Pokémon has come a long way since it’s initial release outside Japan in 1998 of Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue. The hit Japanese RPG focused on catching and raising monsters to do battle, defeating eight gym challenges, and eventually overcoming the “elite four” to become a Pokémon master. This now famous formula is how Pokémon earned its name as one of the most enjoyable handheld-gaming series’ of all time to many who embark on Nintendo’s portable ventures. However, like any great formula, success is an outcome that relies heavily on moderation. Although an outrageously successful series, the Pokémon games have always been plagued by one recurring standard: the release of slightly modified spin-off titles – if there is a hyped release of a new Pokémon title hitting the shelves, you can be sure that there will be a moderately less popular re-release of the same game, with slightly tweaked features and a different title. And sure, it makes sense for Nintendo to look at such a hugely popular franchise and think to themselves “hey, why not just feed the fans more games with less changes, and in turn make hills of money”, but for all of the players out there who are just looking for a decent portable title and are not willing to climb a mountain to scream about their adoration of Pokémon games, this acts as a catalyst for some frustration.
In 2007, Nintendo released their mega-series on the DS, and anyone who owned the console or even dreamed of owning the console became familiar with Pokémon Diamond and Pearl. Let’s face it, there are some series’ that just dominate a platform upon their release. Like it or not, it’s like saying a PlayStation owner will pass-up a new Final Fantasy title on the shelf in hopes of discovering something less magnificent. A plethora of new Pokémon (again), eight new gyms to challenge, a new group of antagonists with relatively the same goals for world reformation, a new elite four, and tons of ways to interact wirelessly with the DS’ flashy wi-fi features. Pokémon Diamond and Pearl were a hit, and will remain suggestible for any DS owner. And so, as history demands, 2009 heralded the release (or re-release for the skeptics out there) of Pokémon Platinum.
The features that set Platinum apart from its Diamond and Pearl counterparts are nil, but worth mentioning. 60 new Pokémon are available to be caught in the wild, which is the foundational factor in the appeal of Platinum – more Pokemon means more battle options, and these options determine success and failure in the Pokémon world. The aesthetic look of the game has also been sharpened since Diamond and Pearl. If ever there was a Pokémon title that could boast vibrancy and detail, it would be Platinum, and this detail goes into great effect in the newly added zones (although few) and the varying weather effects in certain parts of the map, which Nintendo passed up on in the original two titles. In terms of function, the original wi-fi features are all still in play, such as communicating with DS stylus drawings, wireless battles, and trading. However, Platinum has been revamped with some interesting wi-fi features that are, again, few in number but interesting enough that they warrant mention. Players who enter designated wi-fi rooms are now able to engage in random encounters with other players, can interact through mini-games, and can record matches to be shared with friends or viewed later.
Sadly, the core essence of the game remains unchanged from its predecessor, and whether or not one feels that the somewhat thin layer or extra toppings is enough to warrant forking out $40 of their hard earned money is a question of personal taste. For the second time, our hero begins his/her Pokémon journey in Littleroot town, where you and your clichéd rival will be gifted with the first of many Pokémon companions from a choice of three, on behalf of the town’s strangely over-generous Pokémon professor. In exchange, our generous professor wastes no time in calling in a favor after having reached to the depths of his heart to gift random youths with these fine Pokémon: You are to explore the regions of the world in search of new types of Pokémon to be added to the catalogue of “seen kinds”. This journey will have our aspiring “Pokémon master” crossing paths with the game’s 8 respectable gym leaders (who are otherwise left untouched if not for the minor gym enhancements in comparison to the last two titles), the villainous Team Rocket fill-in: Team Galactic, and of course, the “Elite Four” themselves. Aside from an entirely new (although small) zone where the game’s new legendary Pokémon mascot resides, and a couple of new entries into Platinum’s cast, the overall goal and unfolding events of the storyline remain the same, and all of them fit into the game’s juicy although familiar 15-20 hour completion time.
It doesn’t ring true to say that Platinum has failed in its pursuit of being a title worthy of your attention – it just suffers from a criteria of success that is heavily dependant on the player’s circumstances, as it essentially goes to the exact same places that Diamond and Pearl took us. The factors that apply to the likelihood of Platinum appealing to your tastes or being worth the money out of your pocket come down to whether or not you’ve had the pleasure of embarking on the journey that either of the game’s predecessor’s presented, if you’re a Pokémon fan who feels that they must not only “catch them all” but “own them all” as well, or if you feel that a handful of new Pokémon and features make Platinum worth replaying the same story for. If you missed Diamond and Pearl or you just find yourself shaking in anticipation every time word of a new Pokémon release reaches your ears, then don’t miss out on Platinum, as it acts as a small step up from the package that the 2007 titles delivered. Anyone else will find this game to be a disappointing reworking of two very enjoyable Pokémon titles of the past, and will find both their time and their money better spent elsewhere.