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A Retrospective Look at ‘Pokémon Diamond/Pearl’ 10 Years After Their Release

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Diamonds and Pearls

Booting up my now-10-year-old copy of Pokémon Diamond, I was greeted by my old party of loveable creatures, including a level 22 Staravia nicknamed ‘Oop’, a level 19 Onix nicknamed ‘Snakelord’ and a level 10 Psyduck, all sitting alongside my starter, now a level 27 Monferno. At this point, I questioned my nicknaming abilities as well as my criteria for which wild Pokémon I caught and trained. Was I trying to make this Psyduck an integral part of my team? Why is there a Shinx that I’d leveled up to level 14? Had I caught this Ponyta because I thought it looked cool? These questions are some that only a younger version of myself could answer. Sitting with two gym badges, it was clear I’d reset my game at some point, as I distinctly remember beating Pokémon Diamond in the past. 10 years after the fourth generation of Pokémon games were released in North America, it’s worth taking a look back at Pokémon Diamond/Pearl and how they hold up against the rest of the franchise.

Gym Badges

Instinctively using the stylus to wipe clean the accrued gym badges, I’m instantly reminded of one of the minor pleasures of the game – the touch screen interactivity. Nothing too bold or out-of-place, the introduction of the Pokétch (which I’m still uncertain how to pronounce) allowed for small apps to be installed and consequently displayed on the touch screen for you to interact with as you went about your adventure. These included useful ones (such as a way to see your entire party’s status and health) and less-useful ones (such as a calculator and a pedometer). It was a shame to see Nintendo DS games fail to utilize the touch screen, much like it was a shame to see Wii U games fail to utilize the GamePad. Conversely, it’s a shame to see them overused just for the sake of it, like the Murphy segments in the Wii U version of Rayman Origins. This is why additions like the Pokétch in Pokémon Diamond/Pearl felt very nice and convenient. They’re not pushing you to use the touchscreen, but it’s a slight nod that it’s there and can be useful – it should be there to compliment the gameplay, not override or detract from it.

Looking through some of the items located in my bag, I stumble across the Explorer Kit. Suddenly, this game takes me on a nostalgia trip. I use it, teleporting (or, I suppose, digging) myself down into the underground. I flashback to a younger me connecting wirelessly to my cousins’ DS systems and us all laying traps, building bases and digging for spheres with one another. The memories had down here are priceless, and these games really helped show the world what the DS was all about. No more link cables. Between Pokémon, Mario Kart, and even the simple Pictochat, wirelessly playing with your friends was the future, and it was here. You could trade and battle Pokémon wirelessly for the first time ever, and this truly was a breakthrough. The benefits obviously being the lack of an inconvenient cable to connect devices, connecting with your friends felt spontaneous and flawless. You didn’t need to think about battling and the consequent link cable peripheral present in the first three generations of Pokémon games, you just both agreed that you wanted to battle and that was that, you were.

With all the new features introduced, it would be a crime not to comment on the graphics. Personally, Pokémon Diamond/Pearl had the best graphics in the series. They feel old-school enough to let you know it’s a Pokémon game but new enough to make the environment and the worlds look vibrant and interesting. Buildings appeared 3D, and the beautiful rendering of certain landmarks (such as the windmill) really did give the games depth – something they’d lacked until this point. The UI and battle animations were simple yet engaging. It was a perfect balance and a perfect step in the right direction for the Pokémon franchise. While newer games certainly upgraded the appearance and animations of the Pokémon games, I’d hesitantly say they ‘changed’ them, rather than ‘upgrading’ them. ‘Pokémon Diamond’s graphics, to me, feel the most polished while still maintaining that original Pokémon vibe.

