To the casual observer the Pokémon games are understandably seen as just one small piece of a wider cultural behemoth that encompasses all manner of merchandising, their combined revenues bigger than that of many small countries (Platinum is, by our rough estimate, the fifteenth ‘proper’ Pokémon RPG). However, it’s easy to forget – bombarded as we have been by the cartoons, plush toys, towels, Pikachu money banks – that Pokémon actually began life as a videogame, and an astonishingly good videogame at that.
The 1996 Game Boy originals laid the template, one that has had very little reason to significantly change in the intervening thirteen years. Though this has thrown Game Freaks open to the charge of milking the franchise, it has arguably only been the titles that exist on the series’ boundaries – the Puzzle Leagues and Mystery Dungeons of this world – that have done this, and many of those weren’t even developed by Satoshi Tajiri and co. The core Pokémon titles have instead slowly tweaked and updated the formula where necessary, ensuring an experience that grows and develops with the hardcore audience. The games have also tended to embrace whatever technological innovation the latest Nintendo hardware brings, a trend that reached its peak with Pokémon Diamond and Pearl.
Introducing Wi-Fi, touch screen and even microphone support, alongside the full rundown of 493 Pokémon across both titles, the overriding sense around Diamond and Pearl was one of liberation, the DS’s array of features opening the way for all manner of ideas. It quickly became considered the definitive Pokémon experience thus far. This preamble is not just a shortcut to a healthy word count, but a verbose way of establishing the idea that on paper, in both the context of Pokémon and the series’ so far distinguished presence on Nintendo DS, Platinum seems a tad superfluous. Can it really add more to Diamond and Pearl’s exhausting package?
The key reference points here are Pokémon’s Yellow, Crystal and Emerald. If the charge of fan exploitation could be levelled at Game Freaks, then these three titles would be the prosecution’s main evidence. Virtual remakes of previous games, the lack of significant new features (unless Yellow’s addition of a Pikachu that follows you around could be considered significant) brought the franchise closer in spirit to EA Sports-style annual updates, something that the release of Platinum continues.
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