Pokémon Shining Pearl
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: PEGI 7
Release Date: 19/11/2021
A code was provided for review purposes
A Girl’s Best Friend
With the original Pokémon Diamond and Pearl releasing in Japan in 2006, the 10th anniversary of the series, the journey to the Sinnoh region is back! Well over a decade later, Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl have been released as remakes on the trusty Nintendo Switch. This news was much to the excitement and nostalgia of longtime fans, the Sinnoh region a fond favourite of many.
For myself however, I am only a recent player of the Pokémon series, having only played bits and pieces of past games. I thoroughly enjoyed Pokémon Snap, and actually had a great time with Pokémon Shield and Pokémon Let’s Go Eevee, rated highly by our reviewers but generally met with some controversy. What’s a new Pokémon game without some debate?!
So, without having a nostalgic attachment to the originals, is Pokémon Shining Pearl worth it for a newcomer? Will die hard fans be met with disappointment or is the trip down memory lane a good one? Find out in this Rapid Review!
Become the Very Best
Starting as a beginner Pokémon trainer, with only a Piplup, a Turtwig or a Chimchar to your name (which will you choose?) Professor Rowan needs your help. A famous professor researching Pokémon evolution, he asks you to complete your Pokédex to aid his studies. Exploring the many biomes of the Sinnoh region is no easy task though, with other Pokémon trainers lurking down every path ready to battle.
What’s worse, Team Galactic are concocting their own evil plans and you must put a stop to them! No one takes advantage of Pokémon on your watch. On the other hand, the road to becoming the champion of the Pokémon League lies ahead. Challenge Gym Leaders and earn badges throughout Sinnoh, before your rival can gain all the glory.
It’s the formula we’re used to with a classic Pokémon game, but it’s one that is comforting and that works. You have the mystery of the story, discovering what Team Galactic have planned and how that leads you to the legendary Pokémon. Catching Pokémon and battling trainers helps you not only build your Pokédex but raise a strong party, ready to take on the Gym Leaders. They’re all separate objectives that blend together as one to complete the ultimate Pokémon journey.
One thing that immediately stood out to me is just how full of detail Shining Pearl is, particularly in comparison to Sword/Shield. Trainers had much more personality, the movement in their animation and expressions before and after a battle a step up. My personal favourite were the fisher type trainers, who would use a rod to throw their Pokéball out. They seemed to be more varied too, so you weren’t seeing the same trainers all the time.
Each city had a multitude of buildings, and you could venture into pretty much every one. Sure, a lot of them featured a generic layout of a dining table and a TV, but you could go in nonetheless. Every single NPC had something different to say too. Once again, I couldn’t help but compare to Pokémon Sword/Shield. Though the city designs were glorious, there were too many empty buildings that you couldn’t access. Considering that particular entry could be argued as venturing towards open world with the wild areas, Shining Pearl feels so much more full of heart.
Despite the game having paths which you can’t stray from, and having a storyline to follow, there is so much to do. You are almost rewarded for ignoring the story for a while, in turn increasing the game’s playtime. I could go on for hours, but as this is a Rapid Review, let’s take a quick look at some extra things to enjoy.
Lurking beneath Sinnoh is a whole cave system waiting to be discovered. Using the explorer kit allows you to visit below the surface at the press of a button. What awaits you is the labyrinth known as the Grand Underground! Here, you can find different biome caves containing wide varieties of Pokémon, helping you acquire some high level Pokémon you may not have found above ground yet. There are also fossils and statues hidden in the walls, which you must pry out in a mini-game using hammers. You can easily spend hours going after these collectibles, or simply catching Pokémon, or making your own secret base!
Next up is the Super Contest Shows in Hearthome City. Enter an eligible Pokémon into a category (Coolness, Cuteness, Beauty, Toughness or Cleverness) and try to earn points by decorating the Pokémon’s Pokéball appropriately, scoring perfectly in a rhythm based mini game and performing special moves at the right moment. Decorating Pokéballs with stickers is a nice touch that is used throughout the game and not just the contest, having effects such as bubbles burst from the ball during battle. I’m still learning how to gain more points and win the competitions, but they’re a unique break from the story and give you more stickers.
Last but not least, you can also bake Poffins. What is a Poffin you ask? Well, they’re a type of baked good which you can feed to your Pokémon. Using berries found across Sinnoh, which you can also water and return to later on, you do a simple cooking mini-game to bake them into a Poffin. I say simple, but you have to be careful not to burn it by rotating the joystick fast enough, which I still haven’t perfected! Baking certain Poffins will have particular effects on your Pokémon, like increasing their Toughness. This then helps you in the Super Contest Shows.
A New Style
So, there’s a lot to do in your time with Pokémon Shining Pearl. But does it look any good? Moving away from the pixel style of the originals, the game has transformed into the 3D style of most recent entries in the series. This time however, the developers have gone with chibi type characters for much of the game, except for in battles. I thought this looked super cute, almost harking back to the original games with the small characters with large heads. They were animated really well too, my character’s hat bobbing along as she ran smoothly through cities. It’s quite a surprising choice to switch back to normal characters for battles. However, it does make them seem more epic and you can see the characters in their full form.
Visually, I found the shadow and lighting effects very impressive. For example, you could see your character’s reflection in shiny floors, or the shadows of clouds passing overhead. The colours were vibrant and I loved exploring every inch of the world! I would say the game looked a little better handheld however, with larger screens on docked highlighting some of the blur around the edges. Performance wise, Shining Pearl held up perfectly with my experience being issue free.
Though I thoroughly enjoyed the orchestrated soundtrack, Lake Verity being my personal favourite, I think it will be much more appreciated by fans of the original. Instantly hearing those notes in each new place will transport them back in time. However, as a newcomer to the entry I still loved hearing the variety of tracks. From intense battle music, to soaring tunes such as the one that plays in the Grand Underground. This one is actually a remaster of the original Underground so again it’s something long time fans will love to hear!
A Shining Success
Pokémon Shining Pearl has gone above and beyond my expectations. While I was looking for a familiar Pokémon experience with a somewhat predictable story, I found a beautiful looking game with a wealth of things to do. There’s something for everyone, original fans being hit with the nostalgia of the Sinnoh region and its soundtrack, but new fans having an equally enjoyable experience discovering it all for the first time. Though I have liked recent Pokémon games, there is so much heart and charm in this one that urged me to play for hours at a time.
It’s worth noting that there are various online rooms to trade and battle either locally or globally, though I haven’t had the chance to try it out myself. With all these features, there’s plenty to do and you won’t get bored of Shining Pearl easily. Whether you’re a new or old fan, the Sinnoh region beckons you to go on an adventure!
Rapid Reviews Rating
4.5 out of 5
You can purchase Pokémon Shining Pearl from the Nintendo eShop here.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.