Faithful Remakes: A Pokémon Battle to Determine the Fate of the Franchise

For my 4th birthday, my mom got me a silver Nintendo Game Boy Advance. She packaged it up with whatever games she thought I’d be interested in. At the time, my small collection of odds and ends was mostly composed of those weird Disney ports that today's YouTubers make niche video retrospectives on. I have fond memories of playing Toy Story 2, Disney’s Extreme Skate Adventure, and Spider-Man 2. But my crown jewel on the GBA was always Pokémon Pinball: Ruby and Sapphire. I fell for that game hook, line, and sinker, and I’ve had a love for pocket monsters ever since.

Screenshot for Pokemon Pinball for Game Boy Advance
Pokémon Pinball was a blast. A fun game with a retro style that introduced me to the wonderful world of Pokémon!

Before my 6th birthday, I began seeing ads for Pokémon Diamond and Pearl. GameFreak had me reeled in the first time that they flashed Dialga on the TV screen. I begged my mother for a Nintendo DS so I could play the shiny new game. My birthday was even more exciting than I expected as I was met with not just a Nintendo DS, not just the amazing new Pokemon Diamond, but with a copy of Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Red Rescue Team as well.

My dearest reader, I regale you with these tales so you can understand how truly invested I am in these games. I was basically learning how to read from Pokémon text boxes, and I was brute-forcing my way through these games without understanding what a "super effective" attack is. It took me months to beat these games because I frankly didn’t understand a thing. And yet I loved them! Some of the most foundational memories of my childhood stem from these games.

That’s why I approached the recent remakes for both games with cautious optimism. Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX was released in March of 2020, a remake of that Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Red Rescue Team game I got with my Nintendo DS. And Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl were released in November of 2021, a remake of (believe it or not) Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, the other games that meant so much to me.

Screenshot of a classic turn-based Pokemon battle between Chimchar and Starly on Game Boy Advance.
This literally became an integral part of how I learned to read.

I’m now 15 years removed from being that kid tapping away on his DS, and I’m far more jaded with the state of the games industry now. I’m not impervious to the sweet allure of nostalgia, though, and I’ll admit that I spent a lot of time getting hyped up listening to old music, playing ROMs, and watching videos in the months leading up to these releases.

But now that both remakes have had their time in the spotlight, I must admit that one surpassed my expectations, and one left me a little bit disappointed. Here's my in-depth look at these games, in which I pick apart two very different remake philosophies to find out why that is.

Let's start with Mystery Dungeon DX, which does a wonderful job of recreating the original Red and Blue Rescue Team games. Everything from the original games was remade with beautiful new assets. The art style can only be described as a watercolor fever dream. It’s refreshing, and it helps differentiate the title from any other game in the franchise.

Mystery Dungeon DX screenshot showing Pikachu in a charming wooded scene
The updated visuals of Mystery Dungeon DX might not feature "top of the line" graphics, but they’re charming and unique, and that’s what matters most.

More importantly, Mystery Dungeon DX isn’t content to use its predecessor as a crutch. It has a certain reverence for the game it’s based on, but it also wants to stand alone as something entirely new. 

For instance, the developers cracked down hard on some of the balancing issues present in the original games. I’m not saying Mystery Dungeon DX is perfectly balanced. I still wanted to bash my head into the wall any time an enemy Pokémon used Earthquake and damaged my entire party from across a room. But there are some really thoughtful changes here, such as reducing the level grind and rewarding players who link their moves together with more explosive damage output than ever before. There’s no doubt in my mind that the remake offers a more refined gameplay experience than Red Rescue Team.

What’s more impressive, though, is how much new content was packed into this remake. Mega Pokémon. Shiny Pokémon. Primal legendaries. New postgame dungeons. A selection of new playable Pokémon from the Sinnoh Pokédex! These are massive additions that are indicative of just how much TLC went into the making of Mystery Dungeon DX. These are the kind of changes that justify bringing a game back to life!

