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Pokémon Pearl Version (DS) artwork

Pokémon Pearl Version (DS) review

"My greatest enjoyment from Pearl, as with all generations of Pokemon, has come from finding and capturing every species available, figuring out how the new ones evolve and deciding how best to maximize my Pokemon's move set to create the most effective strategy. But Pearl has added a lot more to this level of discovery."

For more than a decade, Pokemon has had an extraordinary influence on children's popular culture. Nearly everyone growing up has had some sort of exposure to the franchise, whether through the lame cartoon, trading cards, or even just allusions in outside media. As kids, we may have had our first Pokemon experience playing one of the early GameBoy versions, namely Red/Blue or Gold/Silver. Since then, Nintendo hasn't stopped churning out these enormously lucrative ventures. Today, the Pokemon franchise is as strong as ever, continuing through onto the DS, and Wii.

Although it has since been superseded by its successors Black and White, Pokemon Pearl, along with its sibling Diamond, represent the first of the DS-era Pokemon games. Taking place in the Sinnoh region, the game introduces the fourth generation of Pokemon. As with every new installment, it is your goal to travel the land, capturing every Pokemon indigenous to the region, while collecting all eight gym badges so you can ultimately challenge the Elite Four. Once you beat the Elite 4, you gain access to the National Pokedex, which lets you trade and capture every single Pokemon in existence to that point.

Of course, because of its somewhat “pioneering” role, Pearl introduces a number of new features. Many of these are quite shallow: overhauls of graphics and sound, a new “dancing” stage in contests, and an improved “Pokegear” (called a Poketch) that includes a number of apps for making your journey easier. Sure some of these apps prove quite useful, such as the Dowsing Rod (this game's Itemfinder), but most (Coin Toss, Roulette, Drawing Pad, to name a few) have little use whatsoever.

Despite all this, the few substantial changes add great value to the game. The largest of these features is the integration of the DS's Wi-Fi connection. Without the Internet, the Underground just serves as a place to build up your Secret Base and dig for buried treasure, but once you have online access, you can mix records with your friends (or random strangers) and enter their bases as well. In this way, you can battle each other and even reveal a unique Pokemon that can't be caught anywhere else. On the surface world, avid trainers can use the Global Trading system to deposit Pokemon in exchange for one desired, or seek one out themselves and hope they've captured enough beasts to fit other players' requests. The only downside to this is that because of the game's age, chances of anyone actually wandering the Underground are slim, and on the GTS, deposited Pokemon won't likely get picked up, and trainers' demands can be quite ridiculous (such as requesting a one-of-a-kind Legendary for a commonly found exclusive).

Although the Internet aspects are the largest feature, the most important one deals with the battle system. On the whole, nothing has changed: your Pokemon still take turns throwing out a variety of moves at each other, the maximum number of techniques is still four, and you can only have six Pokemon in your party. However, one critical mechanical element has been altered.

Previously, physical and special attacks were determined by type. Roughly half the 17 Pokemon types were physical (normal, poison and rock) while the other half were special (fire, ice, dragon). In Generation IV, however, the line between the two depends largely on whether the technique makes direct contact with the foe. This means that formerly special moves like Fire Punch, Spark and Razor Leaf are now based on the attack stat. Likewise, formerly physical moves like Acid, Hyper Beam and Air Cutter are based on special attack. This simple alteration radically changes battle strategies and ensures that each monster reaches its full potential. Furthermore, a number of newly introduced techniques helps even out the bias further (after all, some types, such as water, still had a majority of special moves while others, like rock, still had a majority of physical ones). Therefore, Pokemon such as Gyarados, whose physical strength far surpasses its special abilities, can now have a number of water moves (like Aqua Tail and Waterfall) that do significantly more damage than Hydro Pump, despite their considerably weaker base power.

My greatest enjoyment from Pearl, as with all generations of Pokemon, has come from finding and capturing every species available, figuring out how the new ones evolve and deciding how best to maximize my Pokemon's move set to create the most effective strategy. But Pearl has added a lot more to this level of discovery. With the largest amount of after game material to that date, there's a fairly sizable island to explore, and several new methods in which to catch species from earlier generations. You will receive a device called the Pokeradar in which you can scout patches of grass for rustling. With a good eye and decent amount of luck, you just might stumble across an old favorite. Alternatively, you can migrate up to six Pokemon from one of the GBA titles once a day. Swarms along nearly every route will allow you to catch even more oldies, while the Trophy Garden often adds rares like Porygon and Eevee depending on chance. Admittedly, many of these methods require ownership of a GBA title, but for die-hard Pokemon fans, this won't be a problem. Truth be told, with all the ways to trade, transfer and catch new as well as old Pokemon, I've often felt that Pearl has provided the most and best opportunities to actually catch every single Pokemon, despite the fact that there are now so many.

Many (even steadfast fans) will say that, at this point, Pokemon games have seemed largely repetitive with generally the same story and same ultimate goals with seemingly little to show in the way of overall improvement. This is certainly a valid argument to some extent, but to say only this greatly oversimplifies things. The true quality of the experience depends on whether the changes made actually add value to the overall product.


wolfqueen001's avatar
Community review by wolfqueen001 (May 31, 2011)

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Masters posted May 31, 2011:

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Masters posted May 31, 2011:

OMG NEW WQ REVIEW UP, total cause for celebration!!#@
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wolfqueen001 posted May 31, 2011:

LOL Don't give yourself a heart attack there, Marc. =D

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Aunt_Jemima posted May 31, 2011:

Praise my hallowed name, child, you wrote a new review!

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