I want to like Pokemon Diamond. Really, I do. It’s why I keep playing it. And it’s why I keep noticing things that I don’t like about it.
Tonight, for example, I realized that the game’s simply having too much going on isn’t its biggest problem.
Pokemon Diamond‘s biggest problem is that it’s trying to combine two modes of play that I think are incompatible. At least for someone who isn’t playing the game for at least an hour every day (and who’s trying to finish it as efficiently as possible while also trying to see as much of it as he can).
On the one hand Pokemon Diamond is a dyed in the wool RPG.
As the player you are experiencing a world different from ours in the same way that most fantasy and sci-fi protagonists do, first hand, as a story unfolds all around you. You progress through this story by reaching certain events that are set at fixed points throughout the game’s geography. At specific points other events gate these events, but more generally your progress through the game relies on the strength of your battling team. Every now and then your team needs more power so you level-grind or teach them new moves. It’s the same thing that you experience in any Final Fantasy, Lufia, or Tales of game.
Yet, when I was younger and my cousins would say that Pokemon was like Final Fantasy I’d always get annoyed.
Sure the mechanics were the same, but Pokemon was different because it had one other major element: Collection.
Your party wasn’t determined by the game’s story as it was in the 16-bit RPGs I’d played. Instead it relied on your own personal choice. As well as your patience (especially if you didn’t have Nintendo Power or some other source that told you where each Pokemon was).
When there were 150 Pokemon this collection aspect of the game wasn’t a big deal. Collecting a fair number of them was easy and you could pat yourself on the back for getting 2/3 of the way to catching ’em all after a solid 50-60 hour play through.
But Pokemon Diamond has 493 pocket monsters to catch. That is, once you’ve received the National Dex (something that happens after the main game and you’ve seen all 150 of Pokemon Diamond‘s roster).
So collecting ’em all becomes a post-game labour of love.
Such things are all well and good, but I can’t help but feel that they’re not in the service of Pokemon Diamond‘s being a better Pokemon game. It’s as if, instead of building this generation of the Pokemon franchise into something better, the developers just poured another layer of the same onto what was already there. As someone who plays RPGs because of their stories and magic/skill systems, maybe I’m just crazy for playing an RPG that’s swung far more in the direction of collection than story.
My problems with the game’s being more about collection than story don’t end here, though. The Pokemon Contests and the whole Poffin system are kind of pointless when you first reach them because they’re just a shadow of what they can be when you have a larger collection of the game’s Pokemon. These things should be closed off until you’ve at least seen all of the different types of Pokemon. That way the game’s focus would be much clearer – progress through the story and see (and possibly collect) more Pokemon.
As of now, I haven’t seen much in the way of wild Steel Pokemon, Dark Pokemon, or Ice Pokemon. Let alone my favourite type: Dragon. Though my Gyarados learned “Dragon Rage” tonight, so I have, at least, a small light to guide me through my Pokemon ennui.