In itself this is no bad thing. After all, the original DS games coincided with the handheld’s growth from quirky hardware to Soccer Mum-approved ubiquity. There are now several million more owners then there were back in 2007, and for the majority of them (and indeed all those who missed out on Diamond and Pearl), Pokémon Platinum approaches a certain level of necessity. The basic aim remains to traverse the land (in this case Sinnoh) and catch the Pokémon through turn-based battles, slowly building an army of the creatures to aid your progression. There are gym leaders to beat, fellow trainers to meet, and badges to earn. Whilst the early games are now looked back on with much fondness because of their relative simplicity, Platinum is exceptional because of the sheer wealth of things to do. Our personal favourite was the Wi-Fi Plaza, a basement of multiplayer mini-games found in every Pokémon Centre. Spend too long in there and you’re eventually whisked away by a boat in the shape of one of the more iconic Pokémon; we’re told such a time limit exists to prevent score manipulation, but what shines through is the attention to detail and obvious love that Game Freaks have for their creation.
One of the few criticisms levelled at Diamond and Pearl was that, while they made excellent use of the DS hardware, they were less successful in eliciting more than a perfunctory grunt from the graphical and audio side. In this respect Platinum is slightly more impressive. There seems to be more variety in the locales, and a little more colour, but it’s a shame that the battles still exhibit about as much dynamism, relative to hardware, as the Game Boy originals.
The single-player campaign is substantial (and that’s without even considering the idea of finding all the Pokémon) but it’s in the online department that Platinum really excels. The Wi-Fi options are extensive, and aimed successfully at building a network of traders as opposed to a more console-orientated approach of faceless random battles. For the first time you can record your favourite battles, which is a nice touch, though you’re limited to saving only one of your own. In fact it’s online that the strides Pokémon has slowly taken over the years are truly evident, as well as serving to underline what genius game design this is: communication, battles, trading, rivalries, strategy…a large chunk of videogaming is right here.
Pokémon is one of those series where it’s hard to separate one game from the larger history. As a result we find ourselves swerving from admiration for the sheer effort that goes into the game to fighting off an inevitable déjà vu. Gamers are, after all, rarely content. It would be nice to see a little more experimentation soon, or perhaps a complete reinvention like the one Capcom has promised for the next Resident Evil, if only because the economic and developing clout Game Freaks have had for the last decade seems wasted when spent on such baby steps as Platinum, however fine tuned and well accomplished. Until then it’s very much a case of damned if they do/damned if they don’t – to those whose obsessive desire for collection and completion has been hard-wired over the last thirteen years, the thrill of the search will likely never fade. The bad news for everyone else? DS remakes of Gold and Silver arrive later this year.
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