Michael Arndt

Who says all good fads must come to an end? When they came to the U.S. from Japan 10 years ago, "Pokemon" videogames and trading cards literally swept the nation.

Who says all good fads must come to an end? When they came to the U.S. from Japan 10 years ago, “Pokemon” videogames and trading cards literally swept the nation. Two new games, “Pokemon Diamond” and “Pokemon Pearl,” have already sold over a million units in their first five days of release, proving that this particular phenomenom hasn’t yet gone the way of Cabbage Patch Kids. The repetitive nature of the games should do well with the kiddie set they are intended for, but adult gamers will find the titles dull and annoying.

Like previous incarnations, the object of “Diamond” and “Pearl” is to “catch ‘em all”: Pokemon – the cutesy little creatures with the giggly names (like Turtwig, Chimchar and Piplup). Pit one against another in a kind of kiddie cockfight, chuck a PokeBall at the defeated one to capture it, and add it to the Pokedex, an index of all the hundreds of different breeds of wild Pokemon. (The differences be-tween the “Diamond” and “Pearl” versions of the game are which of the different species of Pokemon appear and how frequently. The story and gameplay are the same.)

The biggest shift from previous “Pokemon” games is that in “Diamond” and “Pearl,” the developers made full use of all the technology the DS can offer. Trainers can battle onlineand chat using a wireless Internet connection. And the developers used the device’s built-in clock to affect whether it’s day or night within the game and which of the different Pokemon appear when.

But besides the new bells and whistles, “Pokemon Diamond” and “Pearl” get repetitive very quickly for anyone who’s not already a fan of the furballs. After the first battle with a Pokemon species, each new encounter with a similar breed becomes a boring, predictable series of commands. The turn-based fighting drains any excitement the showdowns might have.

And when players are not fighting, they wander around the “Sinnoh region” interacting with the locals. A lot of what they say is meaningless and repetitive but still requires a ton of reading.

If you are one of the 500,000 who pre-ordered the titles, odds are you’ll be excited beyond belief by the technological advances in the series and the prospect of catching new creatures to add to your library. If you don’t fall into that category, prepare to be bored and frustrated.

Pokemon Diamond / Pokemon Pearl

Rated E; $34.99 each.

Production

A Nintendo presentation of games developed by Game Freak and Creature for the DS.
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