Pokémon Platinum arrived like any other Pokémon game, full of hype, leaked images, fascination videos, rumors, and thousands of blog posts with every newly-announced feature or low-resolution screenshot. Like any other highly-hyped game, people were insane over it all…except this was Pokémon, the second top grossing game franchise (behind Mario, but it's getting close) of all time.
Soon before its release forums exploded with topics like “Are you getting Platinum?”, “Did you reserve Platinum for the Giratina Origin Forme figure yet?”, or “The Distortion World looks awesome!” Then that fateful day, March 22, 2009, came around and the game was released to the United States. Some stores reported having long lines or massive numbers of reservations (GameStop), while others were silent and subtle (Toys “R” Us). Then came the time to open that shiny shrink-wrap and stick the cartridge into the DS! And thus, here is my review…
At first glance, you might think that the storyline of Pokémon Platinum is very similar to the storyline of Diamond and Pearl. Well, for the most part, you would be correct, but there are quite a few minor changes that enhance it a bit. The temperature of the Sinnoh region has dropped due to anomalies regarding a world parallel to our own (the Distortion World). Team Galactic has shifted their plans from Dialga and Palkia toward the ruler of this world and the star on the box cover, Giratina. Your mission, as always, is to capture as many Pokémon as you can to become a Pokémon Master and later to stop Team Galactic.
It's Pokémon, what more do you expect? The game consists of a massive number of monsters, 493 to be exact, most of which can be caught only with a single copy of the game. With several additional games (or a friend), you can complete your collection and legitimately capture 492 of them (as of the date of this review). A few of them have one or more alternate ‘formes', first introduced in Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire with Deoxys. The game consists of the classic eight badges, all of which required to become the Sinnoh League Champion, the same three starters as before (Turtwig, Chimchar, and Piplup), and a vast land based on the real-world Hokkaido, Japan. Finally, the Battle Frontier, which started from the Battle Tower in Pokémon Crystal, makes a comeback, hailing from the original Battle Frontier in Pokémon Emerald. As you may know, this is an area of many different types of battling, such as rentals (based on Pokémon Stadium) and specialties. This game can easily last you over 100 hours, as it's one of the most engrossing Pokémon games yet.
This is actually the game's lowest point, because dozens of other games have proved that the DS can certainly output amazing eye-candy, from the launch game Super Mario 64 DS to the recent hit Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars. However, the game certainly isn't displeasing to look at. It's bright, vibrant, and beautiful, especially in the well-drawn overworld. Battles, while not 3-D, do retain their classic charm that the precedent games standardized. But don't expect anything like the detailed models in Pokémon Battle Revolution, because it might be a while before true 3-D battles emerge on the handhelds. This is a great example of decent graphics; at least most of the Sinnoh Pokédex has new sprites from Diamond and Pearl!
Nearly all the sound effects and cry samples are recycled from Diamond/Pearl, but that certainly doesn't make the sound terrible. Sounds can still be easily associated with what they should sound like and the sounds still set the mood like they should. At least the cries weren't screwed up like in My Pokémon Ranch.
The same amazing Masuda works from Diamond and Pearl make a return along with about a dozen new tracks. “Giratina Battle” alone nearly gives this section a whole extra point, because it's one of the most epic tracks I've ever heard in a Pokémon game. Anyway, the old music returns and appears in pretty much the same places as before, from Route 201 to the Pokémon Center to Sunyshore City to the Gym Battle. The only gripe I really have, which has actually been a little peevish since Red and Blue, would be the fact that you'll hear the same two tracks repeated throughout the entire game: “Trainer Battle” and “Wild Pokémon Battle”; you seriously will get sick of these two songs. At least the route themes change as you progress.
The game features greatly-extended Wi-Fi features from Diamond and Pearl. As before, you can battle or conduct trades with friends (or strangers who you've obtained Friend Codes from) from across the world. This time around, you can also cook Poffins with your friends over Wi-Fi. Of course, you can also post Pokémon on the Global Trade Station (GTS) for others to trade for, given your request isn't too steep. A new option added is the ability to filter the results by country, which actually has two benefits. One is to get more than seven results. The other, which is certain better, is to add foreign entries to your Pokédex. [Note: I have yet to test this on the English version. In the Japanese version, my traded English Pokémon had their respective English entry added to the Pokédex along with the Japanese entry, so I'm assuming the same is true for the English version.] The official website of the GTS is www.Pokémon-gts.net. A new feature is the Wi-Fi Plaza, a world of mini-games and other fun distractions available only over Wi-Fi. It actually is laid out like a festival, with a limited amount of time given and a big celebration at the end to top it off. The best part is you can go back as many times as you want!
The developers really went out of their way to make this an excellent experience for those both new to the series as well as the long-time fans. Platinum has loads of activities you can have fun with, even after you become Champion. Here are just a couple examples. You can while away your time (and money) in the Veilstone Casino, hoping to hit triple-7 and score a bonus Clefairy round. Another time-eater is the Battle Frontier, especially the Battle Tower, where the only goal—other than getting 100 wins in a row—is to complete as many battles as you possibly can, getting breaks only after every seventh battle; of course, it gets harder as you progress upwards. Going after the in-game legendaries—and there are quite a few, including the legendary birds, Regis, and pixies, the masters of time (Dialga) and space (Palkia), the crescent moon (Cresselia), the lava monster (Heatran), and the platinum-girasol ruler of the Distortion World (Giratina)—can certainly be time-consuming if you don't cheat! Finally, adventure for in-game secrets. Ever since the beginning Pokémon has been about hidden features and Pokémon; Mew was actually sneaked past Nintendo way back in the late 90's! Oh, if you really can't think of anything, try to complete that Pokédex!
The game has the classic single save file, which must be erased to save a new adventure. The only real alternative to that is to buy another copy; if you don't have Diamond or Pearl yet after your purchase of Platinum, go for one of those.
The true meaning of the game shines in the fact that this is real game of strategy and customization. You have to form a team of six monsters to battle with, and training can be a real pain in the butt, especially for those who focus painstakingly on Effort Values. There are the people that get a head start, training hard for the beginning of the game in order to simplify their adventure. Then there are those who take their starter and train it all the way up to level 100 before reaching the Elite Four. Whatever your path, there are infinite possibilities and millions of players out there to get in touch with. Maybe you can meet some new friends. There is always someone that will be willing to play Pokémon with you; you've just got to find them. With the current and past sales figures, that really shouldn't be a chore.
I've seen people who hate Pokémon pick up a Pokémon game and talk about how wrong they were. Even if Pokémon is not your thing, save up a little bit of money and buy this precious metal. If you really don't want to spend your money and think Pokémon is a total waste of your cash, borrow it from a friend for a few days…seriously, you might be amazed at what you've been missing. (I do not condone the usage of emulators instead of purchasing the game—and it's illegal, too.)
Junichi Masuda: “Bridges look very simple,
but if you look closely and see all the different elements—it's a
very complicated matter.”
G4: “And really, that's the perfect metaphor for Pokémon, isn't it?”
Junichi Masuda: “Yes, I agree.”
– Interview with Junichi Masuda and Takeshi Kawachimaru, G4