On December 25th, 2007, I unwrapped Pokémon Pearl. Since then, I haven’t stopped thinking about it. The DS Lite was the crown jewel of my indoor life as a child, and Pokémon Pearl was by far the console’s highlight. Released alongside Pokémon Diamond (which may just have the better Pokémon on it), it took the player to the Sinnoh region to do the usual quests of defeating gym leaders, preventing some evil team from something or other, and capturing the legendary Pokémon that adorns the front cover (in this case, Palkia). It is a simple formula, but the game is more than that too.
From the excitement of choosing your starter Pokémon (water-type, every time) to the gradual expansion of the Pokédex, there is no shortage of entertainment or side quests in this mammoth game. My DS politely informs me I have a 650-hour game time on Pearl which is testament to the many options and paths you can follow. There’s the underground aspect, which permits you to dig up fossils to get the ancient Pokémon, the Pokémon League (best way to level up your troops) and Pal Park, which uses the GameBoy slot of the DS to link and trade Pokémon from such iconic games as Emerald or Sapphire. It is a truly expansive world, one which makes you respect those credited on the game’s production at the end of the main storyline.
Beyond the campaign, Pearl and Diamond also have a superb multiplayer experience. Head upstairs in any Poké Centre and you can connect wirelessly with your friends, something which will never not invoke the nostalgia for sleepovers after a hard day of primary school. In the multiplayer format you can trade your Haunters and Machokes in order to get the Gengars and Machamps, you can team-up in the Battle Park or you can test your legendaries against each other in single or double matches. Presumably my excessive time in the game came from such occasions.
I dug my DS and Pearl out in the lockdown last year and, after shaking off the memory-lane cobwebs, found the game still held up as good old fun. With a fellow friend who also still had his, it meant fighting and trading Pokémon was again a vital part of my entertainment. The temptation to reset the game has persisted because of how engaging the story structure and long journeys were, effectively demonstrating how the game mixed easy gameplay with frequently challenging moments that makes it an all-round investing experience. I will also die on the hill that Gen IV has the best set of Pokémon (see: Kricketot).
Diamond and Pearl remakes were recently announced for Nintendo Switch. You can watch the trailer for these below!