Review: Pokemon Platinum (NDS IMPORT)

Pokemon Platinum
Developer: Game Freak
Publisher: Nintendo of Japan
Genre: Turn Based RPG
Release Date (Japan): 09/13/2008


One would think that at some point the most successful video game franchise of all time would start to lose steam, especially after eleven years of holding the top spot. After all Mario, Sonic, Street Fighter and the rest lost their dominant spot, but Pokemon remains nigh untouchable. In the first two days of its release, over one million copies of Pokemon Platinum were sold in Japan alone and industry analysts easily expect the game to break the North American sales record currently held by GTA IV when it hits US shores. Famitsu gave the game straight 9’s for an overall score of 35 (unheard of what amounts to a remake) and those of us who have a financial stake in Pokemon are pretty gung-ho about the success of this game.

That being said, I’ve always looked forward to the remix addition of each Pokemon generation. I preferred Yellow to Blue, Green, and Red. Crystal is easily the greatest Pokemon video game ever made, and although the third generation of Pokemon was by far the worst in the series, Emerald was able to keep its head up above Ruby and Sapphire.

Now we’re on generation four. Pokemon Diamond/Pearl won our 2007 RPG of the year and it was my own personal #3 game of the year. Pokemon Platinum however, has managed to surpass D/P and is in my opinion, only a hair beneath Crystal for the best game in the series. Usually I’m cryptic about my feelings about games in the intro, but there you go: Pokemon Platinum is amazing. I do want to give the caveat that I pick up two different paychecks from the Pokemon universe but that this review is not endorsed nor paid for by NoA, NoJ, Pokemon USA, The Pokemon Company, or Game Freak. Still, in the interest of fairness and full disclosure I feel the need to remind my readers of this with each Poke-review I write.

Other Pokemon Game Reviews I’ve done over the years for DHGF, Inside Pulse, and 411mania:

Pokemon Ranch
Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time
Pokemon Battrio
Pokemon Battle Revolution
Pokemon Diamond & Pearl
Pokemon Ranger
Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Blue Rescue Team
Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Red Rescue Team
Pokemon Trozei
Pokemon XD
Pokemon Emerald
Pokemon Fire Red/Leaf Green
Pokemon Box
Pokemon Coliseum
Pokemon Channel
Pokemon Pinball R/S
Pokemon Ruby
(Note that some of these didn’t import so well into the DHGF archives. Just a head’s up)

Jesus, with Pokemon Platinum, that makes 18 Pokemon games in nearly six years. 19 with Pokemon Ranger hitting Stateside shortly. I don’t know whether that’s impressive or sad. But enough looking back at the past, let’s talk Platinum!

Let’s Review

1. Story

For the most part, PP has the same plot as D/P. You are an unnamed silent protagonist as always. After being given Pokemon by Professor Rowan, you and your best friend set out to become the world’s greatest Pokemon Trainers. Along the way you’ll pass through 8 Gyms and the Elite Four before becoming the master of all you survey.

What’s new? Well actually, the plot is drastically shaken up. You’ll notice your main character is in warmer clothing than in D/P. There are some new stones to affect your Deoxys, a whole new plot involving Team Galactic, an all new 3-D area known as the Torn World where you’ll encounter the Legendary Pokemon Giratina, a new subquest involving the Legendary birds of Kanto, new forms for Giratina and Shaymin, FIVE new forms for Rotom, a new version of the Battle Frontier, four gyms that have been upgraded, the Top Trainer Cafe which FINALLY lets you have rematches with Gym Leaders, battle in Pokemon Centers, a complete remix of where you find Pokemon as well as what moves they learn, a resort house to acts sort of like a secret base, and so much more.

I was really impressed by how fleshed out everything was. There are new characters and easily the best characterization of villains in the history of Pokemon handheld games. That being said, Pokemon is not really the series you got to for an exceptionally deep or well developed story. It’s light entertainment and enjoyable, but PP is a step below Crystal and Coliseum in overall story quality and due to the rather shallowness of the myriad of characters you encounter it’s not going to be in line for a story of the year nomination come the end of the year.

Entertaining and fun for what it is, and especially for a Pokemon handheld game, but nothing amazing or mind blowing.

Story Rating: Above Average

2. Graphics

Like the plot, the graphics of Pokemon Platinum are improved over D/P. We’ve got some new sprites all around, and some amazing new Pokemon animations. Awww, Turtwig is so cute! The opening video montage actually blew me away. Game Freak really put a lot into the visual upgrad of Pokemon Platinum and it shows.

Although it’s nowhere as brilliant as the visuals in Hi! Hamtaro Ham-Ham Challenge (Although nothing is. The game may be for five year olds but it’s stunning), Pokemon Platinum remains one of the best looking games on the DS, sporting the widest array of character designs out of any portable video game ever made.

Graphics Rating: Classic

3. Sound

I find the music of Pokemon Platinum to be quite good, although little has changed from D/P. Sure there’s a few new tracks like the music of the Torn World, but for the most part, it’s practically the same score we heard a year and a half ago.

