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Thursday, March 11, 2021

The “Reimagined” Pokémon Brilliant Diamond/Shining Pearl Imply Worse Game Design

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - You all are so easily... swept up in TRAILERS.

Just in case you forgot, I already wrote last week that I'm happy that Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Pokémon Shining Pearl are, according to the marketing, “faithful” to the original Pokémon Diamond and Pokémon Pearl games, because that's what I've always wanted whenever people were clamouring for Sinnoh remakes for the past five or more years. This includes the art style, which is being treated very unfairly by Pokémon fans, insulting it with vague terms like “it looks like a mobile game!” What does that even mean? I'm the first one to be out there broadly insulting mobile gaming, but it's not on the basis of graphics. They must not have liked the Sinnoh games’ looks to begin with. Or they're like me and have a bias against 3D models, which... alright.

But then they shouldn't like this “reimagined” trailer that digital artist millenniumloops conjured up a couple of days ago, which has apparently gone viral because multiple media outlets are writing articles about it—with GameSpot outright declaring the graphics are “improved.” The artist has described the trailer as “the way I wanted the [Sinnoh remakes] to be.” Which means they ain't happy with the way the games are turning out:

Lots of comments (and media outlets) are very supportive of this artist's trailer they made in a week, and there's nothing wrong with people being supportive and not toxic.

But there's a lot of things wrong if you think this would be a better game, based on this trailer, than the quality of Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Pokémon Shining Pearl as games based on their trailer. “Improved graphics” (which is totally subjective and I don't agree with it!) have gameplay consequences.

First of all, there's very, very little actual gameplay scenes in this reimagined trailer. It's almost entirely shots with a “realistic” art style with panning camera views of what would be cutscenes. This shows that people aren't paying attention to the most important thing in a videogame trailer, even if it's just a concept: the gameplay itself. And based on the one or two gameplay shots in this reimagined trailer, it would be a terrible experience. Check out this side-by-side:

Pokémon Brilliant Diamond Shining Pearl Sinnoh remakes versus reimagined trailer millenniumloops gameplay underground camera
Camera angles and zoom!

The game you'd get if the trailer by millenniumloops was real would basically have a variant of the Mega Man 7 syndrome. If you're unfamiliar with what that means, take a look at this screenshot:

Mega Man 7 huge sprites zoomed camera versus Mega Man 11
Left: Mega Man 7; Right: Mega Man 11.
(Left corresponds to right and vice-versa if you're comparing to the Pokémon image.)

You're able to see far less things on screen at any one time with such big sprites/models/zoomed-in camera, and this can be frustrating for basic movement and overworld navigation. Sure, it's easier to see the details on the bigger graphics, but it comes at a gameplay cost, and obviously the gameplay should be the more important priority. (That's what Nintendo fans have always claimed to appreciate, at least.)

I said a variant of Mega Man 7's problem, because at least Mega Man 7's level design is built taking its art style into account. Sinnoh isn't—and one of the things the real remake does is slightly adjust the camera angle so you actually have an even broader view of what's around you, not closer and more narrow. Just imagine actually playing the game depicted in the reimagined trailer and running through the Sinnoh Underground only being able to see a few metres in front of you, instead of several character lengths. It's the grounded equivalent of making constant “leaps of faith.” You sure would like the sliding puzzle in Snowpoint Gym even less! It's not a great experience, and big sprites making navigation troublesome is one of the reasons why Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity wasn't great. You might think it makes for a more engaging trailer, but it makes for a lesser gameplay experience if you were to actually have to play it.

Besides the camera, there's also the fact that this reimagining would be very unfaithful.

Pokémon Diamond Pearl reimagined remake trailer running wild Snover overworld following Empoleon
Don't let the (way overrated) Pokémon following you feature hide the fact that there are wild walking Pokémon.

You may actually prefer the Pokémon: Let's Go style where wild Pokémon preview themselves in the overworld instead of having random encounters. I think it's better in, say, Dragon Quest to have the monsters in the overworld, but better for Pokémon to have random encounters, just because there's a much stronger pleasure for random ratio rewards for finding the specific Pokémon you want and it being a surprise.

But regardless of your preferred game design, let's not overlook that changing from random encounters to avoidable overworld previews fundamentally changes the gameplay. It'd be far from Sinnoh games in high-definition, but a massive shift in moment-to-moment play. It's not something to be taken lightly.

But it seems like millenniumloops made the change just because Sinnoh seems more vibrant and filled with life when there's Snover running around, and the tens of thousands (or more) of people who like it are eating the trailer up without thinking of the gameplay or faithfulness consequences.

What really gets me ticked off are the comments where people are saying that GAME FREAK should feel ashamed of Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Pokémon Shining Pearl because this random digital artist made a better trailer (in their opinion) in a week than however long the real games have been in development. People like that are dumb and do not know what they're talking about. They're ignorant of actual game design, expectations for what a remake should actually be, and apparently are judging just because they're visually wowed by what's presented to them without thinking critically about what they're watching, since they're blinded by their inherent art style biases.

