|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Chunsoft||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Nintendo||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: April 20, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
Calling all Pokémon fans! The wait is finally over. The second set of Mystery Dungeon titles are out for your Nintendo DS. The game sports over 490 Pokémon and a new story for you to enjoy. Additionally, a ton of connectivity options via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, email, and text messages should keep you and your friends in the loop and battling it out for months to come.
On the downside, the changes between Mystery Dungeon Explorers and the predecessor, Blue Rescue Team, are so insignificant that it feels as if we've already played the title (nothing new for the Pokémon collection of games!). Surprisingly, this won't bother the vast majority of fans in the least. If you didn't get around to playing the previous Mystery Dungeon you'll be happy to know that this game is an astonishingly deep dungeon crawler, though the content is decidedly cutesy and innocent.
In Mystery Dungeon Explorers you'll find yourself in the same circumstance as last time. You are an unfortunate human who has washed up on the shores of a mysterious island full of Pokémon. To your surprise you awake to find out that you have been changed into one of them. However, instead of whining about it you decide to join the cute little critters. You'll form a dungeon exploration team searching for treasures, allies, and the secrets to both your present condition and that of the mysteries of time and darkness. The story is very simple, but it is interesting enough to keep you plowing through the levels.
This game is a turn-based dungeon crawler. You will level-up both individual characters as well as your exploration team. There are a multitude of items, enemies, allies, treasures, and settings to be found and explored. One of the interesting aspects of the level design is the ever-changing nature of the dungeons. You will often be called upon to enter the same dungeon, but the layout will constantly change. Nevertheless, gameplay can't help but feel routine after just a few hours. It's really all so similar that changing the layout doesn't sufficiently mask the fact that you're doing the same thing time and again.
Regardless, the acquisition of new moves, team members, improved abilities, and powerful loot is all quite satisfying. Moreover, advancing ranks by successfully completing jobs from your guild acts as a shiny badge demonstrating your gaming prowess. Players are regularly and sufficiently rewarded throughout the game with a vast array of unlockables and rare goodies. Needless to say, this makes the game highly addictive. Fortunately, it is also challenging. As a result, I should think even mature gamers would give a fist-pump or two after completing some of the more difficult dungeons, learning unique moves, and convincing rare wild Pokémon to join their team.
Exploration teams are initially made up of two Pokémon. This number can be expanded to four, depending on the size of your selected team members. Consequently, it is important that you put together a good mix of Pokémon to successfully conquer the various dungeons and advance the plot. In order to do so you'll have to convince defeated wild Pokémon to join your troop or you can raise new members via the Chansey Day Care. This time around players will occasionally be awarded with eggs that will hatch into Pokémon a few days later if properly cared for at the day care. This is an interesting nuance, but not nearly enough to distinguish the title from its predecessors.
What does make Explorers superior to the original is the quantity of connectivity features. Players can connect to friends via Nintendo WFC, local wireless communication, passwords, email, and text messaging. It's all very impressive. Players are able to go on Friend Rescues, trade items, receive and accept Wonder Mail, trade teams, and generally stay connected to each other. Can you imagine getting paged by a buddy on your cellular, begging you to rescue them from the seventh floor of such and such dungeon while bribing you with some expensive goodies? Or being beckoned by the soft blue glow of your Wii to hop on to the DS? It's all a little too much for me. For starters, I try to leave my phone available for business, and I've got more than enough Wii messages from the Check Mii Out Channel, but I can see devoted fans absolutely loving such deep and varied support. Doubtless, this kind of connectivity will further bolster a community that is already flourishing. Furthermore, I expect their to be innumerable item auctions and lots of bickering back and forth on fan-site message boards.