Pokemon still use their same standard midi squwarks, and like most Pokemon fans I’m annoyed that they could use Pikachu’s voice actress in an old Game Boy Colour game, but not in something a few generations down the road. Eventually, they’ll get that ironed out as it just sound worse with each passing generation o’ Pokemon.

The new music is neither memorable nor as catchy as the original songs that are still used through Pokemon marketing to this day, but it’s entertaining and adds to the feel of the game and you really can’t ask for much more than that.

Sound Rating: Good

4. Control and Gameplay

The core engine of the turn based Pokemon games is arguably the best for this subgenre of RPG’s thanks to its depth, flexibility, insane math equations used to generate stats, and how easy it is for gamers of all age to understand and play the game.

As with D/P, I actually enjoy doing contest thanks to the mini game aspects added to them. In R/S, these things were god awful boring but you HAD to do them to get certain things in the post game. Kill me now.

There are twice as many TM’s then in the last generation, you’ll need a new IV calculator to figure out how good your Pokemon are if you’re that anal, AV/EV stats are done differently, Moves are now divided into what type of contact they involve rather than all Fire moves being Specials or all Fighting moves using Attacks. This is one change that is for the better as it allows you to mix and match your Pokemon, but sadly it has also rendered one of my most favorite of all Pokemon, Muk, pretty useless. Poo.

The core game, for those of you who have somehow avoided Pokemon over the last decade or so involves you created a team of six Pokemon from the gazillion or so we’ve put out over four generations of the game and raising them, breeding them, and leveling them up until you can beat your opponent, be it CPU controlled or another person over the wi-fi connection. There are seventeen classes of Pokemon, which we refer to as Types. Each Type of Pokemon is strong against some other type(s) and weak against yet others. A good example is that a Dark Pokemon is strong against Psychic Pokemon which are strong against Fighting Pokemon which in turn are strong against those aforementioned Dark Pokemon. The game boils down to one gigantic game of rock-paper-scissors. It’s easily one of the deepest and most customizable RPG franchises of all time and it’s nigh impossible to find fault with the engine or gameplay.

Bottom line – this is what turn based RPG’s should play like, even if the plot and cutesy characters have their naysayers.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Unparalleled

5. Replayability

When you finally beat the game and are the Pokemon Master, you find the game has just begun. There’s so many new challenges, trainers, and subquests you can go out on. This doesn’t even take into account the ability to play against either your friends or random strangers from across the world. There’s also the ability to trade Pokemon with people from across the world, the Underground, Pokemon Day events like Pokemon Rocks America or the ability to get exclusive Pokemon from places like Toys R Us or the Nintendo Store in NYC.

To say that you can get hundreds of hours out of a single Pokemon cart and still find something new is not an understatement. No game out there gives you replay value like this, and it’s one of the reasons the series has remained so crazy popular over the years.

Replayability Rating: Unparalleled

6. Balance

Again, I hate to sound like such a mark, but again, this is an area where Pokemon excels beyond most other games, regardless of genre.

One of the nice things about Pokemon is that there is no unbeatable team. There is always a move or type or ability than can counter some other Pokemon, and there is always a counter to the counter. The only real way to assure yourself of an easy win is to run around in the early stages of the game and level up massively so that you can cakewalk against the Computer. However, upon doing this you’ll learn about a little failsafe built into the game. If all you do is fight low level characters. Your Pokemon’s max potential will be limited as well. Meaning if you have a level 50 Pokemon you used munchkin tactics to plow your way through the game (meaning fighting nothing but wild Pokemon around say Jubilife City), it will be notably weaker than another level 50 Pokemon on the same type that was raised by going through the game and fighting harder challenges and Pokemon with better Effort Point values. This is perfection in terms of making a balanced game. It all depends on if you’re playing just to beat the main story of the game, or to make some powerful Pokemon to use competitively.

Balance Rating: Unparalleled

7. Originality

This is a bit of a hard one. In a way this is like trying to judge the originality of say Super Street Fight 2 Turbo to the original Street Fighter. The heart and core of the game is the same, but so much is different. There are new graphics, moves, animations, and even a whole new story in Pokemon Platinum, enough to justify its purchase for those that already have both Diamond and Pearl. At the same time, it really is a face lift on D/P and one has to question how long Pokemon can keep the half steps up between generations.

I love that Pokemon tries to constantly do something innovation with each release instead of going the King of Fighters route and slowly ruining the franchise with each passing release. This game feels very different from D/P but at the same time there is also a constant feeling of Deja Vu. Call it a thumbs in the middle here from me.

Originality Rating: Mediocre

8. Addictiveness

It’s very easy to get sucked into a Pokemon game. I know people that HATE RPG’s and who have ended up whittling away hours or even days on their Game Boy or DS. Look at all the young children who do nothing but walk, talk, and dream of Pokemon. I went on a hike with some friends a few months ago in Maryland and I was assaulted for hours upon hours by young kids who appeared to have an endless array of Pokemon queries. It was a lot of fun though and great to know something I had a minor role in has made so many people of all ages happy. It’s a time sink that offers something different to each person who picks up the game. With the ability to catch both Dialga and Plakia on the same cart, once this hits stateside, it’s bound to sell several thousand new DS’ and also the new DSi that should be hitting US shores at around the same time. On a side note that might get me in trouble, I would STRONGLY advise against getting a DSi if you only play Pokemon as you need that GBA slot that the DSi lacks in order to “catch ’em all” or unlock other Pokemon. Seriously people, pass on it.

