The Pokemon Company is really dedicated to becoming the tourism board for the Sinnoh region. Because not only are we going back to Sinnoh's origins with Pokemon Legends: Arceus in January, we're also taking a modern-day trip to Sinnoh with Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl this November – giving trainers more opportunities than ever before to explore the Gen 4 Pokemon locale, all in the space of a couple of months. Now, while this latter duo of titles might be remakes, a hands-off preview session got me additionally excited to be returning once more, as a new feature known as the Grand Underground is really bringing the games into the modern era.
Anyone who played the original games will know that there was an area called the Underground in there from the start. Functionally, The Grand Underground in Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl is the same. It's a huge maze of underground tunnels that runs the entirety of the Sinnoh map, accessible to warp down to at any time once you've received the Explorer Kit. Within this maze, you'll find shimmering spots on the wall, and interacting with them triggers a brilliant little mining mini-game that for me personally is painfully nostalgic. You tap away with a little hammer or mallet to unearth various secrets in a stony game of buckeroo, making careful movements to get as much swag as you can before the wall collapses. The prizes on offer range from evolution stones and battle items, to special boxes that contain Pokemon statues.
All of these elements are the same for Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, so at this point, you might think I've lost the plot a bit. But, bear with me. These statues, like before, can be placed in your Secret Base, which are little dens you can also find in the Underground and make your own. But, unlike in the original games, these statues now have associated perks attached to them that affect which Pokemon appear in the new Hideaways that you'll also find in the Grand Underground. And this is where the real lure lies.
These Hideaways will appear as question mark blocks on your Grand Underground map, and these zones basically function as denser, more compact versions of Pokemon Sword and Shield's Wild Area. While the core Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl Pokemon catching experience will remain the same as the original game, here in the Hideaways, Pokemon will be visible in the overworld for you to catch and collect.
What's interesting, though, is that each Hideaway's terrain will be affected by whatever area of the Sinnoh map lies above it. So when you're heading toward the volcanic Mt. Coronet for example, you'll be able to find more fire Pokemon in the Hideaway beneath. And for Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, this means a major change in the availability of Pokemon, mixing up the traditional regions and areas for each of the Pokedex members from what players of the original will remember.
There's also an additional layer of strategy and discovery with these Hideaways too, thanks to the statues you'll find when mining. The Pokemon Company teases that the statues that you have on display in your Secret Base will impact the Pokemon that then appear in Hideaways, suggesting that certain Pokemon may only appear when a specific statue is in play. I can't wait to start figuring out the best combos of statues to start finding rare Pokemon in these Hideaways. Plus, everything on offer in the Grand Underground can be experienced with friends via online and local multiplayer too.
Of course, there are plenty more new features coming to Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, from small but important things like the option to have a Pokemon from your party follow you as you walk to the quite major changes coming with the game's Super Contests. Although I will say, I'm still not wholly convinced about the art style of these remakes. But the chibi-esque nature of the characters when moving around does contrast nicely with the character designs in battle, which are much more akin to Pokemon Sword and Shield in terms of style and quality. So there's still time for it to grow on me overall.
But for me it's the Grand Underground that has me most excited. These labyrinthian mazes might be based on the original concept, but the execution is brand new and adds such a sense of freshness to these 15-year-old stories. I'm looking forward to diving in. Or should that be down?
Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl is out on Nintendo Switch on November 19.