Drifting disconnectedly through Pokemon Diamond

 

Box art found at spong.com.

Box art found at spong.com.

In my last entry about Pokemon Diamond I wrote that the game reminded me of surfing around tvtropes or wikipedia. It’s the sort of thing that you can start with a single aim in mind but then become ensnared in, unable to quit until quite a bit later than you intended.

That happened to me tonight. Not because I was on an amazing streak of finding new Pokemon and just had to see one more (one more – one more!). Instead, it was because there was so much to do in the game.

That’s “so much to do,” though, not “so much happening.” It’s an important distinction. Especially because being given things to do isn’t as engaging as having things happen around you that you can, in turn, engage with.

Before leaving Hearthome City I tried out the contests.

I did a few practice runs and then entered the real thing and won with my Monferno. I don’t plan on going through another contest, but I just had to see what they’re all about. As it turns out, they’re a fascinating little mini-game that doesn’t seem to rely on much aside from luck. There’s some strategy to the DDR-lite dance portion and the move exhibition acting portion of the contest, but even those portions involve a lot of luck.

One thing that bothers me about the contests is that they tie in with another mini-game: Poffin making.

I’m all for mini-games in video games. They’re a great distraction from the main quest and an excellent way to give some depth to a game’s world. Mini-games can remind us as players that there’s more to the worlds we play in than the main quests we see unfolding as we progress.

But linking Poffin-making and the contests together makes them into more of a game unto themselves. Especially since you seem to benefit very little from either of these mini-games. No doubt there’s something that crack Pokemon tournament players get out of them, but as someone who’s just playing to experience the game’s world and story I found very little of interest.

After I wrapped up with the contests, I headed off to Solaceon Town. On the way I was attacked by Klaus. I think that he’s supposed to be the rival character – maybe? He didn’t have one of the game’s starting Pokemon with him and so I’m not really sure how he fits in with things.

After I put him to rout, I continued on to Solaceon Town, visited the Lost Tower on the way, and checked out the Solaceon Ruins.

The first generation of Pokemon games may have been scant on content, but at least they gave you a clear focus. There were no cluttering, interconnected mini-games or extraneous characters that you’re meant to remember despite rarely seeing or engaging with them.

And where’s Team Galactic in all this? No one in Hearthome said a thing about them and Solaceon is full of NPCs that just talk about the ruins or breeding. Good old Team Galactic must not be that big a threat.

The trouble with Pokemon Diamond is that it doesn’t feel like it was designed from the ground up. It feels like the developers took the old “8 gym, then elite four” formula, added in extra characters (are they tie-ins to the anime or did they appear in the anime first?), and then generously applied mini games.

There is a ton of content in this game, sure. But the problem that I’m running into is that none of it is really connected to the main game in a meaningful way. What’s worse, if you’re just playing the game for that original formula plus this generation’s story you’re probably going to miss or skip most of that extra content.

At the very least, I don’t understand why you can’t at least keep in touch with characters like Dawn or Klaus through your Pokétch. Being able to do so would create much more of a sense of true connectivity and continuity between this game’s many many singular experiences.

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About NSCZach

A writer who translates Beowulf (and other things), freelances, reads voraciously, and plays adventure video games/J-RPGs.
This entry was posted in DS, RPG, video games and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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