Screenshot of the Primal Groudon fight in Pokemon Mystery Dungeon DX
The Primal Groudon fight is challenging new content, negating all water-type moves. It shakes the game up a bit!

Mystery Dungeon DX embodies what I believe a perfect remake philosophy should be: Rebuild something worthwhile from the ground up, improve it for a more modern audience, and add new content that couldn’t be there when the game was originally made.

But then you have Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. These are not bad games, not at all. They’re like comfort food. They don’t take risks. The devs took a much more conservative approach to remaking these games, and I think that plays out to their detriment.

There aren’t many changes made from the original games that I can see in these remakes. Trainer battles are slightly more challenging to compensate for how Pokémon experience gain has changed in the franchise over the past decade and a half. The need to keep an HM slave Bidoof in the player’s party throughout the game is gone. Hooray!

In this remake, new areas are added to the underground, allowing the player to find rare Pokémon as they gain gym badges and travel around the region. Now, if you want a fire type that isn’t Ponyta or Chimchar, you can actually get one before the end of the game. And Ramanas Park was a nice addition as a way for players to catch all of the legendary Pokémon from generations 1 through 3 without needing to use Pokémon Home’s cloud service (provided you have a copy of both Brilliant Diamond AND Shining Pearl, because of course you’d need both).

These are all definitely nifty little "bumps" in the game’s overall quality, sure. But guess what? These aren’t the first Diamond and Pearl remakes that have come out! Pokémon Platinum, a straight upgrade to its predecessors, was released back in 2008. The remakes of Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are very conspicuously missing almost all of the improvements made to the Sinnoh region in Platinum. 

In fact, large swaths of content from Platinum were cut from these remakes altogether. For one, the entire Distortion World adventure was cut. This is a damn shame, as it would’ve been really fun to see that part of the game in an updated visual style. Worst of all, though, is the omission of the Battle Frontier, which was what gave Platinum so much replayability. Without that robust endgame, I simply don’t feel the urge to go back to Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl when a better postgame already exists elsewhere.

Screenshot from the original Pokemon Diamond and Pearl video game.
How cool would it have been to see this in the updated Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl visual style?!?

Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are the products of a strict remake philosophy: they offer some quality of life upgrades and a smattering of new content, but it’s plain to see that the developers were far more concerned with creating an exact replica of the original product.

The different remake philosophies of Mystery Dungeon and BDSP are illustrative of design approaches in the wider gaming industry right now, and that’s why I think it’s so important to highlight them.

We’ve reached a point in the games industry where the "power players" and Triple-A companies seem to want to remake every game that they feel like they can turn a second profit on. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, honestly. There’s definitely a market for fulfilling the nostalgic whims of an older gaming audience.

What I do think is a bad thing is when these supposed "remakes" are just $60 remasters of games that were released a decade and a half ago. That’s not taking care of a consumer need, that’s preying on the goodwill these developers built up with their initial game. Why would I buy a remake that does the exact same thing the original game did? Emulators exist for a reason, after all!

Instead of giving me remakes, I want to see that the game companies have taken some risks. I want something that captures the spirit and story of the original game, but that also mixes things up a little! Hell, let’s see some more wild shit like the Final Fantasy 7 Remake!

What do you think about the state of remakes in the games industry? Do you prefer "faithful remakes" that are just remasters of the original, or do you think that developers should mix it up a bit?

Monthly Gaming Update: November 2021

November is here and that means your wallet may run and hide as the holiday release window for games comes swinging for it. This is the time when most games release to be ready for the holidays and although Covid restrictions have slowed things down some, that didn't stop this year's massive list of releases. A barrage of some of gaming's biggest titles are coming at you, from FPS heavy hitters like Call of Duty and Battlefield to a slew of classic remasters. There is plenty to keep us busy on the upcoming holidays.


