Nintendo's Pokémon franchise, which celebrated it's 10th Anniversary in North America late last year, is still going strong even after all this time. As is customary each generation, Pokémon Platinum is the newest Director's Cut this time. Did GameFreak provide a worthwhile addition to the Diamond/Pearl saga, or is this a simple cash-in until the next game in the much-loved series?
Pokémon Pearl/Diamond, without a doubt, gave the series a major visual facelift and changed many of the core underlying aspects of the game. The world had a semi-3D look compared to the flat 2D look of the previous games, thanks to the improved graphics of the Nintendo DS. It also split physical and special attacks by how they functioned, instead of by type, a radical shift that caused the competitive scene to turn on its head. However, for those competitive players, that was the only major shift. The Battle Frontier introduced in Emerald, which was geared specifically for them, was absent, replaced with a generic Battle Tower ala Ruby/Sapphire. While additions like the Global Trade Station (GTS) were nice for making trades easier, it was more geared towards the casual players due its simplicity (no notification of trades taking place, for instance).
This is where Platinum focuses its attention. A new item, the VS Recorder, allows players to record their wireless, WiFi, and Battle Zone matches and save them for later, or even upload them to the GTS and download other people's matches. On the subject of the GTS, it can now message players via their Wii consoles once the option is set up in game when their trades have occurred, which removes the need to boot up the game, connect to Nintendo WiFi Connection, and check the status. Emerald's Battle Frontier was also re-added, but this time with five instead of seven areas. While these fixes seem insignificant when you look at them individually, it makes for a much more fluid and enjoyable experience for players who spend hundreds of hours training their Pokémon for competitive play.
The graphical engine that powered Diamond/Pearl was also pretty impressive, so Platinum doesn't radically shift the graphics. Instead it focuses on adding detail to existing areas (such as light shining through the trees in Eternia Forest or Darkrai's New Moon Island), or even redoing an existing area from Diamond/Pearl (such as the Galactic building in Eternia City). Most players won't notice the minor changes, it is a nice treat for those with a keen eye. Some new events were also added, although they are nothing too important (mainly fleshing out some of the characters who got passed by in the original games story-wise).
If you looked at Diamond/Pearl from a technical standpoint, you would have noticed a major issue: it was slow in places that it had previously been very fast in the GameBoy Advance series of games. The fastest text speed in Diamond/Pearl was equal to the medium setting in the GameBoy Advance games, transitions from the trainer to the Pokémon was slow, changing Pokémon mid-battle was slow, the surfing speed has been picked up, etc. Platinum fixes these issue and then some, making it seem almost slightly faster than the GameBoy Advance games in some instances. The only thing that wasn't made faster was the saving, although this likely is caused by the numerous checks the game does when it saves so it keeps your data safe (previous games sometimes had issues in this regard).
However, there are some faults in the game. The original Japanese version of Diamond/Pearl has a bug that allowed the player to get Darkrai and Shaymin, which were supposed to be event-only Pokémon, which was fixed in the North American release. However, thanks to some inventive players, a glitch entitled "tweaking" was discovered, which allowed players to access the same area the glitch in the Japanese version allowed you to get to. Obviously, Nintendo removed the ability to perform this glitch, but at a cost. The new engine used in Platinum suffers from clipping issues, which is most notable in areas where either many objects are present, or the same textures are present in a large area. Most players won't notice it, but those who have played previous games with clipping issue will occasionally will. Thankfully it isn't as bad as some games, so it's nothing more than a minor issue.
Also, the cooler climate in the game, which can be seen in the male and female character's new clothing and the snow around Twinleaf Town, is barely used outside of a few areas. It almost seems as if it was a gimmick for being featured as such a radical change to affect the clothing of the characters.
The most talked about area in the game, the Distortion World, seems unrealized. While it uses the Nintendo DS's 3D graphics in an interesting way by shifting the orientation of the area, it boils down to trekking through a barren world until you reach Giratina at the end (no Pokémon are wild in this area). This could have easily been spruced up with some other areas throughout Sinnoh that had other items (besides the Grevious Orb that's already there), or included special hard-to-find Pokémon to be catchable.
For competitive players, they should enjoy the changes that were made specifically for them, as well as fixes such as the faster text speed. For casual players, it's another familiar, but different journey through Sinnoh that's worth your time. For players new to the series, this is the definitive version of Diamond/Pearl. In closing, while the game adds some new features and makes some minor changes, it's still Diamond/Pearl at its core --- don't come in expecting a grand change to the series with Platinum.