Being truthful, the last couple months have been rough for me in my personal life. This has included the passing of my black labrador Pippa, who’s been a best friend for me since 2008. When I’m in this tumultuous headspace, I sometimes feel as if I don’t know what to do with myself; even the simple act of watching a film or cleaning my room can feel hollow. However, there are games that can provide a unique sense of comfort to me during these times: these being Pokémon Diamond/Pearl/Platinum on the Nintendo DS. In this post, I thought I’d share at least partly why this is.
Diamond/Pearl/Platinum have alot of meaning to me personally. The pair of Diamond and Pearl released when I was early in high school, around the time of losing a close family member in 2007. I vividly remember being taken to get my copy of Pokémon Pearl, and it was a moment of catharsis; I proceeded to play the game for hundreds of hours afterwards. I went through the Pokémon League over and over, filling up my Pokédex and training up my main team. It gave me something to occupy myself with during a time when I was alone alot, and I genuinely loved the game itself. The new Pokémon designs were inventive and full of personality, and the in-game region of Sinnoh was packed with memorable characters.
Later, Pokémon Platinum launched to complete the set of three games. It was like receiving a refined version of my beloved Pokémon Pearl, with new endgame content, a freshly snow-covered Sinnoh region, and a whole host of reasons to play the adventure all over again. Whilst my Pokémon Pearl save file is one I maintain to this day, Pokémon Platinum became the game I would restart whenever I felt the urge to play through the game from scratch with a brand new team of Pokémon (don’t worry, I’d send my team from the previous save file to another game first!).
That’s exactly how things proceeded. To this day, I tend to be pulled back to these games approximately once a year, to play through the adventure, region, and story I know so well. There’s so much that I love in these games, and there’s a comforting nostalgia to them because of the role they’ve played in my life. I’m so comfortable within them, and whenever I boot up that familiar intro screen, I can switch off my mind in a way I rarely can, speaking as someone who is susceptible to overthinking. All of this also makes it especially delightful whenever I do stumble into some detail of the games I haven’t discovered before.
So, fast-forward to 2023, and as aforementioned, I was again in need of the safe space gaming only these games can provide me. A few years ago, I bought a copy of Pokémon Diamond to complete my set, and this had given me a reason to start yet another playthrough; and it just so happens that my current save file was up to the trek to Snowpoint City in the lonely north of Sinnoh. This is one of the most soothing sections of the game, and was just the sort of calming gameplay I was after. It also acts as a microcosm of why I keep going back to these games time and time again.
To get to Snowpoint City, you have to battle through the quiet expanse of the snow-covered Routes 216/217 and Acuity Lakefront, with a few small cabins scattered around for moments of relief. The deepness of snow can slow your character to an extreme degree, forcing you to be patient in your progress. Plus, the soundtrack for this section compliments it all in a hauntingly beautiful manner. It’s ideal for cosying up in bed and letting my mind wander, as nothing happens too fast. In many ways, my team of Pokémon and the battles with other trainers were the sideshow; I’m so familiar with the games that I can put myself into autopilot.
When you reach Snowpoint City, the remoteness continues; the City is small, with a few buildings, the central Ice-Type Pokémon Gym led by Candice, and two sections that cannot be accessed until the postgame. It’s a curiosity, because of how far removed it is from many of the more built-up, metropolitan towns and cities in Sinnoh. I adore the tranquillity, and how it contrasts with the youthful fieriness of the Gym Leader Candice. I find her friendship with the Fighting-Type Gym Leader Maylene really endearing, and it’s one of the many character details that Diamond/Pearl/Platinum are full of.
Speaking of details, this translates over to the visual and audio aspects of this area of the game. The backing music is delicate enough to let your padded footsteps in the snow become a soundtrack of their own, and I love the slowly falling pixels of snow – their pristineness contrasting with the whirling blizzards you’ve emerged from. The colour palette is bright and soft, and there’s just the right amount of detail in the environments and sprites. My compliments on the audio-visual side could extend through the entire game – but as someone who’s a big fan of colder, snowy environments, these act as a great example.
For me, Diamond/Pearl/Platinum are the peak of the Pokémon franchise for many reasons, and one of these is pacing. Nothing happens too slowly or quickly, both in the overworld and in the battle animations themselves. EXP is gained at a well-balanced rate, especially when compared to the way it’s thrown at you in newer releases like Scarlet/Violet and Sword/Shield. This all makes the DS games ideal for relaxing in bed or even playing whilst doing something else. Plus, for me personally after playing the games so much, they’ve practically become muscle memory, such as when I’m completing the navigation puzzle in the Pokémon Gym to reach Candice.
Just to go back to the music again, the Gym Leader theme in these games is one of many musical highlights. Tracks such as this and the Elite Four/Champion battle themes supply the grandiose, epic tone you’re looking for – and on the other side of this are the more serene tunes, often to be found in the many Routes you venture through. I’ve already mentioned the music for Routes 216/217 and Snowpoint City, but elsewhere in the game Route 209 is another particularly magnificent track. Furthermore, the music for Diamond/Pearl/Platinum is great material for the many lo-fi remixes to be found online – with my favourite remixer being GlitchxCity. Their Route 209 remix is below!
When talking about Diamond/Pearl/Platinum, I also need to note the recent Nintendo Switch remakes Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. They kept the main structure of the games mostly identical, which I think was a wise decision. One of the main differences was the art style, with chibi-style character models and more exaggerated environments. I appreciate the remakes for their differences, especially in certain battles, where trainers had counters for tactics that I’d learned over many repeat playthroughs of the DS originals! However, the adoption of recent Pokémon trends such as easier levelling-up do negatively affect the balance of the game. My preference will always be the art style and gameplay of the originals, and my personal attachment is most strongly felt for the DS games.
I don’t want to ramble too much in this post, so I’ll stop here for now. I’ve long thought of writing about how these games have helped me mentally in key moments of my life, and after recent events, I felt even more compelled to share my experiences. I hope that you found value in my words here, and perhaps you also have certain games that you feel a personal attachment to. Art can be very subjective depending on the person and how it hits them individually, and that’s one of the wonderful parts of talking about it.
Also, for those of you who’re keeping track of my Horizon Forbidden West progress – I’ve played many more hours over the past week, and I think I’m starting to get into the climactic portions of the main story. I’m hoping to finish that up and write something on it for my post next week!
Until then, thanks for reading – I appreciate it. Have an amazing day!
2 thoughts on “Pokémon Diamond/Pearl/Platinum Are the Comfort Games I’ll Always Go Back To”
Oh man I totally remember this generation. I finally had my own DS and I got to play my own Pokemon. I remember the graphics blowing me away. XD
I really love this emotional walk through Pokemon again. And the remix is lovely. I really like the weird liminal feeling of all the snowy areas. I love hearing how games impact people in their life like this. Thank you for this!
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Right?! – the leap from GBA to DS felt like one of the biggest ones Pokémon had taken, so it was visually amazing at the time, especially as the DS itself still felt new!
Also I’m glad you enjoyed the post, and the remix from GlitchxCity too. I’ve long thought of writing about how special these games are to me, so I really appreciate your comment 🙂
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