November’s Highlights

Call of Duty: Vanguard - Nov 5th (PS4, PS5, Xbox, PC)

Call of Duty: Vanguard sees the long-running series return to World War 2 again. Sledgehammer Games, the studio that developed Advanced Warfare and WWII, is returning to the global conflict that was World War II. Experience an immersive and visceral campaign as you take on the role of a group of soldiers across several countries while they take on the greatest threats to freedom. The trailer looks to offer a riveting and intense story, one that may distract from the PvP. Returning is Call of Duty’s signature Multiplayer experience as well as an all-new Zombies that has been developed by the father of Zombies, Treyarch.

 

Forza Horizon 5 - Nov 9th (Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC, Gamepass)

Forza has been Xbox’s flagship car series since the original Xbox. The Horizon series has grown to be one of the biggest racing adventure games available and Forza Horizon 5 looks to be the biggest and most stunning game yet! Playground Games invites you to a realistic open-world recreation of parts of Mexico, to drive hundreds of the world's greatest cars in an ever-evolving and vibrant landscape. Developed for Xbox Series X|S, Forza Horizon 5 will feature 4k Ultra HD visual, 60 FPS, and Ray Tracing. It will also release on Xbox One, PC, and Cloud and will be playable for Gamepass subscribers on November 9th. For racing fans, Forza and Forza Horizon, are games you do not want to miss!

Jurassic World Evolution 2 - Nov 9th (PS4, PS5, Xbox, PC)

Jurassic World Evolution 2 is a dinosaur management simulation by Frontier. Building on the success of 2018’ Jurassic World Evolution, the much-anticipated sequel takes place after the events of Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom and features iconic characters, including Dr. Ian Malcom (voiced by Jeff Goldblum). Evolution 2 has you lead the efforts to control and contain rampaging dinosaurs around the USA. Contain the dinosaurs and wow your park guests with new and deeper management tools, new buildings, and new locations. A new Chaos Theory mode lets you relive iconic moments from the films, with a twist. Bioengineer more than 75 different prehistoric species that feel more alive and interact intelligently. If you liked playing with dinosaurs as a kid, you will want to check out Jurassic World Evolution 2 when it releases this November.

 

Grand Theft Auto The Trilogy The Definitive Edition (Digital) - Nov 11th (PS4, PS5, Xbox, Switch, PC)

The granddaddy of open-world games that started it all, comes back with updated visuals and controls for GTA III, GTA: Vice City, and GTA: San Andreas. All three classic titles in one package for a new generation will be available digitally, November 11th with a physical release to come in December. Featuring across-the-board visual enhancements while maintaining the original aesthetic, and GTAV-inspired controls, whether you would be playing for the first time or revisiting since the originals, there has never been a better way to experience these three titans of gaming. Each game will be available individually if you prefer only one and Gamepass members will be able to play the Definitive edition of San Andreas on the release day. Whereas,  PS Now members will be able to play GTA III Definitive edition on Dec 7th.

Battlefield 2042 - Nov 19th (PS4, PS5, Xbox, PC)

Battlefield 2042 is the return of the iconic Battlefield series, returning with dynamically changing battlegrounds, support for up to 128 players on Next-Gen consoles and PC, and some all-new ways to play. New modes such as Battlefield Portal and Hazard Zone give players a diverse selection and customization to truly experience those “Only in Battlefield” moments. The new Battlefield Portal allows you to make your own experience with elements and weapons from past Battlefield games. Create and customize to play with anything and everything, all in the new 2042 engine. Hazard Zone is Battlefield's unique take on Battle Royale. Combining elements from games like Apex Legends and Warzone, but with the distinct Battlefield intensity. A Squad-based survival mode, utilize Specialist characters with unique abilities to insert, retrieve, and extract the Data Drives before the other squads. Battlefield 2042 looks to pay homage to what has made the series great and give fans what they want most. Charge up your defibrillator paddles for when it launches on November 19th.

