It's time for a new adventure in the world of Pokemon but this time, we're going back to 2006 with a remake of a Nintendo DS classic.
Pokémon Pearl was actually the first Pokemon game that I played. I absolutely loved the amount of freedom that it granted and there were a massive 210 Pokemon in the Sinnoh Pokedex alone. I had a goofy party with Torterra, Drifblim, Uxie, and I'm afraid I can't remember the rest of my party. Back in the day, my Drifblim reached level 85; a pretty high level but still some ways from 100. I was also lucky I had a friend in high school who had Diamond and I played Pokémon X for the 3DS as well which was a phenomenal game. I especially loved how you could catch all the Pokémon from every generation which was over 700 at the time. I also played Pokemon White which I bought used sometime after I played Pokemon X. As you can see, I played a lot of Pokémon in the DS and 3DS years which was a very different time and I haven't played any of the Nintendo Switch titles; until now, that is. v1d30chumz 3-235-176-80
When I started Pokemon Shining Pearl, I came into the game expecting a visually enhanced version of the original. A short time later, I chose my name, appearance, and my rival's name then you start out in your room, watching a TV program about the search for the red Gyarados. You then step away from the TV and there's a Nintendo Switch on the floor (in the original, there was a Wii); so far so good!
After walking downstairs, your mom tells you that your rival is looking for you. So, of course, you meet up with him and the 2 of you have a quick walk to the nearby lake where you pass by Professor Rowan and his assistant, Dawn or Lucas (depending on your own gender) but it looks like Dawn forgot Rowan's briefcase in the tall grass so you rush into the grass and you're ambushed by a Starly! You open the briefcase, choose your starter Pokemon (I chose Piplup because it's clearly the superior choice) then you easily crush the Starly and make your way to the nearby Sandgem Town so you can return the Pokémon to Rowan.
You might have noticed that everything that's happened so far occurred the exact same way as in the original Pokemon Pearl. I played the game all the way up to the Canalave City Gym, and I can indeed confirm that Pokemon Shining Pearl is extremely faithful to the original Pokémon Pearl. It's basically the same game but now, it's rendered in 3D and has a fresh coat of paint. The developers have also updated some of the systems so that they're more fun for a modern Pokémon game.
Pokemon Shining Pearl has a remastered soundtrack of songs from the original. Many of these tracks were instantly recognizable and it's a pleasure to listen to the same songs albeit re-imagined and orchestrated. My favorite is the one that plays on routes 209 and 212 and I think you will be pleasantly surprised, too.
Berry farming is a feature and it doesn't work in quite the same way as it did in Sword and Shield. You'll find berry patches in the world where you can initially gather a few berries. After they're gone, you can plant berries in the empty berry patches but don't forget to water them! You find the watering can in Floaroma Town and you can quickly check where harvest points are by opening the map.
HMs also work a little differently. All of the HMs can be used from your Poketch app and you no longer have to have a Pokemon in your party who knows that move. Instead, a wild Pokémon comes to help you, which makes little to no logical sense. You also no longer need to catch a Bidoof and teach it all the HMs so you don't ruin the move set of your other Pokemon. Back in the day, I taught Rock Smash to my starter Pokemon, Turtwig; it was terrible! HMs were permanent so I was stuck with it forever. It was serviceable as a fighting move but it did low damage and I wanted to have one of the many other good moves. Thankfully, Pokemon players no longer have to suffer.
Also making a return is the Poketch, a mobile device that you receive in Jubilife City. You slowly get more Poketch apps during your adventures like the time app and the dowsing machine. It's a little weird that they managed to recreate the Nintendo DS's second screen through the goofy Poketch app but it's also comforting that you can play your entire adventure while also looking at the time in the corner alongside a pixelated Pikachu that looks exactly the same as it did in the original Pearl.
Super contests were not my favourite when I played Pearl back in high school so I'm not sure how the mechanics have translated to Pokemon Shining Pearl. There are 5 types of shows: coolness, beauty, cuteness, cleverness, and toughness. Different Pokemon excel in different types of shows and each Pokémon has a unique set of stats that are unique for fashion contests. All of my Pokemon seem to have the lowest amount in all these stats so I'm not sure what's going on there. There are also 3 evaluations that add up to your score at the end of the show: Visual, Dance, and Move so let's explore what those entail:
- Visual evaluation is increased by customising your Pokemon's Poke-ball with stickers and feeding your Pokémon Poffins.
