Anyone who thought the Pokemon craze was dead has underestimated the little critters. The latest Pokemon game, in Diamond and Pearl versions, is the best-selling Pokemon game in both Japanese and U.S. history, selling more than a million copies in the first week of its American release alone. Diamond and Pearl are two slightly different versions of the same game, with different rates of appearance for different Pokemon, the main difference being which legendary Pokemon appears in the game.
Those unfamiliar with the concept will find it an addictive quest to uncover and capture all of the 100-plus different types of Pokemon, traveling all over the land to find new species and battling other Pokemon collectors through use of a player’s chosen Pokemon’s abilities. The most basic of role-playing game elements, stat raising and item collecting, are the core of this game, and those who’ve played a Pokemon RPG before will find everything very familiar. The touch screen on the Nintendo DS offers a quick way of choosing commands for Pokemon without having to scroll through menus during battles.
The Nintendo DS also offers a lot of Wi-Fi connectivity that was lacking in previous Game Boy incarnations, though setting up duels or direct trades over the Internet requires one to first have that person’s friend code, which is not easy to get through the game itself. The graphics and music are not much different than the Game Boy Advance version, which is a little disappointing, though players with a GBA version can eventually migrate their older Pokemon into Diamond or Pearl. Gameplay is strictly turn-based with full text descriptions for everything that happens, so it plays in a very traditional “Dragon Quest” or “Final Fantasy (I)” style.
There are new gameplay modes and Pokemon species, but at this point people know if they’re going to get the game or not. Those who never gave it a try, maybe just to counter the oversaturation of everything Pokemon not too long ago, will find it a solid RPG pared down to its most basic. It isn’t flashy and doesn’t have a compelling story, but it’s fun for on-the-go bouts of strategy without getting bogged down in complexities. After playing for a while, it should become clear why the series became so popular in the first place.