Getting to battle Arceus in Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl is a childhood dream fulfilled
Cut content is far from a rare occurrence when it comes to game development, even when said content is mostly – or even entirely – complete. While we’ve seen examples of this as recently as with Elden Ring, Pokemon as a series is a particularly great example of never releasing content that made it into the final code. Numerous events spawning Generation 4, 5 and 6 never ended up seeing the light of day, despite clearly being finished within the confines of the code. As I mentioned in my Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl review, the remakes were – at times – faithful to a fault. While they definitely featured some nice Quality of Life changes, as far as actual content was concerned much of the experience felt like a retread of the original games that I had on the DS back in 2007. With the release of the Azure Flute event, however, Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl finally deliver on an unspoken promise 15 years in the making.
For as much as Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl sticks close to the script when it came to the original Generation 4 releases, things have changed with the most recent update, adding in support for save data integration with Pokemon Legends: Arceus. Ask any Pokemon fan that was around on the internet (or had an Action Replay) when they played Generation 4 back in the day, and they’ll be quick to tell you about the Azure Flute, and the Arceus encounter that never was; when Arceus was “officially” revealed, and released, back in the day, Gamefreak opted to forego the originally planned event entirely – opting for a Mystery Gift version of Arceus that would later play a role in one of Pokemon Heartgold & Soulsilver’s many hidden in-game events.
Every other event in Pokemon Diamond & Pearl eventually saw release, and it was no big surprise that they were recreated for the remakes. Manaphy, Shaymin and Darkrai were already expected – but Arceus? While his event was present in the code as of Version 1.0.0, it was actually removed with the day-1 patch. There was never any guarantee that we’d see a version of that original event officially released. In other words – while the other events were more of an obligation to be included, there never was that expectation with Arceus. Doubly so when they’re selling a game where the whole gimmick is catching Arceus. That’s what makes the inclusion of this new event all the sweeter, and what makes the surprisingly strict requirements feel like they have some weight.
Back in the day there were always rumors about how players might’ve been able to get the Azure Flute normally – in the absence of a real explanation for why it was never released, players assumed that it must’ve been something they missed, even if examining the game proved that wasn’t the case. Was there something players missed, something special we needed to do? It didn’t seem like an unreasonable explanation after players were tasked with catching the Regi trio in Generation 3. Maybe it wasn’t that we needed to wait for a Mystery Gift, but rather we needed to figure out how to unlock the event ourselves?
Unlike previous events, where all you’d need is to download some data from Mystery Gift, or merely have any save data for the game in question present on your Switch – to get the Azure Flute, you specifically need completed save data from Pokemon Legends: Arceus. Not just the credits, either – but every Main Mission completed; including the mission to complete the Hisui Pokedex and catch Arceus. While it’s not asking for 100% completion of the entire game, it’s close – and it makes the weight of finally getting that Azure Flute all the more real. After a decade and a half, not only is the event finally revealed – but there’s some levity to unlocking it. It wasn’t simply dropped in front of players without any sort of build-up. We have to earn it.
I’m sure part of the point is surely to get players to buy another game if they hadn’t already, but it’s this extra friction that makes it hard for me to see it as simply a cynical cash grab. It’s one thing to have Arceus act as a selling point to get Pokemon Legends: Arceus players to pick up the Gen 4 remakes, or vice-versa; but with such strict prerequisites, it feels much more like a reward to those that had already played and finished both games. For me, it almost feels like some sort of apology for how long of a wait it was for this event to finally see the light of day – some sort of fanfare. More than anything, it feels like a tacit acknowledgment of the thoughts and feelings that permeated players when they learned of the Azure Flute’s existence in the first place.
Even though we’ll never see an official method of unlocking the Azure Flute in those original games, what we have here feels at home with the legacy that the event left for itself, a compelling conclusion to a question players had been asking themselves for 15 years. Pokemon: Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl’s Azure Flute event isn’t just one more throwaway event for players like me, it’s the culmination of a childhood wonder.