The audio, while nostalgic, cannot be heralded in the same way the aforementioned features can. The music twinkles and blares with a mixture of wonder, excitement, and bombast; however, it largely remains similar to what Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire had to offer. Much like the rest of the games in the franchise, however, the Pokémon battle music is incredibly important, as you’ll be spending a good majority of your time in a battle of some kind (the trainer battle music being a personal favorite of mine). Thankfully for Pokémon Diamond/Pearl, they nail all of the battle themes. None get tiresome and repetitive, although I wish it could be said for the Pokémon you encounter – the cliché “annoying Pokémon you keep finding near the beginning of the game over and over again” was in full force here, with the Shinx and Bidoofs (Bidooves?) feeling particularly annoying.

Do Diamond and Pearl still hold up today? Unquestionably. They were (and still are) fantastic additions to the Pokémon franchise, which took the foundations of the three previous generations and improved what they had already laid out. By making use of the Nintendo DS’s new capabilities such as wireless connectivity and touch screen implementation, they add onto (while not overriding) the core of Pokémon and the classic gameplay formula we’ve all came to know and love while giving the game atmosphere never seen before. One of my favorite parts of Diamond/Pearl was the sense of mystery. Maybe it was an age thing, as I was a few years older than I was when I played Pokémon Ruby (the previous generation), but Diamond was able to capture my childlike wonder and hook me with its mysteries. From the creepy Drifloon that appeared at the windmill to the Rotom in the Old Chateau, the game was certainly a milestone in successfully creating a sense of atmosphere that could not be achieved in past iterations, going back to the ‘depth’ as mentioned earlier.

Personally, if I could only play one version of Pokémon for the rest of my life, I’d likely pick Diamond/Pearl. To me, it is the definitive Pokémon game that still holds up wonderfully even to this day. What are your thoughts on Pokémon Diamond/Pearl? Are they your favorites in the franchise? Let us know!

Someone in his early-20s who has a passion for gaming, writing and unpopular opinions (all three tend to go together sometimes). Having played video games since I was 4 years old, I also create music and edit videos in my spare time. I have a soft spot for puzzle games, simulation games, and platform games as well as retro soundtracks and pixel art.

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1 Comment

  1. James Baker

    April 23, 2017 at 10:48 am

    I disagree with Gen. 4 being the definitive Pokémon game. When I look back through all seven generations, Gen. 2 was the most groundbreaking. Gen. 2 flowed from Gen. 1 with such grace, and yet was so radically different at the same time. It was the starter Pokémon and the animé that stood out most for Gen. 4 for me. Unfortunately, the animé hit a high in Gen. 6 and has since declined this season.

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Games

PAX Online: ‘Unpacking’ and ‘Infernax’

Our PAX Online coverage continues with a game the calm and relaxing Unpacking and the not-so calm and relaxing Infernax.

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Unpacking and Infernax

Our PAX Online coverage continues with a game that takes a hated activity and somehow makes it relaxing and another game that will leave you clenching your buttocks.

Unpacking

Unpacking game

Platforms: PC
Release: 2021

As someone who is coming fresh off of moving just a little over a month ago, you couldn’t have blamed me for being a little skeptical going into what was dubbed a “zen puzzle” game based on the final stretch of the process. Unpacking is just that, though. It’s a calming, almost therapeutic exercise that happened to serve as a wonderful way for me to unwind at the end of a day.

Unpacking is exactly what it says on the tin. There are no scores, no timers, no leaderboards, just you, and a few boxes with various items in them that need to be placed somewhere. The demo starts with a single bedroom in 1997. There’s nothing in the game that tells you where something should go, only your own taste and intuition; a locked diary would probably go in a desk-drawer while a soccer trophy would probably be displayed on a shelf.

As I slowly unearthed items one-by-one, I gradually got a feel for what the room’s new inhabitant was most likely like. The endless supply of stuffed animals implied someone of younger age while the numerous art supplies indicated someone inclined to right brain thinking. It’s rather engaging to learn about this person’s life purely by their belongings.

Every item taken out was like a delightful surprise and would sometimes even make me feel a little sentimental such as when I took out a small device that was clearly a Tamagotchi. More importantly, Unpacking nails that sinking feeling of when you feel like you’ve used all your available space but still have boxes left. Reaching the point of just throwing stuff wherever it fits is such an immediately relatable feeling that I was almost offended. And that was only for a single bedroom!