Long story short: Pokemon Platinum is VERY long and it might even burn some gamers out, but most will be glued to their screen.

Addictiveness Rating: Great

9. Appeal Factor

It’s the most popular and successful gaming franchise of all time. It teaches kids sportsmanship. It gets kids to play video games against each other long before they are able to go on Xbox Live. It’s a game that is loved by people of all ages, nationalities, classes, and gender. I know this sounds like verbal fellatio, but if there is one thing about Pokemon that can not be understated, it’s how bloody popular it is and how the vast majority of humanity is able to enjoy it.

This is Pokemon’s strongest area and with Platinum being the most solid game Game Freak has given us in seven years, it’s going to make Nintendo a dump truck full of money.

Appeal Factor: Unparalleled

10. Miscellaneous

Okay. Normally this is where I talk a little bit about the extras, but instead I’m going to give a special tip for those of you who don’t swarm Pokebeach.com, Serebii.net, Beckett’s Pokemon Collector Magazine, and all the big Pokemon info sources out there. Let’s talk about how to get the five new forms of Rotom.

When you buy a Japanese version of Pokemon Platinum, you’ll find a special insert revealing one of the five new Rotom forms. This insert shows one of the new Rotom forms as both an art design AND a screenshot of the new form in action. There’s an actual use for the insert as well though. Once you activate your Mystery Gift ability at Jubilife Station (“Everybody happy” and “Wi-Fi Connection” are the key words to do so. Check the insert for the Japanese characters), you can receive a Secret Key via Wi-Fi connection or from a retailer. Of course, as we’re here in the US, we’ll have to wait a little longer for this particular item. The secret key is only given out from September 28th to November 4th of this year, so by the time you read this, the window of opportunity to get one in Japan is probably closed.

The next thing you have to do is beat the game. Easier said than done, right? Well, that’s the only way you can catch a Rotom in the Old Chateau. Once you have your Rotom, it’s off to the Team Galactic hideout in Eterna City. If you use the Secret Key between the bookcase and a wall, a secret door will open. Here you will find Pluto’s secret Rotom hideaway complete with five new electronic devices that Rotom can posses. When you pick an item, Rotom will enter it and it will disappear from the screen. Now when you use Rotom, it will have one of its five new forms, based on which of the items you chose to have Rotom possess. To get the normal version of Rotom back, you just have to go to the spot where the item used to be and press A. Then Rotom will leave the item. You can also switch Rotom forms by coming back to the Team Galactic Hideout and choosing a new item.

The five new forms Rotom can take are:
“¢ Cut Rotom, which is based on a lawnmower and can learn the Grass attack Leaf Storm.
“¢ Frost Rotom, which is based on a refrigerator and can learn the Ice attack Blizzard.
“¢ Heat Rotom, which is based on an oven and can learn the Fire attack Overheat.
“¢ Spin Rotom, which is based on an electric fan and can learn the Flying attack Air Slash.
“¢ Wash Rotom, which is based on a washing machine and can learn the Water Attack Hydro Pump.

You might be wondering what’s the point to these new forms? Does Rotom’s type change like Arceus? Nope. It remains Electric/Ghost, as it’s possessing the machine as a ghost would and providing the electricity for it to function. Instead, taking these new forms increases most of Rotom’s stats dramatically to where the new form is basically as powerful as an evolved Pokemon. Considering Rotom was pretty impressive to begin with, that’s a huge advantage. The only ability that DOES NOT increase is Speed, and that actually goes down some. This is most likely because Rotom is possessing something and thus lacks full mobility. After all, how easy is it to make a washing machine run, jump, or dodge Pokemon attacks?

So there you go! Go get yourself a Secret Key and try all the new Rotom’s out!

Miscellaneous Rating: Unparalleled

The Scores
Story: Above Average
Graphics: Classic
Sound: Good
Control and Gameplay: Unparalleled
Replayability: Unparalleled
Balance: Unparalleled
Originality: Mediocre
Addictiveness: Great
Appeal Factor: Unparalleled
Miscellaneous: Unparalleled
FINAL SCORE: INCREDIBLE GAME!

Short Attention Span Summary

Pokemon Platinum is a game worth picking up if you know Japanese or if you have the mechanics of Pokemon so memorized you don’t need to read it. It’s a bit pricey to import PP, and we all know it’ll be coming to the States eventually with some changes to reflect things that can’t be done here that were done in Japan (Such as the lack of a theatrical release of the Shaymin film). If you know how to use your DS correctly and have a basic knowledge of Japanese, you can still get the Secret Key and various other objects to help you complete your Pokedex and take full advantage of this game. My suggestion is wait for the North American release, and join in with the millions around the world that will enjoy this game at that time. For those of you who can read Japanese, there’s no reason not to import this as Pokemon Platinum is easily one of the best RPG’s released this decade.

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