Pokémon Shining Pearl Review – STUCK IN THE PAST?

Ok so, in case you’re wondering why I’m only reviewing Pokémon Shining Pearl, it’s because my uncle at Nintendo wanted me to choose between this version or Brilliant Diamond. Then after many, many hours of fierce deliberating and several existential crises’ later, I got way too stressed out about which game to pick and finally just said
“Nup. You know what, Nintendo? Too much water. You guys decide.” And now we’re here.

Something Old, Something New

But where were we? Ahhh yes, Shining Pearl. The nostalgic 90’s handheld vibes are strong with this one. The remake’s dev team at ILCA have quote-unquote “faithfully reproduced” this game, and I can confirm with confidence that this statement is quite true. Right down to the old school, raised up camera angle and chibi character models that harken back to the glory days of the Nintendo DS.

Oh, the nostalgia!

But that doesn’t mean ILCA haven’t included any modern quality of life updates like autosaving either. One of the best changes in Pokémon Shining Pearl is that Hidden Moves no longer require players to stockpile the usual rock smash, cut, surf, fly and other abilities onto 2 dumpster truck party members (or HM slaves as OG fans call them). Instead, you just select the appropriate move from the Pokétch app and a wild Pokémon will appear to help out. Or, by pressing A in front of a breakable rock or another type of obstacle. It’s very reminiscent of Sun and Moon’s Poké Ride system.

There’s also a fair amount of UI and graphical inspiration taken from Pokémon Sword and Shield, making party and battle management much more streamlined.

There’s also a fair amount of UI and graphical inspiration taken from Pokémon Sword and Shield, making party and battle management much more streamlined. Not only can you swap Pokémon out of your PC box in the field, but you can also quickly lookup a short summary of each party member’s attributes, which saves a tonne of time in general. Plus, players can see a clear visual indicator of which moves are most effective against each Pokémon – arguably the best addition from Sword and Shield. I especially loved how the camera would dynamically swing around the slick battlefields and dramatically zoom in on Pokémon and the fully-modelled trainers for added intensity. I swear, if the announcer from Pokémom Stadium started going off like he did in the early 2000’s, my 5-year-old brain would’ve lost its mind.

Gunning Through Pokémon Shining Pearl With Ease

In regards to battles, the difficulty in Pokémon Shining Pearl is definitely on the easier side of things. The only people who’ll give you a legitimate run for your money are the gym leaders and the Elite Four. With everyone else, you can literally just mash A to death without actually looking at the screen. I know I did! Even when it comes to catching Pokémon, I think I caught nine or ten in a row simply by throwing a Pokéball when their HP was highlighted yellow. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t remember it being that easy.

Work that camera!

In a similar vein, while it is nice that XP Share is always on from the start of the journey, this means that your core party will very much be stacked throughout the course of Pokémon Shining Pearl. Well, as long as you don’t start intentionally avoiding combat. Oh yeah, did I mention that they’ve brought back random battles as well? Have fun!

The thing is, you can quite easily break the game here by picking up a higher-level Pokémon early on and then just completely ravage anyone who happens to stumble into your path.

Another revamped feature that can unwittingly add to this lack of difficulty is the Grand Underground. An expansion of the original Underground, where you can find unique Pokémon, mine for shards and interact with other players. The thing is, you can quite easily break the game here by picking up a higher-level Pokémon early on and then just completely ravage anyone who happens to stumble into your path. At least for the following 3-4 gym leaders… What do you mean “it’s not very effective”? I think not! That all being said, the Grand Underground does contain a fun network of tunnels to explore, with several different biomes to discover solo or with friends. And it’s the only area in the game where wild Pokémon are encountered on the map – thank goodness.

How Does The Presentation Hold Up in Pokémon Shining Pearl?

Now when it comes to the story, you already know what you’re getting yourself into. Go catch Pokémon. Stop Team Rocket (Galactic). Beat the elitist of the fourth-eth. Spoilers for a 20-year-old formula. It’s getting very tired at this point. I wonder if someone’s reading this article right now who’s never played a Pokémon game before. That would actually be amazing. Please let me know in the comments if that is you.

Oh no!

But in all seriousness, what does hold up a lot better is the music. I continually kept stopping to A&B between the original and remastered soundtracks throughout my play session, as I was genuinely impressed by its high level of quality. The Diamond and Pearl OST easily ranks in the upper echelons of Pokémon video game music and the remastered tunes just sound so full of life, it’s ridiculous. Even though the tracks are short, the melodies more than make up for this overall.

Decision

If you need a serving of classic Pokémon adventure pie, then this remake might be worth picking up – especially for younger players. It does run smoothly on the Switch in both modes and there are a bunch of quality of life enhancements from other entries in the series. But on the other side of the coin, it does suffer from a lack of innovation. Specifically in the random battles and generic story, and it definitely is a little too easy for most turn-based RPG fans. Although, at the end of the day, both Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are still solid entries in the mainline video game series.

By Anthony Culinas

Good

Pokémon Shining Pearl effortlessly captures the essence of the classic handheld titles. And while there is plenty of new content and Pokémon to discover, it can’t help but seem stuck in the past somewhat. Frequent random encounters, a bland story structure and a low level of difficulty can quickly drag down the experience.

This game was reviewed using a download code provided by Nintendo. The Beta Network uses affiliate partnerships, however, this does not influence reviews or any other content published. The Beta Network may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links that are on the website.

Tell us your thoughts....