- Dance evaluation is increased by doing well during the dance segment which is a rhythm mini-game.
- Move evaluation is increased by using a Contest Move which is a single-use move used during the dance segment. You can also use your Contest Move after your competitors use theirs for even more points.
In the original Pearl, super contests had a dress-up competition, a dance competition, and an acting competition. The dress-up and acting competitions have been removed, leaving only the dance competition. Perhaps some super contest fans will be sad but I couldn't care less. To make things simple, I customised a Poke-ball with the maximum amount of stickers. I just used whatever stickers I had so will I get a high Visual evaluation by using completely random stickers? The answer to that question is... no. It seems like you have to have at least some semblance of fashion sense. 😅
Poffins (Pokemon... muffins?) are one way to increase your Visual evaluation. To create them, you'll need berries. I hope you've been picking and planting lots of them! I tried making some Poffins a few times but every time, it just turned into a fowl Poffin. Nowhere does Pokemon Shining Pearl teach you the complicated mechanics that go into creating Poffins. I know that you can't use 2 of the same berry or you'll receive a fowl Poffin every time. The ingredient berries have scores in spicy, sour, bitter, sweet, and dry. The scores are somehow tallied up and that is how it's decided what kind of Poffin you'll receive in the end. 🧁
You can also go spelunking in the Grand Underground; a huge network of caverns that span all the way across the Sinnoh region. Located sparsely within the Grand Underground, you'll find Pokémon Hideaways which are not in the original Pearl as they are completely unique to this Pokemon Shining Pearl version. Within hideaways, Pokemon roam around in the open; not in the tall grass. They will chase you if you get near but the Pokémon are pretty easy to avoid if you want to skip encounters. Half the fun of the Grand Underground is just having a large space to explore and find unique Pokemon that can only be found there.
Additionally, you can dig into the walls at some locations and mine for hidden treasure. All I found so far are a few coloured stones and a fancy Pokémon statue that I put into my secret base. Perhaps I'll find some different treasures if I looked a little longer. That leads to actually creating a secret base so talk to the Underground Man in Eterna City and he'll teach you how to do it. It's easy; dig at any location with the Digger Drill and you'll make your secret base right away. You can decorate it with statues, gain permanent effects that work even above ground, and you can even visit the secret bases of other players, too.
One aspect that might concern some players is the difficulty but it's okay that Pokemon Shining Pearl is an easy game because Pokémon has always been a series that does a few things extremely well:
- While slowly completing their Pokedex, players catch lots of Pokemon which are all extremely unique and instantly recognizable.
- It's a joy starting from humble beginnings to become the strongest trainer in the Sinnoh region.
- Each game in the series has different systems like fashion contests in Pearl or Pokemon-Amie in X and Y.
- Players are rewarded for exploring off the beaten path as well as talking to anyone and everyone.
- The series has always let players battle, trade, and do other activities either via Wi-Fi or local connections to nearby consoles.
Pokemon Shining Pearl is amazing for its slow-paced exploration so don't play it with the mindset that you're going to have a challenging experience or else you might come away disappointed. I encourage you to take your time as you explore the world of Sinnoh, catch some Pokemon, explore the Grand Underground, plant some berries, make some Poffins, try out some super contests, and visit the clothes shop in Veilstone City. Oh, and maybe trade and battle with your friends online, too.
If you're a Pokemon fan and haven't played the original Diamond, Pearl, or Platinum then you're missing out. The Sinnoh region is an absolute joy to explore and it's super-fun trying to catch as many Pokémon as you can. Plus, Pokemon Shining Pearl lets you use the Nintendo Switch's network features in a way that you might not have had the opportunity to with the original DS games.
- + Impressively faithful to the original version down to the smallest details
- + Genuinely fun side-activities
- + Great sense of adventure and exploration
- - Not enough new to entice old players
- - Too unchallenging for experienced trainers