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Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl's Sinnoh Should Have Changed with HMs

Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl's Sinnoh Should Have Changed with HMs Image
  • Posted on 24th Sep, 2022 18:10 PM

The Sinnoh games were notorious for requiring HMs, but Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl's layout doesn't reflect modern field moves.

p>Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are the latest in a long trend of remaking past installments once they have become old enough for developers and companies to reintroduce them to newer fans. The games try to be as faithful to the originals as possible when it comes to level design. Unfortunately, that also means excluding popular additions from Platinum, but they should still remind players of the good times spent with their original counterparts.

Being so dedicated to preserving the original games’ design philosophy can backfire, especially in the case of outdated mechanics. There is such an example in Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, which is related to how HMs were used in the original games. By the time the Gen 4 remakes came about, HMs went from mandatory moves in a player's party to helpful field mechanics. These changes were successfully implemented in Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, but feel out of place.

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Pokemon Generation 4 and HMs

HMs, short for “Hidden Machines,” were a series staple until Pokemon Sun and Moon got rid of them. Their purpose was to making the Pokemon world more immersive by allowing players to command their monsters to use moves outside of battle. To distinguish themselves further from TMs (“Technical Machines”), HMs had infinite uses and the moves they contained were impossible to forget normally, forcing players to use Move Deleters to get rid of HM moves.

Several flaws led to the eventual replacement of HMs. Most HM moves are weak and useless outside of specific circumstances. TMs were also given infinite use as of Gen 5, rendering one of HMs' key traits redundant. One common criticism of the Sinnoh games was their over-reliance on HMs, especially moves that players would otherwise never teach their Pokemon or that only appear as late-game acquisitions such as Rock Climb. Remaking this generation with the modern field move mechanics spared players from the headaches of the past.

Overly Preserving the Past

Despite these improvements, Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl have to deal with an inherent contradiction that comes with being a Gen 4 remake in Gen 8. The games try to be modern and old school at the same time, and old level design clashes with more accessible field moves. Some areas, like in Mt. Coronet, still have lines of rocks meant to be destroyed using Rock Smash. Due to the player no longer having to teach one of their Pokemon the moves to proceed, these alleged obstacles feel more like an artifact, even if players still need to find the HMs during their playthrough. They represent what Pokemon was like 15 years ago, but only in a superficial way.

The presence of outdated elements in a set of games that modernized older installments is similar to how Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire tackled the issue with Pokemon Centers and Marts. Originally separate, the two institutions were merged into one larger building in Pokemon Black and White. Being remakes of Game Boy Advance games, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire decided to make Centers and Marts separate again, removing a neat addition for the sake of preservation. Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl do the same thing with HMs, but in a more confused way. The games keep a huge quality-of-life improvement, but don't change the level design in a way that fits.

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How The Issue Could Be Fixed

While redesigning entire segments of a game just to remove redundant elements is unlikely now that the games have released, it is a solution the developers could go with in the future. Retooling parts of the environment to accommodate modern mechanics is part of remaking games. Remakes should not just import everything the originals had and give them a new coat of paint, even if new graphics are among the main selling points of remakes like Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl.

It is also about analyzing how society, expectations, and a franchise have evolved, and how these changes should be reflected without alienating nostalgic fans. By the time Pokemon went 3D with Gen 6, fans’ patience with HMs was growing thin. TMs were already revamped in Gen 5, so HMs getting the same treatment was inevitable. Sun and Moon finally changed HMs for the better, and Sword and Shield proved that accessible field moves were not just an Alolan quirk. In theory, keeping the original Sinnoh obstacles is compatible with integrating post-Sinnoh mechanics into the environment, but in practice it makes things redundant.

Outside of Pokemon, there are other video game remakes that successfully brought the spirit of the originals to the modern era without necessarily preserving archaic aspects. Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy is one such an example, as the first Crash originally required players to go through entire levels without dying once to get gems, but in the remake only stages with colored gems have to be played without dying for full completion. The save system has also been streamlined across all three games. N. Sane Trilogy modernized a classic PlayStation trilogy by fixing its flaws or retooling them in a way that is compatible with the series’ identity. Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl could have done the same thing.

The bare minimum would be removing redundant obstacles like rocks that have to be destroyed with Rock Smash. The most ambitious path would be completely redesigning vast parts of the Sinnoh region, such as Mt. Coronet and Eterna Forest, around how Pokemon games are like now. Of course, the games’ design is set in stone, and an update that changes the environment is next-to impossible. Despite this, Pokemon developers can use this philosophy as a template for future games like the inevitable Black and White remakes.

Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are now available on Nintendo Switch.

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