It’s a cycle nearly as old as time itself: Nintendo releases two marginally different Pokemon games, and then a year or so later a third version comes out that compiles the few differences between the two and renders them both obsolete. Yellow followed Red/Blue, Crystal followed Gold/Silver, Emerald followed Ruby/Sapphire, and now Platinum is here to rescue everyone from the choice between Diamond and Pearl. Aside from a few more obtainable Pokemon this time around, there are a plethora of small changes throughout, including aesthetic changes, storyline changes and some small gameplay changes.
Above: Sometimes, only a bar graph will do
So for those who already own either Diamond or Pearl, the question is…
Lots of little things have been “freshened up” in Platinum (Bulbapedia has an exhaustive list), but there aren’t any major changes or additions – it’s really Diamond and Pearl again, dusted off, sprayed with some air freshener, and repackaged. Or maybe Diamond and Pearl: The Remix would be a better description. Even two of the Pokemon themselves have been somewhat “remixed”:
Arceus still might not be officially announced outside of Japan, but based on the alternate Formes for Giratina and Shaymin, Arceus’s supersecret new 5th generation Forme has already been extrapolated:
Above: Exclusive Famitsu scan of Arceus’s UberAstral Forme
But the real question is, is the new stuff good? Does it warrant another purchase? The main attraction is of course the extra obtainable Pokemon, most notably both Dialga and Palkia and the three legendary birds, Articuno, Zapdos and Moltres. There are a number of event-only unlockables as well, like Giratina’s Origin Forme, Shaymin’s Sky Forme, the three Regis (Regirock, Registeel and Regice) and Rotom’s five electrical appliance forms. For the Pokemon completionist, the new forms are enough to make Platinum a must-have.
Aside from the obtainable Pokemon, the biggest notable addition is also the most disappointing – the new Wi-Fi Plaza, featuring three completely mindless minigames. Take your pick among Swalot Plop (flick berries into a rotating Swalot’s mouth using the stylus), Mime Jr Top (rotate a large ball so that Mime Jr doesn’t fall off as he walks around) and Wobbuffet Pop (inflate and pop balloons). Each game supports up to four random players from around the world, but none will hold your interest for long – they’re all about as basic and as casual as it gets and don’t really seem to fit in to the general scheme of a Pokemon game at all.
Above: If we wanted to play stylus scribbling games we would have bought Pokemon Ranger
On the other end of the spectrum, the other major addition is the Battle Frontier, which combines the old Battle Tower from Diamond and Pearl and adds four additional areas each with their own battle parameters. This is the upgrade that hardcore battle champions will appreciate the most, because it’s the closest you’ll get to an actual battle challenge outside of battling with your other hardcore friends or entering a tournament.
Don’t get us wrong, we love the core gameplay of the main series of Pokemon games and don’t want to see it drastically change. We like the backwards compatibility with FireRed and LeafGreen, and we hope that sort of legacy continues into the 5th generation of Pokemon games. Still, in more than 10 years and four generations of Pokemon (12 games total, 14 if you count LeafGreen and FireRed), we would have expected more growth from the series than we do today with Platinum. Here are just a few of the things we wish would have happened by now:
Better Pokemon storage system – When there were a mere 151 Pokemon in the good old days of Red/Blue/Yellow, the rudimentary PC boxes worked just fine for storing your catches. As our Pokedexes expanded several times over in subsequent generations, the storage system for captured Pokemon unfortunately did not keep pace. In fact it hasn’t really changed at all.
Above: Psst... put the Pokemon in here, please! If a Wailord can fit into a Poke Ball, surely all your Poke Balls can fit into a Pokedex
Collecting Pokemon has always been a cornerstone of the franchise, but for fans who really want to catch ‘em all, the 540 available slots in your PC’s 18 boxes are not nearly enough for the 493 available Pokemon, especially if you’re collecting variants like the pink and blue Gastrodons, Wormadams, all 28 Unowns, event-only Pokemon, Shinies, etc. To make matters worse, the PC system offers little in the way of organization, so collectors can easily waste hours shuffling Pokemon around in different ways. Why not integrate Pokemon storage with the Pokedex itself? You’d be able to look up captured Pokemon via various parameters like species, type, gender etc, and access Pokemon you’ve captured via their Pokedex pages. It’s a simple thing that would make life for serious collectors much easier.
More acknowledgment of the hardcore fanbase – Many of us spend tedious hours IV breeding to gain a competitive edge, so why not reward our toils by at least including an IV calculator Poketch app?
Above: IV breeding should be more transparent, but let's keep Shiny hunting a secret for the select few
And how about more in-game challenges that push the player to explore more of the game’s depth? Just playing through the single player game, you’d have no idea how much complexity lurks beneath the surface of Pokemon. Just like the news reporter in Solaceon Town who awards you with Poke Balls for showing him a specific Pokemon each day, it would be awesome if there were some structured challenges and rewards for fans who want to delve deeper into Pokemon’s endless possibilities.
The Battle Frontier does offer a general challenge, but we’re talking about specific battle, training or breeding related challenges that would push the player to expand their strategies. For example: use a STAB move effectively against the type it's weak to, use a particular status effect or weather condition to your advantage, breed a Pokemon with a specific advantageous nature, and so forth. This would allow solo players to enjoy more of what Pokemon has to offer without forcing them to sift through various fan sites and message boards on the internet.
Rerelease with all four regions accessible – Nintendo loves repackaging the old as new, so why not put out a super Pokemon compilation with all of the previous regions (Kanto, Johto, Hoenn and Sinnoh) available on one game? ‘Nuff said.
Pokemon Mystery Dungeon? Yes! There is no comparison between the main series of Pokemon games (Red/Blue, Gold/Silver, Ruby/Sapphire, Diamond/Pearl) and the numerous Pokemon spin-off games (Ranger, Mystery Dungeon, Battle Revolution etc). A note to any parents reading this: If your kid asks you for Pokemon Platinum, DO NOT under any circumstances think you can substitute any other Pokemon game instead. If you get your kid Pokemon Ranger 2 when he asked for Platinum, you are literally setting your child on a path to lifelong failure. If he already has Diamond/Pearl/Platinum and just wants to play Ranger out of morbid curiousity, that’s fine.
Spectrobes: Beyond the Portals? Platinum is far and away superior to Spectrobes, although Pokemon could learn a few lessons from Spectrobes' online community features. Spectrobes players have access to a wide range of online community features, like leaderboards and player profiles with various awards and badges to earn.
Pokemon Diamond / Pearl? Yes, but only marginally. If you don’t have Diamond or Pearl, get Platinum. For everyone who already has either Diamond or Pearl, it’s not worth upgrading to Platinum unless you’re a hardcore Pokefan.
In a vacuum void of Pokemon franchise history, Pokemon Platinum would easily score a 10 – its depth and replayability are completely unrivaled among any other game series. However, after more than 10 years, we really expect more from the series at this point. Except for the most shallow of casual players, added minigames do not even remotely constitute an improvement. For fans though, it’s nearly impossible to resist playing through again, and the new Formes are unfortunately just enough to give us the PokeFever all over again.
Mar 23, 2009