It's time for Pokémon trainers to dust off those Pokéballs and head out for another round of adventure in Pokémon Platinum, an enhanced remake of Pokémon Diamond and Pearl. Platinum features a handful of revisions, new Pokémon, and an improved online mode, but is it enough to rationalize catching them all again?Platinum's plot is identical to Diamond and Pearl's story, with a few minor alterations. You're still a young trainer out to prove yourself, and along the way some outside organization has evil schemes to use Pokémon to their advantage. Team Galactic is out to find a rare Pokémon that can destroy the region and rebuild it in the image of their leader, and it's up to you to thwart their evil scheme. It's really more about small sub-plots, and the entire premise is shallow. If you're looking for a profound story, or a significantly new tale, you'll be disappointed.
Platinum still follows the basic Pokémon formula, which after over a decade, is showing its age. You'll spend hours traversing the Sinnoh region, battling wild Pokémon and skilled trainers on your way to becoming a Pokémon master. Nintendo did freshen up much of the existing game, most noticeably the gyms, which contain new designs and obstacles to overcome. There are other small changes that make Platinum a uniquely different experience than Diamond and Pearl, even if it looks identical on the surface.
The biggest addition to Platinum is the inclusion of two new areas; the battle frontier and the distortion world. The distortion world is devoid of any random battles, instead it focuses on solving puzzles. It's a nice change, though it comes late in the game. The battle frontier, which originally appeared in Pokémon Emerald, features five arenas focusing on various challenges. It's meant to reward dedicated players, and it requires a high degree of skill to win.
Online multiplayer makes a return, and it has been revamped for the better. In addition to the standard versus modes, the new Wi-Fi plaza allows players to participate in various mini-games. Players can also record their matches with the new versus recorder item, and battle friends online. Much of the other basic online functionality has been streamlined and optimized, making Platinum's multiplayer the definitive experience in the series to date.
You'll spend at least 20 hours burning through the main quest, and easily waste away more than double that leveling your optimal team for multiplayer and completing side quests.
Players will spend a majority of their time crossing the vast Sinnoh region, engaging in numerous battles with their Pokémon at nearly every turn. Getting around is made easier by the inclusion of sprinting shoes and a bike, but their use increases the frequency of random encounters. This is problematic because it basically defeats the purpose of the bike. You can easily waste hours trying to backtrack on foot, but thankfully the ability to warp to previous destinations becomes available early on.
Combat is strictly turn-based, with the top screen displaying the action and the bottom screen displaying your combat menu. It's also very light on the real-time action. There's still a very deep system in place, and creating a well-balanced team of Pokémon is integral to progressing. With 59 new Pokémon species available, there are a lot of combinations. It also takes lot of dedication, patience, and a bit of luck to catch the rarer types.
Brute strength and grinding out levels can get you through some of the single-player campaign, but you'll be rolled over by later trainers and online opponents without a sound strategy. Defeating skilled human opponents still revolves around using mind games, quickly adapting on-the-fly to situations, and simply knowing the best counter for any given Pokémon. For a game so light on real-time combat, Platinum still delivers one mean adrenaline rush.
It's the same old tried-and-true Pokémon mechanics we've come to love, and for fans, it's still as engrossing as ever.
Just as in Diamond and Pearl, Platinum's mix of 2D and 3D works pretty well, but you never get the impression that the hardware is being pushed. The majority of the world is rather detailed, especially later in the game. Battle sequences themselves, however, are still strictly 2D, and they look basically the same as they did 10 years ago with the exception of a few new effects. Areas like open fields, caves, and waterways are desolate and bland. There are some new gym leader animations before battles that spruce things up.
The soundtrack is mostly the same as before, featuring some of the better music in the series. The only real issue is with the Pokémon's sound effects. In the past, the low-quality audio samples were a novelty, but now they're unacceptable.
Diehard Pokéfreaks will buy Platinum regardless, and anyone who appreciates a solid RPG should consider it. Yet oodles of new Pokemon and some slight design tweaks aren't enough to keep it from feeling like a quick-and-dirty cash grab. If you've never experienced a Pokémon game it's as good a place to start as any, but if your interest has waned on the series over the years games like Platinum is the reason why.