The period of time surrounding the 10th anniversary of the Japanese release of Pokémon Red and Green is, in an ironic twist of fate, the poorest in terms of gratifying veteran players and avid fans of the series.
When Pokémon Diamond and Pearl were announced in October 2004, it was naturally assumed that their release date would be consistent with that of Gold and Silver as well as Ruby and Sapphire-- November 21 of the following year. This logic was not foiled by the joint comment given by Tsunekazu Ishihara and Junichi Masuda in late December 2004, stating 2005 would see the release of Pokémon games for the GameCube, Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS. Moreover, Junichi Masuda remarked that the year would see him place all his power into the development of the first Nintendo DS entries in the main line of Pokémon games-- Diamond and Pearl.
Throughout the year, it might have appeared dubious to some that the company would indeed deliver as promised. It was not until May that the GameCube game which had been purported, Pokémon XD, was announced in full, and by then the release date was scheduled for August. Information pertaining to Diamond and Pearl could be found solely in the form of four new Pokémon, hardly equating the periods preceding the commencement of previous generations. It would be one thing for Generation IV to follow almost in conjunction with the latest addition to Generation III, but quite another for that to be done with minimal coverage. As for the Game Boy Advance segment, it simply remained unspoken of-- allowing most to pay no heed to its alleged existence.
Come July, Junichi Masuda and Tsunekazu Ishihara engaged in a second interview, but to a different effect to the first-- or perhaps not. Other than pointing out Diamond and Pearl would in fact be released in 2006, the contents of the interview included an allusion to a project by the name of The Path to Diamond and Pearl. The reference was made in the context of Pokémon Ranger, said to be one part of the project that would concern the anime in 2006. The following month, Pokémon Trozei! and Pokémon Mysterious Dungeon were revealed as the additional ingredients of the project.
In retrospect, it is clear that the idea of "paving a path" to the next generation, as opposed to undergoing an immediate entry, must have been in place from the beginning. The Nintendo DS games slated for release in 2005 were not Diamond and Pearl, but rather, the intention was Trozei! and Mysterious Dungeon Blue; the Game Boy Advance game was none other than the sister version, Mysterious Dungeon Red. Whether Junichi Masuda exaggerated the extent of the work invested in developing Diamond and Pearl, the year ended with fans having little to no impression of any progress done.
It was only logical to expect that if the three games, most notably Ranger, were boasted with the attachment of the title The Path to Diamond and Pearl, there had to be some truth to it. At the very least, it seemed, further details on Diamond and Pearl would be brought into light in installments as the side games were advertised. But alas, all three games have been released-- yet the status on the main entries is much of the same. If to be fair, the CoroCoro magazine did come forth with a contest in the advent of Diamond and Pearl, even prior to Ranger's release. Similar to showcasing new Pokémon, a new Dragon-type move equivalent to Overheat and Psycho Boost was made the subject of the contest, with the objective being the opportunity of selecting its name. However, compared to the surge of hope for concrete details dealing directly with the games which the prospect of the contest had spurred, the end result was met with disappointment.
It is now that we are into 2006 with Ranger having been released and another set of four Pokémon unveiled, that the question of what is to come next should be present in mind. Unfortunately, the preview of the upcoming CoroCoro issue leaves plenty to be desired-- on the list are the movie's manga adaptation, Ranger-related contents and finally, the results of the Diamond and Pearl contest. One would think any divulged information on the elusive games would be a welcomed change from the monotonous flow of news, but on closer examination, the contest results cannot go beyond the mere name chosen for the move. Except for the auspicious winner who will be entitled with copies of the games upon their release, however late that is, the move's name is of little value to its exact nature which has already been established.
While current affairs in Japan are stagnating at seemingly infinite coverage of Ranger, be it the game, anime or even manga, it deserves to be mentioned that the anniversary has not been forgotten in the United States. Pokémon Journey Across America serves justice to the vast majority of American fans who can, for the first time, truly relate to the experience of Japanese fans. That said, in the long-term it is not the event itself that will have been meaningful, but an important fact surrounding it. As one prize of the National Championships, a total of five future games will be given to the winners.
It is unclear which games are taken into account in the number, but suffice to say, if Diamond and Pearl were to be released in Japan by the end of the Championships, it would be written in bold. Therefore, offering the games as prize in an American tournament would be most bizarre. Yet again, an obscure reference poses a challenge to the current setup-- is the The Path to Diamond and Pearl limited to Trozei!, Mysterious Dungeon and Ranger? It seems as though the majority of fans is, again, inclined to ignore that which presents difficulty. It is true that the Game Boy Advance scenario from last year turned out to be relatively unsubstantive, but could the possibility of another game make the entire difference here?
The drought and general disregard of the Pokémon RPG series in Japan goes farther than lack of news on the upcoming generation. The current generation is very much present and, as surprising as it may be, full of untapped potential. Yet, this has not prevented the shift in attention to the spin-off games, one after another. Special stations dedicated to Trozei! and Mysterious Dungeon were scattered across Japan, active for three months until clearance. Soon enough, the same will be repeated with Ranger as part of the movie promotion, if not others.
This comes at the expense of the Wireless Communication downloads that had been customary at Pokémon Centers, only to be put to a halt at some point in 2005. In terms of distributing unobtainable Pokémon, the "goal" was reached in Summer 2005 as Mew was made available. The Wireless Communication service culminated in September, when the Old Sea Map was distributed at PokéPark through the Nintendo DS. This proved that the Nintendo DS is capable of handling transmission meant for the Wireless Adapter, essentially opening a window of opportunity for utilizing Pokémon FireRed, LeafGreen and Emerald in a new way. As an interesting fact, the service had been dispensed with altogether before the Nintendo DS' Wi-Fi debuted.
To conclude, The Path to Diamond and Pearl is at present a marketing ploy that has yet to bear fruit. Even if Diamond and Pearl are being delayed for the single reason that the transition to the Nintendo DS mandates utmost care on Game Freak's part so as to bring upon the same success as Red and Green, coverage of these games should still be in order. The spin-off games would not have been "threatened" by sharing the limelight of advertisement with games of different genre meant to be released well after. But even now proper news is not in sight; that should raise suspicion and should not be treated with indifference. Supposing the last addition to Generation III is in plan for the very near future, The Path to Diamond and Pearl may finally be put into perspective as the steps are trod from one generation to its successor.