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Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Pokémon Shining Pearl and Brilliant Diamond Casualised “Quality of Life” Changes

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - The net effect is a frownie face. Plus, a psychological experiment design for anyone to set up.

From what I can gather, today Nintendo branches across Earth have gone on calls with select media outlets (excluding KoopaTV, since there's no Nintendo of Koopa Kingdom office) to preview Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Pokémon Shining Pearl. Those outlets have all written articles chronicling what they have learned about the anticipated Pokémon games releasing at the end of next month. Note that there wasn't a corresponding The Pokémon Company International news release to go with these previews, though they do clear up some lingering questions from this video published some weeks ago:

I wrote before that I was excited about the “faithfully reproduced” and “carefully preserved” initial marketing, but it seems like there are a number of changes, as implied by their later change to calling the game “revitalised.” For this article, I'll be mostly drawing from the previews provided by GameSpot and Australian outlet Vooks. Their points can be summarised as:

  • You can access your PC Boxed Pokémon from anywhere while not in battle.
  • Experience Share is available from the beginning of the game, is applicable to your entire party, and cannot be turned off.
  • There is an Auto Save system, but at least this can be turned off. No word on if Auto Save would overwrite your main save file, or how many save files you get.
  • Like the original Generation 4 games and unlike subsequent generations, Technical Machines (TMs) are single use items that teach compatible Pokémon a move, but the Nintendo representatives said that copies of additional TMs would be more plentiful than before.
  • The whole Sinnoh region seems richer (or the currency is experiencing inflation) and trainers drop more money upon defeat. However, their Pokémon's levels seem to be the same.
  • Hidden Machines (HMs), which could teach Pokémon moves that can unlock progress when navigating through the environment, have been replaced with calling for a wild Pokémon to perform the action for you. This can be performed with the Pokétch.
  • The Pokétch takes up a corner of the overworld screen instead of a second screen like the original. You can hide it or expand it. Seems to be like what Mega Man Zero/ZX Legacy Collection did to handle its second screen. Like Diamond and Pearl but unlike Platinum, you can only go forward to cycle through the Pokétch's apps, not forward and backward.
  • The Fairy type is now in the game.
  • “[A] waypoint marker will let you know where to go to next in case you're lost.”
  • The Underground has been expanded and there are wild Pokémon you can encounter there that you wouldn't normally see on the surface. The Pokémon that appear can be influenced by the statues you place in your base.
  • Clothing options for your trainer are now available, while the Game Corner won't be. Seals to attach to your Poké Balls so your Pokémon have flashy entrances are back, and can be customised in more detail in 3D.
  • On your second time forward facing against a Pokémon, the game interface will tell you your moves’ effectiveness against them.

Pokémon Brilliant Diamond Shining Pearl make poffins Buneary super contest stats
No other outlet is mentioning this, but another change is that Smart was renamed to Clever.
This happened in the Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, but it's a big semantic change that I'm particularly sensitive to.

My thoughts on all of that? A lot of it is actively detrimental, or at least very curious.

For example, being able to access your PC Box at any time is a very overpowered ability because it almost guarantees you can never lose unless your whole team gets wiped from a battle, since you can just exchange tired Pokémon for fresh ones. It also makes the new solution to HMs redundant. The complaint around HMs is that you had to basically always walk around with a Water type for Surf/Waterfall/Dive (not in this game, but...)/whatever, which is dictating your team-building. You only get 24 move slots between a Pokémon party of 6, and using 8 of those up in HMs (which often aren't good moves in battle) was considered quite annoying. But if you can just instantly swap out a Pokémon with Cut from your PC whenever you encounter a cuttable tree in the overworld, that solves that problem. But it's solved anyway by the Hidden Moves Pokétch summoner, which also eliminates the sense that you're on an adventure with your Pokémon helping you not only conquer other people's teams and gyms, but also nature itself.

The Experience Share is obnoxious. While other RPGs make it a normal thing for your whole party to get experience points even if they don't participate, there are two issues with this in Pokémon: One, if the levels aren't being changed to accommodate this, then the whole game design difficulty curve of the originals will fall apart and you'll just become overpowered. And two, Pokémon games have something called effort values (EVs), which help increase your Pokémon's stat gains based on the kind of Pokémon you beat. So beating a bunch of rock-hard Geodude will give your Pokémon a higher defence stat than they otherwise would if they beat up a bunch of special-attack-happy Abra. Experience Share not only shares experience points, but also the EVs across your party, which is bad for wanting to train your Pokémon for a certain role. That said, no one should be EV training during the main storyline anyway, and by the time you're in the post-game and EV training you should have ways around this problem (and it may even make EV training easier), but still. It should be optional, at least.

I assume the player acquiring more money is to accommodate the new trainer customisation options (clothing), because you'll have to purchase those and they're probably expensive, beyond the money flow of the original titles (since they're new items not originally accounted for in the game design). The additional TM copies may also be purchasable.

I think Auto Save could be really bad if it overwrites your main save, and I'm worried because this franchise is all about giving you only one save file. I'll keep it turned off. I wish I could also turn off the EXP Share!

The waypoint marker thing is normal for RPGs and other games with maps these days. It's slightly condescending and goes a little against Sinnoh's adventure and exploration spirit, but whatever. It's not a big deal.

As for the type effectiveness bit, that's been in other recent games too, and if anyone reading this is in the position to design psychological experiments and acquire test subjects for them, here's what I want. The ultimate goal of playing through a mainline Pokémon RPG is that you should understand the type chart. Then you can go do a post-game or play on Pokémon battle simulators or whatever. But the best way to learn the type chart is to play through an actual game.

So here's the experiment: Get a group of participants that seem identical in terms of mental acuity. Make sure none of them have played Pokémon before. Take half of the participants and run them through playing Pokémon Diamond or Pokémon Pearl, where you had to memorise the typings through experience. Take the other half and run them through playing Pokémon Brilliant Diamond or Pokémon Shining Pearl where the game will tell you the type effectiveness every time. Then run all of the participants through a series of type effectiveness questions (including dual-typings).

Which group will get the most correct answers? The game that the most correct group played should be the model.

Anyway, I'd rather them have been more faithful and not make game design decisions that will actively undermine the original difficulty curve without compensating for the effects of those decisions in any way. It's also quite possible that these previews to the media don't fully represent everything for what to expect. ...That can go both ways, of course. We'll see in a month and a half.

Ludwig was more excited about playing Pokémon Shining Pearl when he thought the game was a lot more faithful. Now he's not so sure. He still plans to buy it, though! And he'll probably enjoy it until it gets too easy, like Ring Fit Adventure.

Ludwig got the game and it's... already too easy right from the very beginning, and EXP All keeps it that way.
Upon looking at the original reviews, some of these quality of life changes were things original players of the original games had asked for.


  1. I was glad to hear them dial back on the TMs thing...but DISMAYED to hear about the EXP Share. Do not want!

    1. Multiple people have told me that EXP Share is actually a deal-breaker.

    2. I'd like to say the same, but...if it wasn't for Shield...ehh, I've not been PLAYING Pokemon games much anyway these days. It's still good to have them for when I do want to.

    3. By the time I got to the end of your comment I'm not sure wot you're thinking anymore.

  2. Weird that they're flip-flopping on TMs after adding the TRs which I thought was sort of a happy medium, especially when some of the other changes seem to be based on using the SwSh engine... I guess knowing their dev cycles it's possibly the Ultra/SuMo engine and they didn't try to reuse assets efficiently? Oh well, I'm much more interested in Legends Arceus regardless.

    1. I mean, they'd still have to go out of their way to change that.

      ...I dunno. I'm fine with the TMs part.


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