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Pokémon Diamond and Pearl are the series’ most important games, and it’s not even close

Catherine Lewis

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Pokémon Diamond and Pearl are the series’ most important games, and it’s not even close

Featured Image Credit: The Pokémon Company, Nintendo

I adore the Pokémon franchise. Frankly, there’s not a single main series title that I can’t compliment in one way or another - each has introduced either a new feature, location or adorable Pokémon that I can no longer imagine life without. However, I’m also a firm believer that the Sinnoh region games - Pokémon Diamond, Pearl and Platinum - are still the most important games in the series to date.

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Admittedly, I might be a little biased here. Pearl was the first Pokémon game I ever played, and is the title I always cite as being the game that really transformed gaming into my main hobby. I spent hundreds of hours exploring the region, catching and levelling up my favourites, and learning everything I could about all things Pokémon online. However, even with my rose tinted glasses aside, there’s no denying that Diamond and Pearl were the games that truly brought Pokémon into the modern era when it comes to its battle mechanics.

Take a look at some funny wins and fails from Pokémon Legends: Arceus below.

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Not much has permanently changed since Diamond and Pearl’s release - although each generation has introduced us to a temporary new gimmick like Z-Moves and Terastallization, the fourth generation games introduced the Physical/Special moves split. This finally allowed individual moves’ damage to be calculated based on a Pokémon’s Attack or Special Attack stat, rather than every move of a certain type being assigned to one or the other. In what world did it make sense for Ghost-type to be Physical, anyway?

Perhaps more importantly, these were the first Pokémon games to have Wi-Fi connectivity. Admittedly, this was bound to be introduced eventually, but it doesn’t make it any less cool that Diamond and Pearl were the first to do it. The Global Trade System was a brilliant idea, and although it was often ruined by players requesting nothing but level 100 legendary Pokémon for their early-game critters, the occasional times where people were actually fair made it so worth it.

Gameplay aside though, where Diamond and Pearl really broke ground for the Pokémon series was with their incredible lore. Of course, ever since the original first generation games, we’ve been introduced to various powerful Legendary Pokémon like Mew and Mewtwo, but the fourth generation really took that up a notch. Diamond and Pearl essentially decided that although criminals trying to steal Pokémon was neat, and rival villains trying to simultaneously flood and dry out the planet was cool, what we really needed was a cosmic threat, powered by the very Pokémon that created the world, universe and reality itself.

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Look, don’t get me wrong, I love the series’ earlier Legendary Pokémon, but what did most of them have to offer, really? Just look at Articuno, Zapdos and Moltres. Sure, they’re cool and really strong, but what else? The Pokédex entries for the three at best state that they can control the weather to some extent, but in the world of Pokémon, that’s not really unique to them. It’s a similar deal for Entei, Raikou and Suicune - they might be rad and have some neat powers, but the in-game world isn’t really going to miss them if they’re thrown into someone’s PC boxes forever.

Admittedly, the third generation games did start making Legendary Pokémon feel a bit more impactful, with Groudon and Kyogre having the ability to change the world’s entire landscape. However, no Pokémon have ever come close to having the same level of significance to the in-game universe as the Sinnoh region’s Legendaries.

Palkia in the Pokémon anime. / Credit: The Pokémon Company
Palkia in the Pokémon anime. / Credit: The Pokémon Company
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For a start, we have the big boys on the box art. According to the games’ Pokédex entries, Pearl’s mascot Palkia stabilises space simply by existing, implying that without it, everything could just start getting horribly volatile and distorted. As for Diamond version’s Dialga, that big blue dragon is literally the whole reason time exists. In fact, Platinum version’s Pokédex states that “time flows when Dialga’s heart beats”, so if it were to die, everyone would be toast, basically. No pressure on anyone doing a Nuzlocke challenge with one on their team.

Although Giratina doesn’t initially seem to do much beyond being one of the coolest dragons ever made, dig deeper into the lore and you’ll discover that the Distortion World which it created essentially acts like antimatter for the regular world, so everything would be thrown out of balance if it didn’t exist. Without Giratina, the world just crumbles.

You’d have imagined that the devs would think that was enough Legendary Pokémon of the universe-defining variety for one generation, but no. Diamond and Pearl also introduced us to the biggest boy of them all - Arceus. This guy basically needs no introduction - according to its Dex entries, it was “born before the universe even existed” and then “shaped the universe”. You have no idea how much I’d have loved to have been in on the meeting where someone at Game Freak suggested creating a literal PokéGod and throwing it into the new games, because that might be the greatest idea that the series has ever produced.

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While ‘Pokémon’ and ‘incredible story’ don’t tend to be two things that generally go hand-in-hand (although there are definite exceptions - looking at you, Explorers of Sky), the Sinnoh games went so unreasonably hard with their lore, so much so that we even got a whole new game dedicated to it with Pokémon Legends: Arceus. I’m not saying that other generations couldn’t get their own ancient prequels (in fact, a Johto-based game set during the events of Ecruteak’s Brass Tower burning to the ground and Ho-Oh resurrecting Entei, Raikou and Suicune would be incredible), but Sinnoh really was the very best region to do it with.

Regardless of how you feel about Diamond and Pearl, their mythology is genuinely one of the most intriguing parts of the entire Pokémon series. If not for them, we’d have no idea how the world of Pokémon and the creatures within it came to be in the first place, and when you’re dealing with such a fantastical, enchanting fictional universe, that stuff is important. The series might have begun with Red, Blue and Green, but Pokémon started in Sinnoh.

Topics: Pokemon, Nintendo, Game Freak, Opinion

Catherine Lewis
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