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Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl vs. Sword and Shield: Which one should I get this holiday?

Pokemon Sword Zacian And Shining Pearl Palkia
Pokemon Sword Zacian And Shining Pearl Palkia (Image credit: iMore)

If you're trying to figure out which of the Nintendo Switch Pokémon games you should buy, whether it's for yourself, your child, or a friend, you've got a couple of options. There are the mainline entries in the form of Pokémon Sword and Shield. At the same time, there are also some classic remakes with Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl. If you're trying to choose between them, here's what you need to know.

Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl vs. Pokémon Sword and Shield: What's the difference?

Pokemon Sword and Shield starters (Image credit: iMore)

There are a few key differences between these games, though since both are Pokémon RPGs, there are also many similarities. In both games, players aim to become the champion of the region, which means building up a custom team of Pokémon and taking on eight different gyms, while also dealing with any nefarious plots you uncover along the way. A lot of the core gameplay mechanics are also similar, as players catch or trade Pokémon, evolving them as they gain experience battling other Pokémon.

Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining PearlPokémon Sword and Shield
CameraIsometricThird-person
Pokémon HOME supportYes, in 2022Yes
Random encountersYesNo
RegionSinnohGalar
Level restrictionNoYes
Wild AreaNoYes

One of the most significant differences is in presentation. Pokémon Sword and Shield use a third-person perspective, while Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are isometric games, in line with the original experiences. Some fans may prefer the isometric camera angle, but others may feel that it's more dated in comparison to a third-person adventure.

This extends to the movement, which can feel clunkier on Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl when compared to Sword and Shield. Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl feature numerous cliffs, caves, waterways, and forests, making things extremely difficult to navigate. This is something to keep in mind if the game is intended as a gift for a younger player. By contrast, Sword and Shield are relatively straightforward, with areas with clear sightlines and extremely easy to move around in, even in the larger, semi-open world Wild Area.

Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl vs. Pokémon Sword and Shield: Available Pokémon

Pokemon Brilliant Diamond Shining Pearl Amity Square (Image credit: The Pokémon Company)

Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl occur in the Sinnoh region, while Pokémon Sword and Shield are set in the U.K-Esque land of the Galar region. With different regions comes unique Pokémon, so the type of Pokémon you encounter depends on the Pokémon Pokédex available to collect. We have the Sinnoh Pokédex for Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, while Sword and Shield use the Galar Pokédex. Sword and Shield also have Galarian versions of familiar Pokémon, like Galarian Rapidash, which looks like a unicorn.

It's worth noting that Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, being Gen 4, suffer from an extreme lack of Fire-type Pokémon. If you don't take Chimchar as your starter, getting a Fire-type Pokémon on your team can be tough, making the game fairly unbalanced compared to Sword and Shield.

Depending on what Pokémon you want to catch and use in your team, this will heavily determine which game you'll want to pick up. Pokémon HOME trading somewhat alleviates this, but only partially. Trading is available right now in Sword and Shield, while it's coming to Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl in 2022. There's also an Expansion Pass for Pokémon Sword and Shield, adding new adventures, new areas to explore, and new Pokémon to collect if you're willing to pay for the two DLCs.

Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl vs. Pokémon Sword and Shield: Which should you buy?

At the end of the day, the Pokémon game you should buy depends heavily on your focus. If you want a more nostalgic experience, we'd recommend grabbing Brilliant Diamond or Shining Pearl. If you want a game that feels a little more modern, you should go with Sword or Shield.

If you're buying this game as a gift for a child, we highly recommend Sword and Shield, especially if this will be the kid's first Pokémon game. While it might be a bit easy, there are some navigation problems and lack of quality-of-life quirks in Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, issues that you don't have to deal with if you grab the 2019 flagship Pokémon games.

Samuel Tolbert
Samuel Tolbert

Samuel Tolbert is a freelance gaming writer who started working for iMore and its sister sites Windows Central and Android Central in July 2019. He handles news, previews, reviews, and exclusive original reporting, and has also been featured on TechRadar.

With a background studying engineering before he shifted his focus to gaming journalism, he's skilled at identifying technical advantages and disadvantages provided by different hardware. If he’s not writing something, he’s off playing video games, spending time with his pets, exercising, or reading. He's also fond of trying to draw things with his iPad.