Let’s get this out of the way now: if you own a DS (or a DSi) and you haven’t bought either Pokemon Diamond or Pokemon Pearl, then you need to go and buy Pokemon Platinum. Seriously, go now. You can read the rest of this later.
Are you back? Okay, good. You just purchased the definitive Pokemon game. Though you missed out on two excellent titles in Diamond and Pearl, Platinum has you covered by including the things that were exclusive to each of those together, along with its own new additions as well as some welcome upgrades and tweaks.
Mar. 22, 2009
We’ll start with the basics: Pokemon is the monster catching and collection game out there. It may come off as somewhat kiddy on occasion, due to the somewhat simple story and the presentation, but don’t let that deceive you, as it has a very deep battle system that requires lots of forward thinking and planning, as well as serious level grinding if you want to succeed. You are presented with three different Pokemon types at the outset of the game, each with their own elemental leaning and skill set-and the way you play the game is changed according to which one you pick.
If you picked up Diamond or Pearl already, picking a different Pokemon at the beginning may help to alleviate some of those feelings of dƒ©jƒ vu. But don’t worry, the game offers plenty of other things to make you feel like you’re playing something different. For one, Platinum introduces a few new characters to the story that are meant to give you more guidance than in Diamond or Pearl, which helps you cut down on needless wandering. Looker, an International Policeman, is one such character; he will help you infiltrate and thwart the schemes of Team Galactic, the group that is set on destroying the Sinnoh Region through the use of the powers of the Legendary Pokemon.
Still, even with more streamlined directions, the story is close to the same. Platinum has more features than that to make returning players want to jump on-board again though, with new areas to catch and train Pokemon like the Battle Frontier, which includes four towers that must be completed in different ways. There is also the Distortion World, where just one Pokemon, Giratina, resides. For completionists, Giratina is available in his Origin Forme here, and only here. If you have the Pokemon Shaymin from Diamond or Pearl, you can trade it to Platinum and evolve it using a special item as well.
The Distortion World is an area that utilizes the 3D engine of Pokemon Platinum in ways you don’t normally notice. There are no other Pokemon besides Giratina here, meaning you just have to focus on solving the puzzles and making your way out of this alternate dimension. It’s not particularly difficult since there are no battles to distract you, though it is neat to see a change to the Pokemon formula, and a more difficult puzzle setup than is normally seen in the Pokemon Gym’s on your way to defeat the leader’s for their badges. I like the concept more than the execution; if this kind of gameplay is added to future Pokemon titles and fleshed out a bit more, I could see myself loving it as a way to break up the constant battling/catching nature of the game.
The Wi-Fi Global Station has seen its share of improvements and tweaks as well. Now dubbed the Global Terminal, it’s essentially the hub of worldwide Pokemon trading. You can post Pokemon you would like to trade on the board (feels almost like the trading block in a sports franchise or a fantasy league, except with Pokemon) and browse other people’s trading blocks to see who is available to help you complete your collection. You can also record your favorite battles and post them to the Global Terminal using the new Vs. recorder; maybe you feel particularly proud of a strategy you used and want to show it off, or you want to learn from someone who has a bit more experience battling with Pokemon than you do.
The interface for online trading has also been given a reboot for the better. Whereas before it was a series of navigable menus, now you control your character in an empty room where you are notified of requests for trades, battles or voice chat sessions from players you have swapped friend codes with. I prefer this look to the basic setup of the previous titles, and it works fine with people who have Diamond or Pearl as well. If you already own a copy of either of those games, remember that you can trade your own Pokemon to Platinum to speed up your progress through the story-the more badges you collect, the higher the level of traded Pokemon you can carry around with you (Pokemon you have traded for may not always listen to you, once their level exceeds your qualifications as a trainer).
The Wi-Fi plaza also has mini-games for you and other Pokemon players worldwide to enjoy. It’s essentially an amusement park where you and three others can hang out and play mini-games with each other. You are loaned a Tap Top when you enter, which can be touched to make different light and sound effects. Trade this Tap Toy with others that are in the Wi-Fi plaza, or play some of those mini-games against them. I felt this section may be something that’s a bit more worthwhile to the younger crowd, as it was my least favorite of the additions and upgrades made to the online component of the title, but for that younger crowd it looks to be a value-add.
So what’s the verdict on Pokemon Platinum, the third entry in the main series for the DS? If you have not purchased Diamond or Pearl yet (and didn’t heed my advice at the beginning of this review) then you should go get it now. It’s the definitive edition of Pokemon, with the most features, all of the Legendary Pokemon from the DS titles, and plenty of wonderful little creatures to collect as well as near endless end-game replayability against friends, the Pokemon Championship League, and the Sinnoh regions 200+ Pokemon. If you have already plowed through Diamond or Pearl, then don’t dismiss Platinum outright. I will admit that I grumbled about trudging through the same story and world again, since I had already put plenty of hours into my copy of Diamond, but once I bought a few Poke Balls and felt that pull to catch and train the Pokemon I had, it didn’t matter that I had already played it. The fact that it’s a wonderful game with new features was enough to pull me back in, once again.