The Pokémon franchise is currently in its ninth generation of games. Ever since it got started in 1996, the series has exploded in popularity, claiming fans and dedicated Pokémon trainers worldwide. This long history makes the question of which generation is best a hot topic amongst players, especially those who’ve been with the franchise for years upon years. Generally every fan has their own favorite; a lot of players are attached to the game that got them into the franchise, for instance. Others might favor the generation that introduced their favorite Pokémon. Still more might call a game their favorite due to the features it introduced to the series. While the core gameplay has remained largely the same over the years, every Pokémon game has introduced its own wrinkle to the formula. This is especially true of the fourth generation, and Pokémon Diamond & Pearl.
Pokémon Diamond & Pearl came out for the Nintendo DS in 2006, and they’ve earned considerable acclaim since. At launch, some critics called them the best and most well-rounded Pokémon games out there. While many titles have since come forward to compete for that title, Diamond & Pearl both stood out a lot when they first hit shelves. They remain some of the most successful Pokémon games of all time. This impressive legacy has remained with them ever since. Even though more modern games might boast better graphics and more accessibility, classics like Pokémon Diamond still have an indisputable place in the hall of fame. Here’s why Pokémon Diamond is still worth picking up.
Making the Most of the Nintendo DS with Pokétch
Pokémon Diamond and its counterpart were the first main series Pokémon games released for the Nintendo DS, and thus the first chance the series got to capitalize on that platform’s unique dual-screen feature. Nostalgic fans of the games likely recall the Pokétch feature with considerable fondness. In-lore, the Pokétch is a smartwatch that your character obtains early in their journey. The phone has 25 available apps, most of which you unlock gradually as you play. The two screens of the Nintendo DS allow you to use the watch in real-time while you play Pokémon Diamond.
The apps provide both fun diversions and helpful tools to aid you in your travels. In addition to the standard watch app, there’s a calculator, a memo pad, a pedometer, and even a list of your Pokémon. There’s also a world map you can mark up, and even an app that will summon Pokémon to perform HMs for you. The Pokétch may not have been a wildly revolutionary feature for Pokémon, but it was an endearing and entertaining one. The various apps added a lot of depth and side content to the game, and it was also an excellent way to show off the features that made the Nintendo DS stand out.
New Pokémon and New Lore
Of course, nothing is quite as important to a Pokémon game as the new creatures that game introduces to the roster. The franchise’s namesake pocket monsters are the central focus, after all, and a big part of the series’ appeal. Pokémon Diamond & Pearl introduced some all-time classics to the lineup. One of the biggest standouts is Lucario. This Fighting/Steel type is a truly beloved creature whose distinct humanoid design has made it a favorite of many fans. It is one of the few Pokémon who is individually playable as a character in the Super Smash Bros. series, alongside other iconic creatures like Charizard and Mewtwo. Other fan favorites like Rotom and Bidoof had their start here as well.
But Generation 4’s new roster made an impact through more than just popularity. The games’ flagship legendary Pokémon, Dialga, Palkia, and Giratina, are not only particularly powerful creatures. They’re nearly deities in their own right. Dialga and Palkia represent time and space, respectively, while the sinister Giratina holds dominion over the mysterious realm of antimatter. Pokémon Diamond & Pearl also introduced Arceus itself. This Mythical Pokémon is the creator deity of the Pokémon universe, and the three main legendaries of Generation 4 are said to be the first Pokémon it ever made. Needless to say, the introduction of these mythical figures left a massive impact on the Pokémon universe, shaping its canon and establishing a mythology to bind the games together. This mythology would be explored further in Pokémon Legends: Arceus, released for the Switch in 2022.
Pokémon Diamond & Pearl Go Underground
One of the most beloved features of the fourth generation games was the Underground. This sprawling labyrinth of cave tunnels stretches under the entire Sinnoh region, which is the setting of the games. Like the aforementioned Pokétch, exploring the Underground makes extensive use of the Nintendo DS and its unique touchscreen features. Unlike the main game, when you explore the Underground, your view is on the lower screen, while the upper screen displays a map of the tunnels. This subversion of the traditional layout cleverly simulates the experience of delving deep beneath the earth on a subterranean adventure.
There are many striking features in the Underground. By taking part in the region’s entertaining mining minigame, players can dig up helpful items and Pokémon fossils. You can also set up a secret base and decorate it to your heart’s content. The region also made use of the game’s wireless functions. While the servers were active, entering the Underground would automatically connect you to nearby players spelunking in the same region. Thanks to this connection, you could meet your friends while digging underground and work together while mining. You could also visit other players’ secret bases, and even set traps in there to mess with them. It was a fun and extensive diversion, and another example of the unique and creative things that could be done with the Nintendo DS.
Pokémon Diamond & Pearl In The Modern Day
If the game sounds enticing to you but you don’t have access to a Nintendo DS, you may just be in luck. In 2021, Nintendo released a remake, Pokémon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl, for the Nintendo Switch. This remake remains faithful to the story and gameplay of the original, while making some adjustments for the modern console. The most notable change is the game’s art style. Pokémon Brilliant Diamond uses a very stylized chibi aesthetic. This adapts the original game’s basic form while allowing it to look current on the Nintendo Switch. Fans were divided over this art style at launch, but generally speaking it’s just a matter of individual taste.
The original game’s beloved Underground is changed in Pokémon Brilliant Diamond to the Grand Underground. A lot of the features fans loved in this original incarnation remain, like secret bases and online play. However, the remake now supports online communication, as opposed to the strictly local communication of the original DS title. Brilliant Diamond also supports new features, like allowing your Pokémon to follow you through the overworld instead of remaining in their Pokéball at all times. While the remake remains generally faithful to Pokémon Diamond, reception has been mixed. Some feel it’s relying too much on the design of the original game, while others struggle to take the art style seriously. Still, if Pokémon Diamond appeals to you, this could be a good way to give it a try.
A Strong Legacy for the Pokémon Games
One of the most important things that set Pokémon Diamond & Pearl apart when they launched is also something that is generally taken for granted today. The fourth Pokémon generation was the very first one to feature online multiplayer. Using the now-defunct Nintendo Wi-Fi connection, Pokémon fans could chat, trade, and battle from anywhere in the world. This was a major boon for the series, and has since become a franchise mainstay. Since the focus of Pokémon has always been proving yourself as the ultimate trainer by defeating rivals and filling out your PokéDex, the addition of online play fit the series like a glove. Even though the Nintendo Wi-Fi connection no longer functions, the significance of Pokémon Diamond & Pearl cannot be overstated. Fans of the series would do well to experience the very first entry to open the doors to the power of the internet.