While I’m certainly not as down on Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl (aka BDSP) as it seems so much of the Pocket Monster fandom is, I’m rather surprised that the 2021 titles combined to win two Japan Game Awards. Not only was the duo the best selling video game in Japan for the past fiscal year, but it also was given the award for the ‘Global Category.’ According to Nintendo Life, fans seem to understand the Japan sales award, but there’s great confusion about how it became the globally best selling game to come out of Japan during that same time-frame.
These comments come from Japanese gamers themselves, not just English-speaking ones. Probably more surprising to me is that many Pokemon fans seem to think Pokemon Legends Arceus should’ve won that title. Meanwhile, the only good thing that BDSP had going for them was the nostalgia factor. It released as the buggiest Pokemon game to date, and speed-runners had a particularly fun time skipping the entire game and winning the Pokemon League while actually battling hardly anyone.
Now, I do like some of the features they added on release to these games, such as the expansions to the Grand Underground, the addition of many National Dex Pokemon to that area for more team diversity, as well as the competitive upgrades they made to gym leaders and the Pokemon League. Also, unlike most people, the cartoonish aspect to the game doesn’t bother me at all. But, that wasn’t enough to save these games for me. About all they did do was allow players to get a lot of the Pokemon that were missing from other Nintendo Switch releases. Gameplay wise they have a lot of issues, and while they’re hardly terrible games, I have next to no desire to ever play them through again.
Now, for all the problems that Legends Arceus has, Brilliant Diamond/Shining Pearl certainly has some major flaws. As for Arceus, I myself have little desire to play it through again except for perhaps the chance to get duplicate legendary Pokemon; in fact, I never actually caught Arceus, as my “gamer skills” are apparently inadequate for that final encounter, which kind of just left a bad taste in my mouth regarding that game. But, downloadable content (DLC) did add some new missions, as well as opportunities to do a ton of “shiny hunting,” which I certainly took advantage of until it finally got repetitive and exhausting.
Fortunately for Legends Arceus, it wasn’t entirely shafted, as it did win an ‘award for excellence.’ That’s a loaded word right there, and my thoughts on Legends Arceus are fully explained in my initial review of the Hisui adventure. (I do need to update these taking the DLC and Pokemon Home connectivity into account, though). It also is rather funny that my reviews of the Hisuian form Pokemon are some of my most popular articles I’ve ever written.
Back to BDSP, it’s been well-known for months in 2022 that these were the best-selling Pokemon remakes of all time. As of June 30, 2022, the duo had sold 14.79 million units. They outsold Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire for the 3DS, which are much better games and sold a total of 14.46 million units. They also outsold Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee, greatly simplified Generation 1 remakes, but well done all the same; still, they were at 14.53 million copies combined. However, even Legends Arceus sold 12.6 million units in its first two months of release, and no doubt that took away from BDSP’s potential. While Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl definitely deserved the award from a pure sales standpoint, it’s not like they were ahead by that much.
There is entirely the possibility that Legends Arceus may eventually surpass BDSP in the sales category. This is because despite the hate that a lot of the Hisuian forms get, many Pokemon are only available in the Nintendo Switch era from this game. For all the weird things Legends Arceus did, it did do a lot of things right, and it tried new things; yeah, some things didn’t work, but it was not at all a total failure. Because of its success, the Legends games could end up being an actual series. Since they will have the Scarlet and Violet open-world engine to build from, future installments could actually be great games.
So, yes, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl were a success, and the best selling remakes of all time in the Pokemon franchise. But, did it deserve to be? That’s not really the point when it comes to the real-world of entertainment; if it sells well, and sets records, no matter by how slight a margin, it’s a win. Adding the GTS Wonder Trade feature certainly helped BDSP and the game enjoys a small but intense competitive scene on Pokemon Showdown. But, considering the massive downgrades of quality-of-life and gameplay from Sword and Shield, it was extremely jarring.
To be absolutely honest, had Pokemon not done the BDSP games, I actually believe that Legends Arceus would have made a ton more money. However, without BDSP, it’s possible that without Generation 4 on the brain, many Pokemon fans may have skipped Legends Arceus altogether. After all, the nostalgia for Diamond and Pearl is understandable, although the third game in Gen 4 in Platinum was by far the superior game.
Also, keep in mind that these are two titles that serve as one, so the fact that Legends Arceus sold eighty percent as many copies proves that at the very least, it was a massive financial success that was unafraid to take chances and push boundaries for the Pokemon franchise. So, positioning the games how they did ended up being the right play financially, if not critically. When you sell that many games, you don’t care about Metacritic scores.
But, please, Game Freak, don’t hand off another mainline Pokemon game remake to ILCA ever again. They do an absolutely great job on Pokemon Home; but, if we get Generation 5 games in this style, I’m probably not going to buy them… at least unless they are deeply discounted.
Which Pokemon games from 2021/2022 did you prefer: Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl or Legends Arceus?