"Pokémon Platinum": A Kids’ Game with Sophisticated Charms Print
Lifestyle - Gaming
Written by Luke Hamilton   
Tuesday, 28 April 2009 08:36

Pokémon games are initially released in two different versions. For the current generation of the handheld Nintendo DS system, those were Pokémon Diamond and Pokémon Pearl, which added another 100 Pokémon to the series and presented the first online play the core series has ever had. After the first two set the new standard in what Pokémon is going to be for the current system, a third title is released on the same platform that is essentially a final version that adds new game-play elements and increases the difficulty for a tougher challenge. Pokémon Platinum is that third version for this generation, bringing with it new online mini-games in the Wi-Fi Plaza and difficulty that will frustrate even hardened role-playing-game fans.

A player is the new trainer of monsters that inhabit a fantasy world known as Pokémon (a shortened way of saying "Pocket Monsters"). You get to choose one of three rare Pokémon to start your journey. Depending on your choice, the game can start easier with your Pokémon being strong against early opponents or harder with your Pokémon being weaker.

Your goal in the main story is to become the best Pokémon trainer, which leads to three main points of focus:

  • First, to battle Pokémon (wild Pokémon or other trainers' Pokémon) to increase the power of your Pokémon team.
  • Second, to capture new wild Pokémon to give your team more variety and battle power. Each trainer can hold a maximum of six Pokémon at once, with all others being cared for in a separate location.
  • Third, to travel to different cities in the region to collect eight Gym Leader badges. Only by collecting the badges will players gain access to the Pokémon League and fight against the best trainers in the game to become the new champion.

The story has been almost exactly the same for the past four generations of Pokémon games: You become a new trainer, travel the world, catch Pokémon, fight against the generic criminal organization you just happen to run into, and try to become the best trainer, blah blah blah. I understand that because it is labeled as a children's game and is still marketed to younger audiences, it can't be anything too complex, but after 12 years of Pokémon games, most of the kids that played in the beginning have grown up and still follow the new titles. Either give us some substance, or just get rid of the story and let us focus on training our Pokémon.

Despite how annoyed the story makes me, I keep coming back because I enjoy the battles. Battles are turn-based events: You select whether to attack or use items, then pick which attack/item you want to use, then sit back and watch until you choose again. Depending on your opponent's speed, one of you attacks first, then the other attacks, and the process is repeated until one of the Pokémon is defeated.

There are battle animations, but they only display the bare minimum of an attack going toward an opponent, so you'll need to use your imagination when it comes to seeing the fight. It can be slow-paced at times just watching turns, but it can also be exciting when the battle is an even match, and when it comes down to one last all-or-nothing attack.

While some people see the Pokémon series as kids' games, I see role-playing-game elements that essentially turn the game into Final Fantasy for children, which is a major part of the appeal for all ages. With almost 500 Pokémon with unique stats (attack, defense, speed, etc.) spreading across 17 different battle types (water, fire, bug, etc.), there is a massive strategic element hidden under its kid charms. It's simple enough in its complexity, though, that younger ages can understand all the strengths and weaknesses of the Pokémon as long as they know their battle types (fire beats grass, water beats fire, etc.).

Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum are basically the same game with one major difference: A set number of Pokémon in one game cannot be captured in the others, meaning if you found a certain wild Pokémon in Diamond, that same Pokémon would not be in Pearl or Platinum. For dedicated/obsessive players who want to get every Pokémon in the game, this requires meeting up with other players and trading Pokémon to get the ones they need.

That has become much easier because of the Nintendo Wi-Fi connection in the DS system. You can now meet online and trade with other players from all over the world, and you can also battle one-on-one, or team up with friends for two-on-two battles. The DS online setup works well with few hiccups in quality, and with screen name and Pokémon being the only information available for sharing, it's a safe environment for youngsters to get on and play.

The presentation has its obvious ups and downs. The consistent "eye in the sky" view from previous titles returns, as you watch your character move around the area with a wide view of everything. It's a little disappointing that the graphics have barely improved since its Gameboy Advance prequels four years ago. The only noticeable improvement is a slightly more 3D appearance on the field, but once you enter battle, everything goes back to the old flat graphics. The soundtrack is true to the original games, but it can break your heart when you hear that the Pokémon calls are still the same garbled static sounds from the original Gameboy. I know that "if it's not broken, don't fix it," but it could stand some polish.

If you're not a big multi-player fan, role-playing games give you the most bang for your buck, with game play and side questing generally lasting well over 40 hours. With weaker competition such as the Megaman Star Force and Spectrobes games, the Pokémon titles are the best gateway for kids to get into the genre, with every turn-based battle relying on a combination of strategic elements and luck. Even with the kids' theme all over, it is still a great role-playing-game experience for fans of all ages to enjoy.

Pokémon Platinum is available on the Nintendo DS for $34.95. For this review, the author completed the story mode and tested the online features.

Luke Hamilton is a buyer, creative designer, and online coordinator for Video Games Etc. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


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