As we build up to the 20th anniversary of Pokémon in February 2016 and look hotly ahead towards brand new things, we're continuing our journey through each generation of Pokémon; this month we look at the generation that encapsulated the early years of the DS era, in particular. If you need to catch up before reading ahead, be sure to check out our retrospectives on generation 1, generation 2 and generation 3.
The build-up to launch
The build-up to this generation was a somewhat odd one. It all began in May 2004 when a new Pokémon was revealed to be in the upcoming movie, Destiny Deoxys. This came as a shock to most players, especially as it was the pre-evolved form of a classic, Snorlax. Soon after, Pokémon Emerald was revealed and released with no sign of it. Then, in October 2004 and hidden away in a release listing on Nintendo Japan's website, a listing for Pokémon Pearl and Diamond was placed with a planned release of Autumn 2005. As 2005 went on nothing was heard about the game but more Pokémon were revealed to tie in with that year's movie. First Lucario, then Bonsly, Weavile and Mime Jr. A special series of games was then announced to lead up to the games, called "The Road to Diamond & Pearl" which included Pokémon Ranger, Pokémon Trozei and Pokémon Mystery Dungeon, as the games had seemingly slipped into 2006. Still, little news came from the games except through a competition in CoroCoro for a person to name a move, the move we now know as Draco Meteor, and reports that the game would have full online connectivity. Then, in 2006 as more Pokémon were being revealed for the next movie, the first details of the game started to come out and then eventually in September 2006, almost four years after Ruby & Sapphire, Diamond & Pearl came out.
The main series
It was September 28th 2006 and the first DS mainline Pokémon games were released in Japan, with a launch in April 2007 in the US and July 2007 in Europe. With the online features Pokémon as a series was set to come back.
Pokémon Diamond & Pearl was set in the land of Sinnoh and had you play as a new trainer going through Sinnoh facing the gyms again, but this time facing up against Team Galactic, who wanted to harness the powers of Dialga and Palkia to end the world and start it anew.
These games brought one of the biggest changes in mechanics to the fold. While its predecessors really overhauled the system, this generation changed things up by altering how moves are calculated. Previously, the moves were physical or special based on type, but Diamond & Pearl changed it up by making each move either physical or special. This changed how most Pokémon were to be used, with some Pokémon suddenly becoming more viable, and others less viable.
The standout feature of this generation was the online capabilities. Using the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, players could battle and trade with other players across the world so long as they were registered in their Pal Pads. This breathed new life into the franchise. In this, they also introduced the Global Trade Station that let you put Pokémon up for trade looking for certain other Pokémon, and random players could trade you theirs. This is a feature that still lasts to this very day.
As the original Nintendo DS had a Game Boy Advance slot, you could very easily transfer your Pokémon from the previous generation, and using that feature Diamond & Pearl even allowed for different Pokémon to be in the wild depending on which game is in the Game Boy Advance slot.
As the generation progressed there was little sign of anything new until February 2008, when Shaymin was revealed, but with Shaymin came a new form of Giratina, which started a lot of speculation about a new game. That game eventually came in September 2008 and was an enhanced version of Pokémon Diamond & Pearl. It changed the story somewhat with the focus being on Giratina and included a mind-warping area called the Distortion World. It also reintroduced the Battle Frontier to the series as well as new forms of Shaymin and Rotom.
Then, a year later, something that people had been clamouring for since the reveal of FireRed & LeafGreen came to be. Remakes of the Game Boy Color classics, Pokémon Gold & Silver were announced and released in 2009. These brought the games up to the graphical and mechanical standards in Generation IV and added a variety of features including the special Safari Zone and the Pokéthlon mini-games. It also fixed a lot of the issues with Gold & Silver such as the empty Kanto region.
In this generation there were less new Pokémon than last time, with just 107 Pokémon introduced, bringing the total number of Pokémon up to 493. Unlike the last generation, however, there are more Pokémon that are related to previously introduced Pokémon than any other generation!
