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My Advice For Pokemon Diamond & Pearl: Select New Game, Choose Chimchar, Win

Now that The Pokemon Company has officially announced Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl, I’m sure there are some of you out there wondering what exactly a return to Sinnoh means. As it so happens, I’ve played through Gen 4 heaps of times and have become intimately acquainted with this excellent region, to the extent that I know exactly how to cheese it as easily and quickly as possible:

Select new game. Choose Chimchar. Win.

I’m not joking – Infernape and Gen 3’s Blaziken have both been illegal in competitive Pokemon for years. For some reason, both Ruby & Sapphire and Diamond & Pearl decided to introduce the most powerful Fire starters since Keith Flint. Every time Infernape walks up to a Gym Leader it’s just dancing to Breathe really intensely, flat out refusing to blink as it erratically sways from side to side before launching a Blaze Kick in perfect sync with “Breathe the pressure, come play my game I’ll test ya!”

In all seriousness, if you’re willing to train Chimchar to level 14 before taking on the first gym, you’re playing Gen 4 on easy mode. Chimchar evolves into Monferno at level 14, at which point it learns Mach Punch – a STAB (same-type-attack-bonus) Fighting move that absolutely obliterates Roark’s idiot Rock ‘mons. Once you reach the second Gym Leader in Eterna City, Gardenia, you can just burn her Grass lads to bits. The third Gym Leader uses Fighting Pokemon, one of which has access to Confusion, which is super-effective against Monferno. When I said choose Chimchar and win, I was exaggerating slightly – you can catch a Starly on the first route of the game, which should ideally be a Staravia by now. This tears through Maylene’s team as if it’s nobody’s business.

I’d also recommend picking up a Shinx on Route 202, just off Sandgem Town. This is a mandatory route you need to take to reach Jubilife City and the second route in the entire game, meaning you can catch a Shinx before you even come up against Roark. This means you should have a Luxio by the time you reach the fourth gym in Pastoria City. On your way there, pick up a Roserade on Route 212 to take care of Crasher Wake’s Quagsire, who is immune to Luxio’s Electric attacks. Aside from that, Spark away to your heart’s content. Easy.

Luxio also learns Bite at level 18, which renders the fifth gym’s Ghost ‘mons as dead as phantom doornails. Infernape sweeps gyms six and seven. The eighth gym, however, is interesting.

Volkner is the only Gym Leader in Diamond & Pearl I ever had trouble with as a kid. He uses a Raichu, an Ambipom, an Octillery, and a Luxray in Diamond & Pearl. Although his team in Platinum subs out Octillery and Ambipom for Jolteon and Electivire, respectively, his all-Electric team is actually much easier to counter, especially given that Platinum introduces an… interesting exploit.

Garchomp is Gen 4’s pseudo-Legendary – its remarkably powerful three-evolution (usually) Dragon-type with a base stats total of 600. In Diamond & Pearl, you can’t catch Garchomp until after the sixth gym because you need the Strength HM to access the cave where Gible is found (Gible is the first form of Garchomp). In Platinum, however, you can reach this area as soon as you get the bicycle, which you obtain before you even take on gym three. So, if the Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are based on Platinum like Let’s Go was based on Yellow… well, you should have a level 50 Garchomp with STAB Ground attacks by the time you reach the eighth gym. Teach it Earthquake using a TM and you’re laughing all the way to the PokeBank.

That means we’ve got Infernape, Garchomp, Staraptor, and Luxray on our team for the Elite Four. We’ve potentially got Roserade, too, depending on whether you decide to keep Roselia. I’d personally ditch Staraptor here – you can actually catch a Magikarp the first time you reach Jubilife City, which I’d thoroughly recommend doing. Head west from the main city and you’ll see water you can’t Surf across yet, but you can talk to a fisherman who will give you the Old Rod. By switching Magikarp in and out of trainer battles, you’ll have a Gyarados in no time, who is one of the most beastly Water-types in the whole game and totally makes up for the tradeoff of choosing Chimchar over Piplup. Also you get a Riolu egg when you reach Canalave City – on the other side of the previously uncrossable water where you fished out a Magikarp, mind. I know we’ve already got a Fighting-type in Infernape, but Lucario is one of Gen 4’s best ‘mons, and STAB Steel goes a long way.

So we’ve got Infernape, Lucario, Gyarados, Garchomp and Luxray. Your sixth ‘mon, in my opinion, should be either Staraptor, Roserade, or Weavile. With that team, if you’re at a decent level, the Elite Four is beatable without taking a single hit. It’s a bit of a joke, really.

Mostly, though, the entire game is ridiculously easy if you choose Chimchar, meaning you can opt for whatever team you want around it. Every gym leader can be countered with Pokemon you catch before them, but Infernape is such a beast that it can even use its speed to take down opponents who should theoretically be super-effective against it. I’ve solo’d the Sinnoh Elite Four with just an Infernape before. It’s not just possible – it’s easy.

Aside from that, the only tip I’ll give you is this: do not trade a Medicham for Mindy’s Haunter in Snowpoint City. Mindy is a total con artist. You may think the Haunter will evolve into Gengar via trade – as it should – but Mindy has given it an Everstone because she’s a complete and utter troll. There’s even a whole subreddit devoted to how awful she is. Seriously – just choose Chimchar and ignore Mindy, OK? That’s literally all you need to know. Cheers.

Next: Pokemon Legends Arceus, The Feudal Sinnoh Spin-Off, Could Be Pokemon’s Rogue One – AKA The Best Star Wars Movie

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Cian Maher is the Lead Features Editor at TheGamer. He’s also had work published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Verge, Vice, Wired, and more. You can find him on Twitter @cianmaher0.

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