Columns, Opinion

Gaming the System: Diamond, Pearl and golden ages

As many a viral tweet from the past weekend lamented, “Nobody hates Pokémon more than Pokémon fans do.”

Indeed, The Pokémon Company premiered multiple trailers for new games in the franchise last Friday to mixed reception, despite the fact that one such trailer announced long-awaited remakes of 2006 Nintendo DS titles Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Pokémon Shining Pearl.

Fans have clamored for remasters of Diamond and Pearl on modern Nintendo hardware for years, to the point that their demands have become a meme. However, now that they have gotten what they wanted, many fans are dissatisfied.

Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl have translated the original games’ pixel assets into 3D models with a caricatured, chibi art style, and while some fans see this as a faithful recreation of the original aesthetic, a vocal group are understandably upset about the change. Unflattering comparisons have been drawn between the remakes and LEGO figures or mobile-game knockoffs, among other things.

Emma Moneuse/DFP STAFF

I also prefer the original to the remastered version, but comparing screenshots of the two inspires a feeling of cognitive dissonance because I can’t point to any specific qualities justifying my preference. The cartoonish proportions of the player characters look the same in the remake as they do in the source material. The environment of the overworld is also faithfully recreated in the remake right down to the repeating trees and bushes.

Pokémon games take the player through a sprawling region full of cities and natural formations — the scope obviously necessitates reuse of certain assets. But I will always view the original Diamond and Pearl through rose-colored glasses, no matter how hard I try to be impartial.

Of course, constant complaining about the new look of these Pokémon games seems unproductive at best and actively harmful at worst. From a practical perspective, it’s still possible that things can change. Video games obviously change a great deal during development — the trailer is even stamped with the fine print, “Game footage is not final.”

Why whine about a product when it is presented in an explicitly unfinished state? It is also a recipe for getting into an online argument, most of which are wastes of time and energy.

Still, I can’t blame people for acting on the impulse to complain about the new game. In my opinion, the march of U.S. capitalism has turned us all into creatures of nostalgia. While our distance from the United States’ post-war, economic Golden Age grows, economic inequality only continues to widen.

Our social services programs continue to be sold for parts, the vice of austerity tightens and the purchasing power of the average wage remains stagnant. Two economic crises have happened in the last 13 years: once in 2008 and the other in 2020, the latter brought on by the pandemic.

How can we expect people not to wish for the simpler times when they were either more materially affluent or too young to be saddled with responsibility? American politics still orbit around the promise of a return to halcyon days.

Former President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan was an obvious appeal to a bygone era of prosperity, Christianity and white homogeneity.

Likewise, President Joe Biden’s campaign pined for a return to a sense of normalcy and civility, promising the veneer of professionalism in government that Trump ignored. Biden’s talking points on the campaign trail specifically referenced the bipartisanship of Southern senators from the 1970s and ’80s as a model the country should emulate, even though it existed to maintain a status quo of racial inequality.

In fact, this curious rhetorical choice from Biden points to the irrationality of our constant nostalgia, the way it romanticizes things that weren’t very good in the first place.

The fond memories and affection for the original Pokémon Diamond and Pearl would certainly seem strange to Pokémon fans who didn’t grow up on the games, considering their reputation for tedious battles, among other flaws.

In real life, some of my friends now tell me they actually enjoyed the first few months of the pandemic and miss it, which strikes me as completely insane — the time when we were still adjusting to the isolation and abject fear was fun for you?

For the foreseeable future, this great cycle of nostalgia will continue. Even the painful or annoying periods of life may transform into fond memories, but remembering good times is bittersweet.

As always, all we can do is enjoy the present — the only time we ever actually live in. But, can they hurry up with this vaccine already?

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