Unpacking game

The demo’s second stage was a little more involved with a bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen in the year of 2004. The hilarious moments of finding a boot in your kitchenware box or a bra with your toiletries also felt like a call-out to my own hodge-podge packing methods. It’s something I can’t help but let out an exasperated chuckle at.

It was also neat to see how this person has grown since their earlier abode. Much fewer stuffed animals but more art supplies and a brand new computer imply this character is maybe entering the working adult world. I’ve never actually seen this character, but I can’t help but feel a connection to them already, and that was only after two moves. The full game will have eight total moves to follow them through and I am genuinely curious to see how our nameless and faceless protagonist grows throughout them.

Now if only unpacking in real life could be this soothing.

Infernax

Infernax

Platforms: PC
Release: TBA

Some players may recognize Berzerk Studio for their excellent 2018 bullet-hell, rhythm game Just Shapes & Beats. Coming hot of the heels of that hit they immediately pivoted in the new direction with Infernax, a delightfully edgy 8-bit adventure platformer that takes cues from old-school Castlevania titles.

Our hero returns to his land after a successful crusade only to find it overrun by horrible monstrosities in every which direction. With nothing but mace in hand, he sets out on a quest anew to rid the land of the undead filth. Immediately apparent upon starting is just how tightly the game controls; anyone fond of earlier NES titles will feel right at home with Infernax. I quickly got a handle on my exact attack reach down to the pixel and began mowing down the zombies in front of me. It emphasized how much joy a game is possible of eliciting from simply a jump and attack button.

Getting to that proficiency is important too because the game doesn’t waste any time in taking off the training wheels! Even the base enemies shaved off half my HP if I got careless and that difficulty ramped up at a rapid rate as new enemy types were introduced at a decent clip such as flying evil eyes and jumping rodents. Not only do these foes burst into tasty experience points and gold to be spent on upgrades, but also into extremely satisfying fountains of blood.

Infernax isn’t particularly shy about turning up the gore factor, but it’s still impressive by just how creative they get with it using simple pixel art. Nowhere is this more apparent than when you are killed. Every single enemy type has a unique kill animation when they deal the final blow to our hero. From the chump ass pillbugs to the big bad bosses, all of them mutilate you in a different way and it’s honestly morbidly mesmerizing to witness. It made me want to suicide against every enemy I came across just so I could see what creative way they took my life.

Infernax

Depending on your playstyle you might not want to do this, though, as Infernax features two different ways to respawn when you die. Hardcore respawn sends you all the way back to your last save point, just like in those classic NES titles. Casual respawn lets you restart right where you left off with no loss in progress, but choosing to do so locks you out from Hardcore the rest of the game. It’s a sort of mark of shame that I was glad to wear during the demo after I came up against the final boss and promptly got my ass handed to me. It sounds a little cheeky on paper but is actually very consistent with the game’s overtly edgy tone.

Infernax feels like a game that was lost to time during the NES era and is just now being rediscovered. Those looking for for a game that harkens back to the simplicity of the olden days need not look any further.

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Games

Indie Games Spotlight – Going Full Circle

We’re featuring five exciting indie games in our latest spotlight, including the internship roguelike Going Under and the cozy puzzles of Lonesome Village.

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Journey of the Broken Circle

Indie Games Spotlight is Goomba Stomp’s biweekly column where we highlight some of the most exciting new and upcoming independent games. Summer may have come to a close, but that hasn’t stopped big announcements from rolling in. With events like PAX Online and the recent PlayStation 5 Showcase flooding the web with announcements, trailers, and gameplay footage, there’s been a constant deluge of news to keep up with. With so much coming on the horizon, we’re spotlighting five exciting indies that you’ll be able to play sooner rather than later. Whether you’re in the mood for a brutally addictive action game or a cozy adventure and social sim, there’s bound to be a game that speaks to you in this spotlight.

