to pursue. These mainly concern the capture of previously unavailable Pokémon, extra features such as the Poké Radar, exploration of previously inaccessible places such as the Fight, Survival, and Resort Areas and the perfection of battle skills in the Battle Tower.

The main story itself is a pretty standard try stop the evil dude story, but Sinnoh takes pride in it's story with the lore of the region which likes to touch upon creation, even today the deeper lore of Sinnoh is on the best features in the game's story. Team Galactic were a surprising change from the tried and true method of bad guy takes over the world, instead this game's antagonist Cyrus plots to take over the Universe out of spite of past events in his life. While Sinnoh detractors will say this just means he's a bratty kid all grown up, really Cyrus is one of the better antagonists in Pokemon with his more beleivable motive. Unfortunately, Cyrus is about all that's interesting with Team Galactic, the Admins are seen barely throughout the plot except for "major" events, which is odd for a team trying to take over the entire Universe, you'd think they'd be more involved. Charon does appear in the post game but only to awaken Heatran. Other characters like Cynthia and Looker would go on to reappear in different titles, much to the agreement of fans.
 

Features

As with most Pokemon games, new features were added to Diamond and Pearl, including the return of the Day and Night cycle, Contests and WiFi connection. However one of the biggest new features was the Phys/Spec split which saw moves finally be changed to physical or special moves depending on what the attack actually was rather than by type. 107 brand new Pokemon were added to the dex with some including evolutions of old gen Pokemon like Electabuzz. A nice and welcome addition was the ability to connect to any Generation 3 cartridge. The only downside is that this feature was only usable...if you had a Nintendo DS Lite system as the method was to insert the GBA Cartridge into the system's slot. The were a few neat features that came with it too, including transferring Pokemon and encountering rare Pokemon depending on the cartridge inserted. 

Contests, as previously stated, make a return in these games in the form of Super Contests. A lot of changes were made to make these ones different from the Hoenn versions. The removal of PokeBlocks ushered in a new contest Pokemon food; Poffins. Unlike before where you just use berries to make Pokeblocks and it's done automatically for you, Poffins not only need to be made in a specific area, (which isn't even the Contest Hall), there's a touch screen minigame you must play to make them, and yes, should you fail you get a bad Poffin. The minigame itself was pretty straightforward; stir the mixture following the on-screen instructions. However, itis really easy to mess up, either stirring "too fast/slow" as the game would like to advise you. The minigames are largely the same concept, with the first round now opting you to dress up Pokemon, an admittedly fun feature. What was not so fun however, was the Dance Competition. It seems great at first, each Pokemon has a turn at being lead, setting a dance for the others to follow, and the others needing to dance in time, a simple rhythm game. That would be the case if the dances weren't so slow. Being slow is a problem this game has which is seen more later on. And finally the appeal round is back, but with 5 judges and 4 turns instead of 1 and 5 respectively.

Initial Reception

At the launch, Diamond and Pearl were critically well recieved, and rightfully so, for their time they introduced a good chunk of new features. One odd criticism was about the game's graphics with IGN stating they had "basic" graphics. Despite this, IGN rated them with an 8.5/10, Famitsu giving them a 35/40 and a rating of 85.07% on GameRankings. But now we get into the meat of the problems. Speed.

In battles the HP bar drops unbelievably slow at times, it gets worse with Pokemon that have higher HP, and this makes battles a real struggle for the most part. Surfing speed in DP was awful, you moved so sluggishly on water that it made you want to just be done with the water routes asap. At times the pacing of the game can make you feel lost, as sometimes the game isn't exactly clear on where you go. Add in the sometimes long and repetitive areas like Route 216 or Mt. Coronet, and you get ridiculous journeys around the map just because the devs felt it was better for the player to explore?

In this game RNG is a really weird subject. If you ever heard of Cute Charm and it's use in the Gen 4 games, you should know that your Trainer ID can manipulate your odds of finding a Shiny Pokemon, either better or worse. This doesn't just stop there though, it can also affect stuff like Battle RNG, encounter RNG. The best speedrun of Pokemon Pearl uses the clock as a method of manipulating the nature of the picked starter. That said, RNG is very broken in this game.

Closing

While in the early launch days we were indeed blown away by these titles, Diamond and Pearl do not hold up as well these days. With games like Black & White/2 basically defing their Generation, shouldn't have these opening titles done the same? I personally hope Diamond and Pearl are remade for the Nintendo Switch as these game deserve a second chance, there were good parts but the presentation just wasn't done well.
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