Pokemon Brilliant Diamond / Shining Pearl- Nov 19th (Switch)

Pokemon Diamond and Pokemon Pearl are two of the most beloved Nintendo DS pokemon games ever made and now, they are back! These two classic DS games have been reimagined for a new generation of Pokemon fans for the Nintendo Switch. Fans of the originals will be pleased to see that the remakes have faithfully recreated the region of Sinnoh and the original story while adding features from newer Pokemon games. The remaster will have updated visuals to reflect modern games, up-close-and-personal Pokemon battles, and new ways to spend time with your pokemon. In traditional Pokemon fashion, each game will be available separately for $59.99 USD each or you can get a double pack of both games for $119.98 USD. Either way, Pokemon fans new and old have plenty of fun and adventure to look forward to when Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shiny Pearl release on November 19th.

What will you be playing this November? Will any of these games be on your Christmas list? Let us know what you are playing and what you think about them.


November 2021 Release Schedule


For everything else releasing this month, here is the full list.

Cupid Parasite - Nov 2nd (Switch)

Hell Let Loose (Physical) - Nov 2nd (Xbox)

The Binding of Isaac: Repentance - Nov 3rd (Xbox)

Demon Turf - Nov 4th (Xbox, Switch, PC)

Just Dance 2022 - Nov 4th (PS4, PS5, Xbox, Switch)

Call of Duty: Vanguard - Nov 5th (PS4, PS5, Xbox, PC)

Blue Reflection: Second Light - Nov 9th (PS4, Switch)

Disney Classic Games Collection - Nov 9th (PS4, Xbox, Switch) 

Forza Horizon 5 - Nov 9th (Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC, Gamepass)

Instant Sports Winter Games - Nov 9th (Switch)

Jurassic World Evolution 2 - Nov 9th (PS4, PS5, Xbox, PC)

MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries - Nov 9th (PS4, PS5, Xbox)

My Singing Monsters Playground - Nov 9th (PS4, PS5, Xbox, Switch, PC)

Grand Theft Auto The Trilogy The Definitive Edition (Digital) - Nov 11th (PS4, PS5, Xbox, Switch, PC)

Pups & Purrs Animal Hospital - Nov 11th (Switch)

Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic - Nov 11th (Switch)

Borderlands 3: Ultimate Edition - Nov 12th (PS5, Xbox Series X)

Shin Megami Tensei V - Nov 12th (Switch)

TY the Tasmanian Tiger HD and TY the Tasmanian Tiger 2: Bush Rescue HD Bundle - Nov 12th (Switch)

Sherlock Holmes Chapter One - Nov 15th (PS4, PS5, Xbox, PC)

Battlefield 2042 - Nov 19th (PS4, PS5, Xbox, PC)

Kena: Bridge of Spirits Deluxe Edition (Physical) - Nov 19th (PS4)

Final Fantasy XIV Online Endwalker - Nov 19th (PS4, PS5, PC)

Nerf Legends - Nov 19th (PS4, PS5, Xbox, Switch)

Pokemon Brilliant Diamond - Nov 19th (Switch)

Pokemon Shining Pearl - Nov 19th (Switch)

The Eternal Cylinder - Nov 19th (PS4, Xbox)

The Jackbox Party Pack 7 - Nov 19th (Xbox, Switch)

Farming Simulator 22 - Nov 22nd (PS4, PS5, Xbox, PC)

Gas Guzzlers Extreme - Nov 23rd (PS4, PS5, Switch)

My Universe: Interior Designer - Nov 23rd (PS4, Switch)

My Universe: Puppies and Kittens - Nov 23rd (PS4)

Cricket 22 - Nov 24th (PS4, PS5, Xbox)

Evil Genius 2 - Nov 29th (PS4, PS5, Xbox)

MXGP 2021 - Nov 29th (PS4, PS5, Xbox)

Oddworld: Soulstorm Enhanced Edition - Nov 29th (Xbox)

Beyond A Steel Sky - Nov 30th (PS5, Switch)

Miss last month's update? Check out October 2021's releases right here!