The starter Pokémon in this generation are Turtwig, Chimchar and Piplup, continuing the tradition of the Grass, Fire and Water-typed starters, though this time each evolution goes a completely different route with Torterra being Grass/Ground, Infernape being Fire/Fighting and Empoleon being Water/Steel-type.
There are also a large number of Legendary Pokémon in this generation, 9 Legendary Pokémon to be specific. First is the Psychic-type trio of Uxie, Mesprit and Azelf, which are actually included as part of the narrative. Then there are the cover legends of Dialga, who controls time, Palkia who controls Space and Giratina who rules over the Distortion World. The other Legendary Pokémon are a mishmash of backstory. Heatran is Fire/Steel and is found in volcanoes. Interestingly, it's the only Legendary Pokémon to date that can be both genders. Regigigas was introduced, being the leader of the trio from the previous generation, and finally Cresselia was a roaming Pokémon which ties in with one of the Mythical Pokémon of the Generation, and is one of the most commonly used Pokémon in the competitive metagame today.
There are four Mythical Pokémon in this generation too. Manaphy was the first, and was introduced and distributed before the games were out, tying with the Pokémon Ranger games. Through those games, you could get special Manaphy eggs which then hatch into Manaphy. Manaphy can also breed with Ditto, but always results in the weaker Pokémon, Phione. Darkrai was introduced in 2007 and is a Dark-type Pokémon that can give people nightmares. Shaymin was introduced in 2008 and is a Grass-type Pokémon that can also change form into a completely different looking Grass/Flying-type. Finally, the last Mythical Pokémon of this generation is Arceus. Legends say that Arceus created the entire universe making it the Alpha Pokémon which can be any type.
For a full list of Pokémon, you can find them here: http://www.serebii.net/games/generation4.shtml
When September 2006 hit and Diamond & Pearl came out, the anime shifted once again into a new generation. It changed its title to Pokémon Diamond & Pearl and featured Ash and Brock travelling to the Sinnoh region where they met up with a new trainer, Dawn, who is based on the female playable character in Pokémon Diamond & Pearl. Once again Pikachu destroyed their new companion's bike, this time when in a battle against Team Rocket.
So with his two travelling companions, Ash travelled through the Sinnoh region, taking on the various gyms while Dawn entered a variety of Pokémon Super Contents, and in doing so encountered the evil team, Team Galactic, and stopped them from enacting their plans to control Dialga and Palkia. He also met the trainer Paul, who only cares about Pokémon's strengths.
The Sinnoh League was a very interesting league indeed. While Ash faced off against his various rivals including Paul, the star of the entire league was the mysterious character, Tobias. Tobias was unique in that he had a Darkrai and with his Darkrai, he went through all the gyms and leagues defeating every trainer with no issues and no trainer knocking out his Darkrai. This is until he and Ash faced each other in the semi-finals. Ash was the only trainer in Sinnoh to take down one of Tobias' Pokémon, and even managed to take down his second, Latios, before inevitably losing and placing in the Top 4.
There were four movies during this saga of the anime, with the first three of them linking together. The first one, Rise of Darkrai, focused on Darkrai and had Dialga & Palkia fighting within Alamos Town, but soon after that the mysterious Pokémon Darkrai steps in.
The second movie of the series, eleventh overall, is called Giratina & The Sky Warrior and focuses on Giratina, who is angry at the damage down to the Reverse World by Dialga & Palkia's fighting in the previous movie. Angry, it enters the normal world where Ash & co. meet a Shaymin, which is being hunted.
The third movie, twelfth overall, is called Arceus and the Jewel of Life. In this movie the fighting between Dialga, Palkia and Giratina awakens Arceus, who is angry at humans due to being betrayed by one thousands of years ago.
The fourth movie is separate from the others and features the first announced Generation V Pokémon. It is called Zoroark - Master of Illusions and has Ash & Co. encountering a Zorua who has lost its mother, a Zoroark.
The spin-off games in Generation 4 included continuations of various series such as the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series, as well as the introduction of a variety of new game series that continue to this day.