Moving Up Professionally in Going Under

Work is its own payment in Going Under. In this action game from developer Aggro Crab, you’re put in the shoes of an unpaid intern who must explore the endless ruins of failed tech startups while fighting off the monsters that spawn within them. It’s hard work to do without a single paycheck—but hey, at least you’re gaining valuable experience!

As a former unpaid intern myself, the writing in Going Under certainly resonates with me and it’s sure to strike a chord with anyone who’s ever felt underappreciated or overworked. Its vibrant and colorful 3D graphics, as well as its satirical story, only make it all the more enticing. It really should offer a great working experience when it hits all consoles and PC via Steam on September 24.

Animated GIF

Fill in the Gaps in Journey of the Broken Circle

Something’s missing in Journey of the Broken Circle. Like its name would suggest, this puzzle platformer follows a Pacman-like circle with a hole to fill. It wanders through a world that is whimsical and existential at once, searching for a companion to fill its gaps. As the circle rolls through ethereal environments, it encounters different shapes to use that allow for new gameplay mechanics.

Journey of the Broken Circle might be about an abstract shape, but in its quest to become whole, it strives to capture the human experience. It promises to be an intimate experience that clocks in at about five hours to complete. If you’re interested in getting this ball rolling, it’s already available now on Switch and Steam.

Prepare to Get GORSD

There’s a delicate balance between unsettling the player without being outright scary. GORSD treads the line here as a one-hit-kill shooter that stars humans encased in the skins of octopuses, dragons with human faces, and nightmarish environments. Something feels off about GORSD, but that’s exactly what makes it so interesting.

Brought to life with detailed pixel art, GORSD supports up to four players who can face off in chaotic matches in varied arenas. It also features a full-fledged single-player campaign with a vast overworld with dozens of unique stages. Its concept is inspired by its developers’ native Southeast Asian cultures, making for a unique gameplay and aesthetic experience. If you’re ready to dive in and see it for yourself, it’s available now on all consoles and PC via Steam.

Get Ready For a Foregone Conclusion

Saying Foregone is a 2D Dark Souls would be cliché, but accurate nonetheless. It’s a hardcore action game where you’ll fight against insurmountable odds to prevent monsters from overrunning the world. It has a brutally addictive gameplay loop—its difficulty may be excruciating, but because it offers a wide assortment of abilities to leverage, it’s immensely euphoric once you overcome the challenges before you.

This beautiful 3D/pixelated hybrid action game has been available on PC in early access since February, but at long last, it’s seeing its full console release in October. It’s been a promising title ever since its pre-release days, and now that it’s finally seeing its complete iteration, there’s never been a better time to dive in and give it a shot. It’s hitting all platforms on October 5, so there’s not long to wait!

Finding Good Company in a Lonesome Village

Mix Zelda with Animal Crossing and you might get something like Lonesome Village. This newly-revealed puzzle adventure game features Zelda-like adventure in a hand-drawn world populated by animal characters. Players control a wandering coyote who stumbles upon a strange village and decides to investigate its mysterious happenings by interacting with villagers, solving puzzles, and exploring its dungeons.

It’s more than a simple adventure game. In addition to puzzle-solving, you’ll interact with Lonesome Village’s eclectic cast of characters to forge relationships and unravel brooding mysteries. It’s showing plenty of potential with its cozy gameplay loop, and if you want to give it a shot, check out its official demo from its Kickstarter page! It’s already been fully funded in less than 24 hours, but if you want to help the developers out even further, consider contributing to their campaign.

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PAX Online: ‘Inkulinati’ and ‘Pumpkin Jack’

The PAX Online celebrations continue with the strategy game, Inkulinati, and spooky Halloween themed Pumpkin Jack.

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Inkulinati and Pumpkin Jack

The PAX Online celebrations continue with a strategy game whose tales are writ in ink and a game sure to put you in an early Halloween mood.

Inkulinati

Inkulinati

Platforms: Switch and Steam
Release: 2021

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Competitive strategy games stress me out. Chess? Stresses me out. Checkers? Stresses me out. Star Craft? Stresses me out. Managing that stress as a form of stimulation is what makes the best strategy games shine, though, and Inkulinati is so far demonstrating all the facets of such a game.