And by the way, I don't expect millenniumloops to have thought about that stuff. They just wanted to get their name out there and make a visually cool trailer without having to think about how the game would play. That's fine. But it's the response to it that's contemptible. The fans and the media basically want “Pokémon, Let's Go: Riolu!” and “Pokémon, Let's Go: Munchlax!” because this trailer is closer to that (a complete redesign of a prior Pokémon game) than the Sinnoh remakes we got. And if that's what they want, they should be upfront about it. At least I've been upfront—and consistent over the years—that I wanted a faithful reproduction without big design changes.

...Let's just hope the final products are as faithful as they're claiming to be.

Ludwig's favourite generation is the fourth one, and he's been afraid of GAME FREAK's modern (and worse) game design sensibilities that have been around over the past several years, so the less influence they're doing in changing Sinnoh up, the better. Obviously, a lot of people disagree with Ludwig, especially about this reimagined trailer (though they probably haven't thought about things carefully like he has), so feel free to sound off your reasonable disagreements in the comments section. You should strive for a higher-quality comment than something you'd find on the YouTube comments section or Twitter, however.

Shining Pearl and Brilliant Diamond actually addressed basically every release-era problem that people had with the original Pearl and Diamond.


  1. Man, I need to get a sign to tell people to not make me tap: "BETTER GRAPHICS ≠ BETTER GAME".

    1. (I still reject the graphics are "better", just very opposing art styles.)

      ...But, yeah, I thought Nintendo fans got past this decades ago.

  2. While i feel that these chibi graphics do look a little...generic. I much prefer the official remakes over the reimagined. I always thought that the sinnoh characters were just small, not chibi. maybe that doesn't make sense, i guess i'd just like them to be more detailed than they are now. Something akin to links awakening NPCs maybe.

    1. Are there, like, a huge recent glut of chibi graphics games that I'm unaware of?

      When you actually go challenge trainers in-battle you'll get bigger more detailed models.

  3. I would have loved to see remakes with a style like the newer games, but you do raise a good point about the game design. The camera positioning seems to be one of the reasons why we've gotten fewer dungeon areas.

    (And in any case, complaining that Game Freak should be ashamed is just silly and implies that the chibi graphics are inherently worse.)

    1. I didn't actually quote anyone's comments in the article because they should be very easy to find in the comments section of the video (and the link to GameSpot's article), but believe me, people are definitely trying to attack GAME FREAK here.

      Here are some YouTube comments that demonstrate my points about people attacking the developers and having no idea how to think about game design...

      "I love how a fan made this in a week. These game developers really suck."

      "This is superior in every way to the real product and is actually depressing because Gen 4 is my least favorite, but this shows me I COULD’ve fallen in love with it. I’ll use this in the future as an example of how remakes could be/how they get screwed up."

      "This looks like an alternative reality where Game Freak doesn't scam pokémon fans LOL"

      "Fans: Doing awesome pokemon content
      Gamefreak in the back of the classroom: i eat the glue tastes funny"

      "when a internet person is better at making games than a multi-billion dollar company"

      "I'm really glad that you made this trailer, hopefully they will delay the remake"

      "can we bully gamefreak until they make a new game just like they did with sonic 😭✨"

      There are also a lot of people who are all, POKéMON WILL NEVER LOOK LIKE THIS BECAUSE THEY'RE LAZY, even though this is just stuff from Sword/Shield...

    2. ...Yeaaaaaah.

      So this article is for those folks. :x

  4. I think the graphics are a marginal step-down from Let's Go, and in some cases, Sword and Shield. The style is fine. (Outside of those little weird legs the characters have... They didn't transition gracefully into 3D!)

    Also people have different requirements and expectations for what they find truly immersive, or what they find technically impressive. Sure, a third person view may be intrusive in terms of navigation - but in the event it was utilized, it would likely come with some gameplay and layout adjustments to correspond with it to avoid the obvious corridoring problem.

    Honestly, I would just say that this is people's tummys being bigger than their eyes, rather than vica-versa.

    1. If GAME FREAK were to actually rebuild Sinnoh like this, then yeah, they'd have to dramatically change Sinnoh's layouts to support both overworld Pokémon and the big camera change, and at that point, is it still a remake and recognisably the same gameplay?

      I'd think not.

    2. Right, it'd alienate a whole lot of people with that risk. Like me!

  5. These people are saying this looks like a 3ds game. MOST 3DS GAMES DON'T EVEN LOOK LIKE THAT, WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? Besides, if you don't like the graphics, (ahem) YOU ARE LYING! YOU SAID YOU WANT GRAPHICS THAT LOOK LIKE THE ORIGINALS, SO WHY DO YOU WHINE WHEN YOU GET THEM? You stupid idiots.

    1. So I think the more accurate/nuanced thing here is that some people, like me, wanted a faithful Sinnoh representation.

      Some people want their remakes to have cutting-edge graphics. Though it definitely wasn't something I've seen people vocalise before the remakes were announced. Most of the discussion for the years leading up to this was based on gameplay and content, not graphics.

    2. I just don't get how one day, the fandom can be all

      "I hope the sinnoh remakes look like the real games"



      Even though "Random internet man" LEGITIMATELY took stuff from sword and shield and that's it


    3. Again, the fandom isn't monolithic in its preferences. It's a broken base, really. Look how much Pokémon, Let's Go collectively sold. Now, I'd be terrified if the Sinnoh remakes were like that. But since it sold really well... some people out there must LIKE that style. (And it's basically what this reimagined trailer was.)


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