How The Grand Underground (Almost) Saved Shining Pearl

Pokemon Platinum was the game that got me back into the franchise after a decade’s long hiatus. It was a gift from a friend along with a DS Lite and I was immediately sucked into the Sinnoh region and its Pokémon. I was able to take on Giratina with a Piplup and turned said devourer of worlds and chaos entity into a spoiled pet that liked walks in Amity Square and lots of poffins. 

When Brilliant Diamond/Shining Pearl was announced around the same time as Legends: Arceus, I had a bit more faith in the Sinnoh remake than I did about the open world survival horror game where Pokemon are actively trying to kill you and a murderous blonde is causing mayhem. But from the start there was something…off about BDSP. A different studio was in place that changed the art direction and style. Many of the quality of life changes that had become practically canon in Pokémon games were either ignored or severely limited. The game overall just felt lacking in comparison to its Sinnoh cousin and its Sinnoh elder. For many, Sinnoh was their home in the same way that Hoenn and Johto were mine (I did play Red, Blue and Yellow as a kid but I don’t really think I formed a strong connection to the franchise till Crystal and for sure cemented in Ruby/Sapphire). 

In my friend group, Carlos skipped BDSP because Sinnoh wasn’t even a region he played in and that left Ricky and I to try and get through it, emphasis on try. Both of us immediately noticed that this was not the Sinnoh our nostalgia remembered from the very deformed (chibi) style of character model to the running mechanics to how Pokemon interacted with you and the world. There was just nothing about BDSP that felt like it held a candle to the Sinnoh I came to love so much. So much like Legends Arceus, I stopped playing the game. To be fair, my issues with Arceus are much different to BDSP. While Arceus was a game I fundamentally didn’t feel attached to save for the malewife (Adaman), Volo being the literal worst and a brief mental crisis over Ingo; BDSP had me practically written all over it much like Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire.  

You may know where I’m going with this.

I got to the 7th out of 8 gyms in about 18 hours, having caught only a handful of Pokemon and having a team with stats so high that if I could only solve the puzzle to reach the Ice Gym leader, I’d destroy her. 

I put the game down and didn’t pick it back up. 

That was months ago. 

After finishing the main game in Scarlet/Violet and realizing Pokémon has no plans to actually ever finish a game again since they can just release DLCs and we’ll eat it up like the abused children we are, I decided to go back to Shining Pearl almost on a whim. I was confronted with a team I barely recognized. Sure, it was a team I would have built; an over-powered Empoleon, a Staravia that could fight God, a Luxray with Crunch and a few smatterings of legendaries and other Pokemon that I suppose I captured in a fugue state. I didn’t recognize this team but I was confronted with the 7th gym puzzle and decided to take a step back and get back to my roots. I had an incredibly sparse list of Pokémon in my Pokedex. I clearly had barely captured anything or spoken to anyone in my haste to just finish this chore of the game. So I went back to basics, returned to the start of the map and decided to retrace my steps. The game still isn’t good so when that became tedious, I remembered the Grand Underground. 

The Grand Underground is a series of tunnels built under Sinnoh and connect to various caverns and caves. In the Grand Underground, you can hunt for treasure, catch Pokemon, build a secret base and find new environments. And turns out, it was exactly what I needed. 

If you’ve heard my thoughts on Sword/Shield or Legends: Arceus, some of my favorite parts of those games were the parts I could explore, mostly on my own, get loot and be off to myself. 

I set out to hoard statues, find shards and gather fossils and stones. And I did that for 20 or so hours. I made a Secret Base in my favorite city, full of my favorite Pokémon. I traded shards and sold stones and changed clothes. I explored caves and caverns and even caught some Pokémon to round out my team including a Garchomp that is also ready to take on God and a Rapidash that is the most majestic murderer I’ve ever seen. 

I spent time making my Pokeball capsules absolutely perfect and connected Pokémon Home to the game so I could fill out the Pokedex and start finding Pokémon that I actually was willing to bond to. I saved the world from Cyrus’ stupid plan and tamed a god and any time the game got a little too hard or a little too boring, I’d return to the mines. 

I’m still in the mines; frankly annoyed and flustered at my inability to solve a puzzle meant for children and still focusing on making my Secret Base perfect. I still can’t say I like this game, it is still a failure in every way for one of the most iconic regions in Pokémon history. But for a brief and wonderful moment, I’m content in the mines.