Multiplayer gaming was a rarity when I was growing up, mostly because the internet was still a novelty well into my childhood. My console of choice, the Nintendo DS, was the first Nintendo handheld with Wi-Fi — and also the first console that let me play games with friends. Between sessions of Pokémon Diamond, Animal Crossing and Mario Kart DS, I discovered just how good gaming with friends could be, and it’s something I’m so excited to share with new friends when Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl launches this November.
Recapturing the joy of those early days is a tough ask. New South Wales has been in lockdown for two months. I miss my friends. Every day brings awful news from around the world. It’s hard to tune out. But a return to the easier, carefree days of old feels like a nice cure for the blues.
In 2006, I spent several months cooped up in my best friend’s garage playing in Pokémon Diamond’s Underground, where you could build your own secret base, play capture the flag and mine for rare spheres which could be used to buy decorations. Together, we competed to have the prettiest base, to mine the most spheres, and to plant the most devious traps to thwart flag-stealing attempts.
We had nothing else to worry about.
Playing Pokémon Diamond in that garage was the first multiplayer experience I’ll cherished. There was nothing quite like seeing your avatar pop up in your friend’s game, or watching them invade your tiny little space in the Underground. Being able to play with friends at all was novel, and the fun of the mini-games were an added bonus.
It was a minor feature, but one that bafflingly never made it back to mainline Pokémon games.
There was real joy to be had in mining the best spheres, or finding unique items hiding in the rock floors of the Underground. You could obtain rare fossils there, which could be grown into fully-fledged Pokémon. You could find evolution stones, rare TMs or special items to help your Pokémon grow.
With the remakes of Diamond and Pearl, modern Pokémon players finally have a chance to step back into the Underground and experience all the highs and lows of building your first secret base, and discovering unique items along the way.
I’m positively jumping at the chance to corral my friends into a multiplayer session and relive both my childhood and those halcyon days of playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons in lockdown. With a visual overhaul and refreshed features, the new version of the Underground looks set to be just as exciting and endearing as the original.
While the Underground isn’t a huge part of Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, it does represent one of the first big opportunities for a multiplayer bonanza since New Horizon’s boom in March 2020. As much as it sucks to say, Australia’s lockdown situation will likely still be an issue in November, and while it’s easy to fall into pessimism about that thought, there is a brighter side.
In Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl‘s Underground, there is no coronavirus. There is no pain. All you’ll have is the pickaxe in your hand, and your friends by your side. It could be just the thing we need to reconnect with our sense of joy in trying times.
I know I can never go back to the freedom of those days playing Nintendo DS in my friend’s garage. Time marches on whether we want it to or not. But in the new Pokémon Underground, time will stand still for just a moment, I’ll mine shiny spheres, and I’ll remember better days.