Review: New 'Pokemon' Games for Nintendo DS

The world of Pokemon just keeps getting bigger with "Pokemon Diamond" and "Pokemon Pearl" for the Nintendo DS.

These new E-rated, $34.99 video games introduce an entire new menagerie of collectable critters, improved graphics and multiplayer battles.

The changes in these kid-friendly titles are more like tweaks than overhauls, so expect more of the same Pokemon experience rather than entirely new games. That's a good thing for a franchise that continues to thrive more than a decade after its introduction.

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You play as a boy or girl Pokemon trainer who roams through fictional forests, towns, grasslands and caves on a quest to become a Pokemon master and defeat the evil Team Galactic.

Collecting, trading and fighting rare Pokemon is the game's main allure. You'll constantly face other trainers, quest-givers and wild Pokemon to fight against to earn money and experience.

You can also capture wild Pokemon in a Poke Ball and add them to your collection of up to six critters.

The turn-based battles use a rock/paper/scissors system and it's quite addictive once your roster of Pokemon gains experience and grows in stature with new abilities.

The standoffs are about as nonviolent as a fight can be. The losers don't die, they just faint.

There are over 100 new Pokemons to collect in these two new games. The only difference between "Diamond" and "Pearl" is the selection of Pokemon you'll uncover.

The DS does bring some welcome changes to the gameplay. Battles are a lot more fluid now because you can tap the lower touch screen to select actions instead of navigating through a series of annoying menus.

Overall, though, the touch screen ability isn't as widely used as it could be, and many options are available only through a traditional, more clumsy button interface.

The games also make use of the Nintendo's free wireless multiplayer gaming network, but it's very restrictive. You can't just connect and have random Pokemon fights with other strangers around the world.

Instead, you have to share a special connection code with friends to play on the Internet.

It's a bit of a pain if you don't have any friends who own "Diamond" or "Pearl," but I suppose such measures make it safer for the legions of children who adore the series.

Three stars out of four.