Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon Review
Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon Box Art
System: 3DS
Dev: Spike Chunsoft
Pub: Nintendo
Release: November 20, 2015
Players: 1
Screen Resolution: N/A Mild Cartoon Violence
Enjoying 360 Degrees of Pokemon Dungeon Crawling
by Jenni Lada

Pokemon Mystery Dungeon installments are a time honored tradition on Nintendo handhelds. A spin-off of the main Pokemon games, they're rogue-like RPGs where the player controls a Pokemon and his or her friends as they go through randomly-generated dungeons, completing missions for and rescuing other Pokemon. It's best to think of it as a vessel for the Mystery Dungeon series made by Spike Chunsoft, the developer, with Pokemon attached to help it sell. Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon was released about 10 years after the first entry in the series and, while there has been growth, not all progression has been positive.

Every Pokemon Mystery Dungeon game begins with a personality test designed to determine your avatar and its partner, and Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon is no different. Fortunately, you aren't locked into a choice once its made. The game suggests a suitable character, based on your attitude, but you're free to choose from among 18 different starters from each entry in the series, as well as Pikachu and Riolu. Naturally, I chose Riolu to represent myself and Pikachu as my partner, as to dare to be different.

Once you've picked your Pokemon, the most tedious part of Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon begins. The pacing is terrible in this installment. As always, the character is a human who somehow turned into a Pokemon, suffering from amnesia in the process. A Nuzleaf rescues you, brings you to Serene Town and enrolls you in school. No immediately joining and enjoying the benefits that come from being a member of the Pokemon Expedition Society! You have to spend hours learning about game mechanics at Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon's pace. This is made more tedious by initial character adventures and dialogue that would have trouble holding the attention of an elementary schooler.

It's an unfortunate beginning, especially since the rest of Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon offers some rather positive changes to the formula. If you can weather the hand-holding, it really picks up. Like many other rogue-like and Pokemon Mystery Dungeon games, the focus is on building a party of characters and journeying into randomly generated dungeons to accomplish certain tasks. This time, only two allies can join your character on an expedition, instead of three, but one of them can be a larger than usual legendary, which makes up for the loss. When you move, enemies and allies move. If you stand still, they do too.

While it's an active experience, it involves a bit of strategy. Each Pokemon has four moves, each of which has a limited number of uses tied to points, as in regular Pokemon games. These are more powerful than the basic attack, which is tied to the A button. The goal is to use the right attacks against Pokemon weak to them, a matter made easy due to helpful icons that appear when facing a foe, moving in such a way that you're never surrounded by enemies, setting up alliance movements with your party members so you can attack one opponent at once, and getting through dungeons as efficiently as possible. If you die in a dungeon, you lose all items and money collected and, unless you can send for help from friends via passwords or QR codes, have to return with nothing.

Dying is a distinct possibility, since some bosses can be 10 or even 20 levels higher than your party members. That's where a new piece of equipment all three party members wear comes in. It's called a looplet, and it has holes in it for emera stones. Emera stones are found in dungeons and only last for that one experience, but can offer benefits like increased stats, inflicting negative statuses on enemies when the bearer attacks them, or protecting characters. Players have to quickly and efficiently grab stones, since they only last for a few turns in a room before they shatter, but they can greatly enhance adventurers when equipped.

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