Pokemon Platinum – Staff Review

It’s as predictable as the incoming tide; whenever there is a Pokemon game in the main series with two versions, there will inevitably be a third version. A remix of sorts which takes elements of Pokemon Diamond and Pearl and combines them to create a more completely fleshed-out game, Pokemon Platinum feels less radical than Pokemon Emerald and Yellow before it, but a lot of that is due to the restrictions the game itself places on its most outlandish and unusual features. On the whole, Pokemon Platinum is a solid title, and does a number of things which are unexpected for a Pokemon game, but it hardly qualifies as an essential purchase for anyone beyond the dedicated Pokemon fan.

One of the most unusual aspects of the game lies in the way the characters develop. The story itself is fairly predictable – the player takes control of a young Pokemon Trainer, and travels all over the continent challenging Gyms in order to become the Champion, making sure to thwart the ambitions of a crime syndicate or two along the way. Platinum‘s story doesn’t deviate from this formula to any great degree, but there are a few places where it does reach for something greater.

You can catch both Palkia and Dialga in this version, to the joy of obsessive trainers everywhere.
You can catch both Palkia and Dialga in this version, to the joy of obsessive trainers everywhere.

For a start, the degree to which the story talks about mythology and the role Pokemon played in the creation of the world is quite odd, and adds a tinge of religious implication to the story, something Pokemon had hitherto treated like an unexploded bomb. The way Platinum develops its antagonist is also unusual. In most cases, there are no true villains in Pokemon games, only misguided Trainers and criminals who don’t really understand what they’re doing. However, Cyrus, the leader of the generally incompetant crime syndicate Team Galactic, is not only cold, calculating, and apathetic towards his victims, he even manages a few acts of genuine evil before being defeated. On the whole, Pokemon Platinum‘s story isn’t hugely different from what we’ve seen in previous Pokemon games, but the new additions it has received give it greater depth and a bit of an unusual flavor.

By this point, most people are familiar with the combat system Pokemon sports. One-on-one or two-on-two battles, turn based with the highest Speed stat going first, et cetera. The usual Paper-Rock-Scissors elemental setup of Pokemon is enhanced somewhat by the inclusion of an expanded roster of Pokemon for your initial adventure. The game adds in sixty-some Pokemon from previous games that weren’t available in Diamond and Pearl until the postgame, giving players a lot more freedom in the teams they build. These additional Pokemon are extremely welcome and help to address a slight but noticeable balance issue that was present in D/P. For example, despite having a member of the Elite Four dedicated to the Fire-type, there were only two Fire-type Pokemon available in the game. Platinum, however, has no less than five.

Most of the game’s new content, as with most third-game spinoffs, is to be found in the postgame. After saving the world from the machinations of Team Galactic and defeating the Elite Four, the player is granted access to the Battle Frontier, a series of challenges not unlike its namesake in Pokemon Emerald. The Frontier includes battles with randomly generated Pokemon and a more traditional elimination-style tournament, among other, more varied arenas. While these battles do provide for some interesting challenges, the fact that the prizes players can win are nearly identical to the ones available in the Battle Tower of Pokemon D/P makes it a less than stunning addition to the game.

Competitive Pokemon players, however, are most likely going to find the game’s Move Tutors much more interesting. The expanded list of available moves makes certain Pokemon much, much more viable. For example, up until recently, Honchkrow had serious trouble dealing with Steel-type Pokemon. However, with the introduction of Move Tutors, the gangster bird now has both Fire and Fighting-type attacks, which allows him to take on Steel Pokemon quite easily.

Another big draw of Pokemon Platinum that was hyped up before the game’s release was the inclusion of new forms, or as it has been officially coined, Formes, for Pokemon; different shapes for certain critters, which would allow them greater power or new moves under certain circumstances. For example, Giratina’s new form, perhaps the most hyped of all, only appears when the ghost dragon is given a special item to hold, called the Griseous Orb. And unfortunately, Giratina’s new form is the only one available to players who simply follow the in-game plot. Of the other new forms available in Platinum, Shaymin’s is restricted to only those received from a specific Toys-R-Us event, while the item that unlocks Rotom’s new forms has yet to be distributed. Between these conditions and the fact that they’re all restricted to DS local wireless only, and only if both players are using Platinum, one begins to wonder just what the point of this mechanic was supposed to be.

For the most part, the various menus and methods of input D/P had to offer are reproduced in Platinum with only superficial alteration. Game menus are still reasonably well-organized, though they do still move a bit slowly. The developers did see fit to fix one problem that had garnered a great deal of player dissatisfaction, however – Surfing speed. Players now move much more quickly over water, a definite blessing given how dull it can be at times.

Perhaps the most major change to the interface is the inclusion of the Battle Recorder. The Recorder is a fun, if not terribly useful item, which allows players to record specific battles. The scope of combat that can actually be saved is a bit smaller than I personally would have liked; players can only record battles that take place in the Battle Frontier or between players. Thankfully, the game doesn’t fuss about recording player vs. player battles the way it does with Formes; you can record battles played over Nintendo WiFi or DS local wireless with no restrictions. The whole system is fairly intuitive, but what really makes it noteworthy is the ability players have to upload their recordings to a Nintendo server, where anyone can look at them. Each recording is given a reference number, allowing players to share their battles the same way they already share Friend Codes. While the Battle Recorder doesn’t have any real effect on the game mechanics, storyline, or any other intrinsic part of the game, it’s such a thoughtful little feature that it’s hard not to like.

The Distortion World is probably the most impressive area in a Pokemon game to date.
The Distortion World is probably the most impressive area in a Pokemon game to date.

Of the whole package, Pokemon Platinum‘s sound is perhaps the area that has changed the least. Though there isn’t much in the way of new content to talk about where the sound is concerned, it is still of fairly high quality, and certainly represents a major leap over the quality of music presented by the GBA Pokemon games. Sound effects likewise have improved over the last generation of games, but as always, the retention of the original Pokemon cries is still a jarring and uncomfortable addition. Pokemon who appeared in the original Pokemon Red and Blue titles sound like so many mechanical monsters next to the more natural-sounding critters original to this title.

Although they don’t quite live up to the hype, Pokemon Platinum‘s visuals are a reasonable shift from Diamond and Pearl. While the game was in development, we heard a lot about the new, snow-covered Sinnoh, the arrival of Giratina being blamed for a drop in the temperature. However, there really isn’t a huge amount of snow to be seen in the game. Most areas have received some slight embellishment, and some of the later areas in the game have been completely worked over, all of which gives the game a bit of a fresher feeling than might otherwise have been expected. On the whole, Platinum‘s visuals aren’t mind-blowing, but they are quite solid, and even improved a bit over D/P.

Due to the inclusion of a wide variety of new Pokemon for the initial adventure, Pokemon Platinum is actually a little easier than Diamond and Pearl, especially if you know where to find some of the more powerful critters. The game still takes around forty-five to fifty hours to complete, however, making it one of the longer Pokemon games.

In the end, Pokemon Platinum stumbles in a number of places and succeeds in others, but the fact that it’s a remake of the last major game in the series is what really weighs it down. The new Formes, Battle Recorder, and expanded plotline are quite nice, but it’s all a bit like being given your grandfather’s tricycle when you’ve been looking for a new motorcycle. All very nice and good and probably very sentimental, but we were really hoping for something new. Still, Platinum does manage a few surprises in places, and is at least as good a game as Diamond and Pearl, but it’s probably not going to appeal to many people beyond the series’ base.

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