The titular Inkulinati are masters of a craft that brings their inked creatures to life on parchment, including a caricature of themselves. The two Inkulinati do written battle with each other until only one is left standing. The battles are carried out in a charming medieval art style that looks like it was taken straight out of a manuscript you’d find carefully stored in a library. These aren’t the masterpieces of Da Vinci or Van Gogh, but the kinds of scribbles you’d find the layman making on the edges of pages either out of boredom or mischievousness. The playful art makes for a playful tone and jolly times.

The core thrust of the gameplay is that each Inkulinati utilizes ink points to conjure units, or “creatures”, onto the parchment in a turn-based manner and sends them into the fray. There were a fair amount of creatures available in the demo — ranging from a simple swordsdog with well-rounded stats to a donkey capable of stunning foes with its trusty butt trumpet. Many many more creature types are promised in the full game, but I found even with the limited selection of the demo the gameplay was still able to be showcased well.

Your primary Inkulinati also has some tricks up its depending on the type you’ve chosen to take into battle. Instant damage to or healing a unit were the two shown off in the demo, as well as being able to shove units. Shoving is particularly useful as you can push enemies into the hellfires that encroach the battlefield as the battle wages on, instantly defeating them.

Doing battle with an opponent it all well and good, but what’s the point if it’s not immortalized for generations to experience down the line? Inkulimati understands this need and will record every single action of the battlefield in written word. It’s infinitely charming, and the amount of variations in how to say what amounts to just “X unit attacked Y enemy” is astonishing. How can you not chuckle at, “Powerful Morpheus killed the enemy and may those who failed to witness this live in constant pain and regret”?

Pumpkin Jack

Pumpkin Jack

Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and Steam
Release: Q4 2020

Halloween may be a little over a month away but that didn’t stop the 3D action platformer Pumpkin Jack getting me in the spookyween mood. The human realm is suffering from the Devil’s curse and have elected the aid of a wizarding champion to save them from it. Not to be outdone, the Devil also chooses his own champion to stop the wizard, choosing the despicable spirit Jack. With the tasty reward of being able to pass on from hell, Jack dons his pumpkin head and a wooden & straw body on his quest to keep the world ruined. The premise sounds slightly grim but make no mistake that this is a goofy game through and through, a fact only emphasized by a brilliant opening narration dripping with sarcasm and morbid glee.

The demo took us through Pumpkin Jack‘s first stage, a dilapidated farmland full of ambient lanterns abandoned storehouses. The visuals are compliments by a wonderfully corny soundtrack full of all the tubas, xylophones, and ghost whistles one would expect a title that is eternally in the Halloween mood.

We got the basics of traversal, like dodge rolling and double jumps, before coming upon a terrified murder of crows. Turns out their favorite field has been occupied by a dastardly living scarecrow and they want Jack to take care of it. One crow joins Jack on his quest, taking the form of a projectile attack that he can sic on enemies. Jack also obtains a shovel he can use to whack on the animated skeletons with a simple three-hit combo. There’s nothing particularly standout about the combat, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be this early on. More weapons such as a rifle and scythe are promised in the full game and should go a way towards developing the combat along with more enemy variety.

Pumpkin Jack

Collectible crow skulls also dot the map and seem to be cleverly hidden as even when I felt like I was carefully searching the whole stage I had only found 12 out of 20 by the end. Their purpose is unknown in the demo, so here’s hopping they amount to something making me want to find those last eight in the full version.

After accidentally lighting a barn ablaze and escaping in a dramatic sequence we came across the scarecrow in question. Defeating it was a rather simple affair that was just a matter of shooting it out of the air with the crow then wailing on it with Jack’s shovel. We were awarded a new glaive-type weapon as a reward but unable to give it a whirl in the demo, unfortunately. All-in-all, Pumpkin Jack shows promise as a follow-up to action 3D platformers of yore like Jak & Daxter, so here’s hoping to a solid haunting when it releases later this year.

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