Pokémon PlatinumlikePEGI3 Developer Nintendo Publisher Nintendo Genre RPG Platform Nintendo DS Release 22nd May 2009 Pokémon is an interesting series to say the least. In the early/mid-90's everyone was playing Pokémon in some form, there was Gameboy games, Playing Cards and even Action Figures. It was a huge franchise which brought friends hours of fun and made divides in playgrounds, and let's not even start on the animation and animated movies that followed. Pokémon is a huge series which I'm happy to say I've been following since it's first iteration on the old monochrome Gameboy brick.

11 years ago, there was but 151 Pokémon for you to collect, trade and battle. Your reward for catching all 151 was being proudly named "Pokémon Master" and by such time your Level 100 Pokémon would be like walking tanks. Now, there are 493 monsters, many of which can't actually be captured in the wild anymore, potentially lost to time as the Nintendo DSi removes the Gameboy Advance port, making transferral of Pokémon from Gameboy Advance games to the DS games nearly impossible [without borrowing an older DS]. But enough history: Pokémon Platinum.

You've heard what a rich history Pokémon has, so let's see if it stands the test of time. In a nutshell: Yes, just about. Pokémon Platinum is by no means a perfect game or RPG for that matter. It's archaic approach to an RPG game, probably in an attempt to cling on to the things which made the game special to millions back in the 90's, seem to hold the game back from being special to millions in the naughties (00's). All of which will be outlined below;

If only real old castles were so fun looking
Pokémon Platinum, like any Pokémon game preceding it sees our male or female protagonist, depending on which gender you choose to be, embarking on their own adventure of self-discovery, selflessness and the pursuit of trapping adorable creatures in little red and white balls. Set a task by Professor Rowan, our protagonist boldly steps into the wider world of Sinnoh unaware of the fiendish plot set by an evil organisation hell-bent on nefarious deeds; Team Galactic. On the protagonist's way, they will attempt to become the best Pokémon Trainer in the land, competing in the illustrious Pokémon League, but before they can they must defeat 8 battle-hardened Pokémon Gym Leaders and acquire badges as a symbol of their victory.

Pokémon Platinum follows a formula very much similar to Pokémon games before it, but in-case you've never experienced a Pokémon adventure before, I'll quickly run through how the game works. The game is split into two halves like standard RPG games. One half you'll be roaming around towns in the 'overworld', bumping into trainers who want to battle you or traipsing through tall grass in search of wild Pokémon to battle or catch. The other half is the battle itself, triggered by random encounters in wild grass or by initiating a battle with another trainer, here you command your squad of up-to-6 Pokémon to beat the hell out of other Pokémon.

In battle, each Pokémon you carry has the ability to learn up to 4 moves at any one time, Pokémon learn moves either by levelling up (you get EXPeriance points by defeating other Pokémon) or being taught moves by the trainer, however the types of moves Pokémon can learn are predetermined by the Type the Pokémon is, moves are limited to how many times they can be performed as determined by each move's PP (like HP only it depletes every time a move is used). Different Types of Pokémon have strengths or weaknesses over other types of Pokémon, so for instance, a Fire Type Pokémon would be weak against a Water Type Pokémon, but strong against a Grass/Leaf Type Pokémon. Your ideal strategy is to carefully balance your Pokémon so that you maximise the range of Pokémon Types you carry around with you at any one time. However, it's not as simple as that. You must also have Pokémon who can use special types of moves outside of battles that can break rocks, push large boulders, surf on water and clear fog, just to name a few.

I believe this is the "decorating a cake" minigame
For experienced players of RPGs, there's rather unnecessary items found in the game which can boost stats (things like attack power, defence, special attack, special defence, agility, etc) of the Pokémon for the duration of the battle, healing items and Pokéballs to catch wild Pokémon in. And even Pokéballs have different levels, ranging from Pokéballs, the bog standard may-catch, may-not-catch ball of choice to the Master Ball a one-per-game type of ball to catch anything it's thrown at, being only one of them, the decision of when to use the ball is made ever-so-excruciating when there's so many difficult-to-catch Pokémon roaming Sinnoh.

In the overworld, players will be spoilt for choice in what they can be getting up to. The world is littered with people to talk to or trade Pokémon with in-game. There's Pokémon Beauty Contests to be had and WiFi multiplayer matches/trading to engage in on a global scale via the Nintendo WiFi Connection. The main problem that still lingers over the game is that progression through the game can seem to linger on, with story-specific quests that have to be completed before a player can advance to a new location. For the most part, this could probably be put down to out-dated design of the games, which perhaps should be starting to cater towards a more open-world experience. Strange and sometimes obscure paths around Sinnoh can also leave players wandering around a specific location wondering how to get to the next town, with little help to guide the players if they so need it.

Personally, I would have legged it.
Pokémon Platinum, being the bigger, meaner version of Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, has quite a few new additions and amendments to be had over it's predecessors. For one, the Pal Pad, which keeps track of all your friends' Nintendo WiFi Connection Friend Codes has had a face lift, making them slightly easier to use, the game's HUD has been tweaked slightly, a new Police Officer character has been introduced and other odd bits and bobs have been tightened up or changed to make the game a much better experience. There's also fun little time wasting Minigames (remember when everyone was raggin' on those when the DS initially came out?) to play, little in-game apps which come around with you on your Pokétech-watch-thingy. However, here comes the inevitable...

So, downfalls. The game has quite a few. A lot of which are remnants of previous Pokémon games and are the aforementioned design flaws which keep the game back from being even more awesome than it could be. First of all, the game takes forever to do just about anything. There's so much pomp and circumstance around little things in the game, for instance, healing Pokémon, it's a fundamental mechanic in the game. You travel to a Pokémon Centre, press A at the counter and watch your Pokémon slowly get added to the heal tray one by one... Then a little jingle later... All healed. This was a nice little gimmick that wore thin on the Gameboy versions of Pokémon, let alone the modern Pokémon games where you should just be able to skip such animations. Then there's other un-skippable and equally annoying little animations such as doing any special Pokémon move outside of battle, these little banners don't do anything but display a picture of the Pokémon you're using. Was telling me what Pokémon I was using not enough? Platinum really exposes this problem in the new Distortion World where you're asked to use Strength to push boulders all over the place to complete a puzzle, but you have to keep activating Strength every time you change a floor or jump over a ledge, it's very frustrating. Why isn't there an option to turn these things off?

Also, menus. They take forever to scroll through, especially when you have to scroll through tens of items to find the right one, the touch screen iPod-like scroll wheel thing is utterly useless as well often getting left behind as a user rapidly circles the wheel, making the menu select the same two items over and over again. On the matter of touch screens, the game has touch screen controls dotted randomly all over the place, but you wont be able to play the game solely by using the touch screen, a bit strange that you have touch screen controls at all, especially when you're given the impression they're the 'default' method of input during battles.

Overall then, Pokémon Platinum is a pretty good RPG-lite, it's not quite as sophisticated as say a Final Fantasy game, but it doesn't need to be. Things like strategy can help any player defeat the game proficiently, however, loading up your Pokémon with strong attacks in all four move slots is still a very viable option for players to complete the game with (which is what most kids will do anyway, I sure did as a child). As an RPG game in general though, Pokémon lags behind the current trend. It's fun, but not ground breaking and quite frankly, the game isn't as good as previous Pokémon titles such as Pokémon Crystal. Strip away all the modern animations and 3D visuals and you have a pretty weak main story and mediocre dungeon designs. Buy it? If you want hours of childish fun and a somewhat bias battle system? Sure. If you're looking for a proper RPG, look else-where.