The first of the Nintendo DS spin-off titles in Generation IV was the second set of Mystery Dungeon titles. Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time and Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Darkness enhanced their predecessor by adding all previous Pokémon and went with an even more climatic story, and are widely considered to be the best Pokémon Mystery Dungeon titles.
Then, in 2009 an enhanced version of these games came out with Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Sky. This game added a few new dungeons, including one focused on Shaymin, as well as various side stories to help flesh out various characters' back stories in the game.
The next game was the second in the Pokémon Ranger series. Pokémon Ranger: Shadows of Almia changed up the mechanics from the first Pokémon Ranger to include Hit Points to make the game a bit more accessible. In this one you travelled through the region of Almia with a variety of partner Pokémon in order to stop Team Dim Sun from their evil schemes. This game also allowed you to send a Darkrai, a Riolu and a Manaphy Egg to your main series games.
Following that, in 2010, a third Pokémon Ranger title was released. Pokémon Ranger: Guardian Signs was based in the land of Oblivia and had you with a partner Pichu go through the land to stop the Pokémon Pinchers. This game had you call on Pokémon using various signs drawn with the touch screen to use their powers, including flying on Latios/Latias over the Oblivia Region. It was also unique in that it is the only Pokémon Ranger game with a multiplayer aspect having you go through various dungeons with friends. It allowed for you to send Deoxys, Heatran, Shaymin and Manaphy to your Generation IV games as well.
The first Wii spin-off title was Pokémon Battle Revolution. Pokémon Battle Revolution is an offshoot of the Pokémon Stadium series and featured a massive amount of places to battle with your Pokémon from Diamond & Pearl, essentially providing a Battle Frontier for the Wii by having facilities which change up how you battle. It also featured the first place you could battle random trainers and the first time you could fully customise your trainer.
My Pokémon Ranch was a small download title, the first WiiWare Pokémon game, which allowed for you to store up to 1,000 Pokémon from your Pokémon Diamond & Pearl games and interact with them using your Mii. You could have a variety of animations with the Pokémon and even save screenshots. An expansion for Pokémon Platinum was also released in Japan, but never made it to the west.
Pokémon Rumble is another WiiWare game which had you play as Toy Pokémon. Using these wind-up toys you went through a variety of areas defeating other toys, collecting more, and then participating in large Battle Royales. This game could be played in multiplayer. It has since spun-off and has three sequels across a variety of formats.
Next up is the Japan exclusive Pokémon Mystery Dungeon titles, Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Keep Going! Blazing Adventure Squad, Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Let's Go! Stormy Adventure Squad! and Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Go For It! Light Adventure Squad were three interconnected Pokémon Mystery Dungeon titles. Individually, they only had a third of the available Pokémon, but if you bought all three you'd be able to go through all the dungeons to find all 493 Pokémon.
Finally, another full Wii retail release came. PokéPark Wii: Pikachu's Adventure was a 3D Action/Adventure title that had you play as Pikachu as you explored the PokéPark lands and battled/raced various Pokémon. In addition to the bulk of the story, it also had a dozen mini-games to compete in with the various Pokémon you befriended in the game.
The Trading Card Game continued on through Generation 4 with a variety of new cards. These cards continued with some of the mechanics from Generation 3, but also introduced a fair few new ones.
As the cards added the seemingly useless Levels back onto the cards, it introduced a special kind of card called Pokémon Lv. X, which was played on top of the existing cards and could use the moves from the standard version. It also introduced the Pokémon Prime aspect around HeartGold & SoulSilver which were just some powerful & rare Pokémon cards. Finally, it introduced another new concept, LEGEND cards. These cards came in two parts and you needed both cards in order to play it onto your bench.
As we approach September 2010 in our retrospective, the fourth generation of Pokémon comes to an end. This generation is one that brought Pokémon back following the mediocre reaction to the previous one. With various evolutions of classic Pokémon as well as online features, Diamond & Pearl will forever keep a place in people's hearts. While it wasn't as revolutionary as the past three generations, its impact will be felt throughout Pokémon's future.