Pokémon Platinum - Staff Review  

Don't Listen to PETA
by Adriaan den Ouden

Click here for game information
40-60 Hours
+ Better than the sum of its parts.
+ Simple but strategic combat is addictive and accessible.
+ Larger, more diverse starting Pokédex than Diamond/Pearl.
- Heavy reliance on grinding.
- Low-quality visuals and audio.
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   Pokémon Platinum is a vile cesspool of animal abuse and — oh, wait, that's right. This is the real review. Allow me to start over.

   It's hard to believe, but the Pokémon series is now well over ten years old in North America. Pokémon Blue was actually (to the best of my recollection) the first RPG I ever played, so the series has secured a fairly warm place in my heart. It's remarkable how much nostalgia playing Platinum brought back, because the game really hasn't changed all that much since its inception, and in Pokémon's case, that isn't such a bad thing.

   Many games are criticized for not changing their gameplay after several iterations, and in many cases these games deserve that criticism. There's something to be said about sticking to your guns, but after a while it grows stagnant. Pokémon is an example of a game that got it right the first time, and this is a very, very rare thing. The game is a combination of extreme simplicity that's easy for younger players to grasp and an impressively complex system of elements that rewards the strategic thinking and team-management skills that older gamers are drawn to. Bring its huge array of creatures in countless shapes and sizes into account, and you have a game that can appeal to all ages and any gender. It's little wonder why Pokémon is one of the most successful RPG franchises in the world.

   Pokémon Platinum is the latest game in the series, following hot on the heels of Diamond and Pearl. A third, slightly modified version of the initial game duo has been a tradition since Pokémon Yellow, and this is no exception. Platinum doesn't mix things up all that significantly from the other two games in its generation, but it has enough additions to make it stand out. As anyone familiar with the series should expect at this point, Pokémon Platinum follows the adventures of a young boy or girl on a quest to see every Pokémon in the world and eventually become Pokémon Champion. To do this, as always, the player will travel from town to town, battling gym leaders for badges and foiling the plans of Team Galactic, the obligatory megacorporation of ne'er-do-wells.

Which one? There are like thirty of Which one? There are like thirty of 'em!

   Platinum makes some minor alterations to the story, introducing a new character named Looker, a bumbling detective on the trail of Team Galactic. While Diamond and Pearl saw the player facing off against Dialga and Palkia respectively towards the end of the game, Platinum changes things once again by providing a new area where the player can instead fight and capture Giratina, previously only obtainable through special Nintendo events. The order in which cities are visited as well as the layouts of a few Pokémon gyms have been changed as well.

   For those not familiar with how Pokémon games work, and this is done mostly for the sake of argument as I can't imagine any of you are not, the player takes on the role of a Pokémon trainer. As a trainer, the player can capture wild Pokémon and use them to battle other trainers. The combat, at its simplest, is about as basic as combat can get. One of the player's Pokémon faces off against the opponent's, and both combatants choose from four attacks until one is knocked out. This continues until one of the trainers is out of Pokémon. However, the game is far more complex than its basic structure would suggest. Every Pokémon is assigned one or two elemental types. Each of these types has strengths and weaknesses, which are modified for multi-typed Pokémon. With seventeen different types in the game, Pokémon takes the normal rock-paper-scissors dichotomy and multiplies it five-fold.

   The result of all this is that the game allows veteran gamers and new ones alike to choose their teams on any number of principles. Strategically choosing Pokémon for their types and potential attacks might be enjoyable for one player, while another might choose to play with the Pokémon he likes the best. This style of gameplay has been in place since Pokémon Red/Blue, and although it has diversified in the time since, it hasn't significantly changed. Pokémon veterans will not find anything new here.

   The combat has a rather significant drawback, however, that has been persistent throughout the entire series, and that is the grind. Pokémon is a game dedicated rather heavily to grinding, and players can expect to spend several hours circling grassy areas to level up their team. Whenever the player acquires a new Pokémon he wishes to use, more grinding will be necessary to catch it up to the rest. The Pokémon of opponent trainers also increase rather quickly as the game progresses, and players will find themselves falling behind if they don't fight the random encounters with wild Pokémon.

The only thing worse than a monkey throwing its own poop is one who can light it on fire first. The only thing worse than a monkey throwing its own poop is one who can light it on fire first.

   Not all changes are particularly enjoyable, however. Those who played Diamond and Pearl probably recall that, despite there being nearly five-hundred Pokémon in the game, only 150 were initially available. The initial grouping of Pokémon was also poorly distributed, with some types being far more prevalent than others that were drastically underrepresented, most notably the fire type which only had two species, one of which was a starter Pokémon. Those people will be happy to know that Platinum has solved that problem, increasing the initial Pokédex by sixty, including three new species of fire Pokémon. This is unquestionably the most significant and important upgrade Platinum holds over Diamond/Pearl, as it provides far more variety for the duration of the main game.

   Pokémon Platinum disappoints aesthetically, unfortunately. The graphics are extremely subpar for a DS game. Aside from the very rare 3-D areas, they could easily have been handled by a GameBoy Advance. This is particularly noteworthy given the other major Pokémon game available on the DS, Pokémon Ranger, whose visuals are far more detailed. Likewise, the music has the same 8-bit quality as the original games, as do the sound effects, particularly the extremely pointless Pokémon cries, which are little more than tinny, unrecognizable garbage. The music is at least catchy, but players could just as easily turn the sound off entirely without damaging the experience.

   The release of Pokémon Platinum marks the completion of the fourth generation of Pokémon games, and it is unquestionably the definitive version to own. While not significantly different from Diamond/Pearl, the expanded initial Pokédex alone makes the nearly sixty-hour game far more enjoyable. With the trade-in value for Diamond/Pearl being surprisingly high at most retailers, upgrading is definitely a recourse to consider, and for those who like to trade with themselves, owning both couldn't hurt either.

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