Pokémon Shining Pearl’s Hint System Is Overkill but I Love It
Sometimes you just need a little handholding
Though I’ve been playing the Pokémon series since its inception, I’d be lying if I called it riveting. The process of catching, raising, and battling monsters while following a story about some goons who steal Pokémon (Team Rocket), want to accelerate climate change (Team Aqua/Magma), or are just spiffy dressers (Team Flare) is mildly interesting at best.
And still, year after year, I return to the series, picking up a copy (or two) to follow through yet another milquetoast plot while catching some strange monsters that look like ice cream, a trash bag, or that ever-popular electric rodent.
This year’s remasters, Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, are more of the same. Revisiting the Sinnoh region, which is based on the Hokkaido prefecture in Japan, has offered a touch of nostalgia during nights mostly filled with mindless clicking through menus and wondering why some old man gifted me a Jirachi (seriously, it was never this easy to get rare Pokémon in the old games).
But shortly after I had earned my second gym badge in Eterna City, I realized I had no clue what I’d been doing for the last four hours or where to go next. I remembered I just acquired the bicycle, so maybe I had to venture south across Cycling Road (wrong). Or, maybe I had to backtrack to Eterna Forest to catch Rotom (nope). And that’s when it hit me: this game has a hint system.
To be more precise, Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl features a task reminder in the menu. A little text box houses an update to remind players where to go next in their adventure, be that the next city, a location in town, or to talk to an NPC.
In all honesty, I wouldn’t have been lost for long. The series has become increasingly beginner-friendly, with NPCs more frequently healing your monsters, and story sequences that prevent players from getting lost. Wandering around the town long enough would have activated the required cutscene to get me back on track.
The text box help feature not only got me back on track but also reminded me that there’s little more I hate about games than being lost.
In 2021, getting lost in games is much less likely than it was in the days of 16 and 32-bit consoles. Along with text and video walkthroughs being readily available, the prevalence of in-game waypoints makes keeping track of objectives a breeze. Still, I vividly remember starting and restarting Final Fantasy VII after a break from the game left me stranded somewhere in Gaia without the faintest idea of how to proceed. Few feelings are worse (especially in JRPGs) than realizing you have to restart a 40-plus hour adventure because you forgot where to go next.
These frustrations occasionally spill into modern games, too. In Lost Judgement, there’s a side mission in which you have to find a set of kappa statues as part of a town’s promotional campaign. One of those statutes is being carted around by an NPC who is running circles around a homeless camp. There’s probably a simple solution I’m overlooking to get him to drop the stone figure, but rather than googling it, I just put the game down.
So thanks, Pokémon, for keeping this astonishingly simple feature alive for people like me who can’t be bothered to pay attention while we play.