Enjoying 360 Degrees of Pokemon Dungeon Crawling
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.
Having that extra sense of security at least alleviates tedium when dungeon crawling, as does an improved means of recruiting other Pokemon to your cause. One of the highlights of Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon is being able to have all 720 known Pokemon join your adventures. In previous games, like Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity , recruitment could be rather random. Sometimes after beating an enemy in a dungeon, they’d join your party. This could mean repeating areas endlessly in the hopes someone would eventually tag along.
In Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon , there’s a Connection Orb. Think of it as the Pokemon equivalent of Facebook. As you explore the dungeons and meet new “people,” your social network grows. You’ll then see them in the Connection Orb and learn how to bring them into the fold from there. You might only have to talk to them, but more often a trip into a dungeon to save someone or beat a boss is required. It’s a far more efficient system than ever before, which is great whenever you realize there are 720 freaking Pokemon out there waiting to join your party.
It’s one of many things that helps enhance Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon ‘s replayability after you get through the 20-25 hour slog of a story. After you’ve accomplished the primary goals and are able to do whatever you want, a task that took me almost 24 hours, you can take on any quests and dungeons at your leisure. It’s a freeing and attractive experience, given how vibrant and diverse the characters and mystery dungeons are, the abundance of items and enemies, and variety of monster houses and traps to occasionally amp up the challenge.
Think of Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon as a title where the endgame is the reward for enduring a plot where the dialogue is repetitive and lackluster, characters take way too long walking you through every little thing, and you have to spend about 20 hours earning your right to do whatever you want. Once you do get over that hurdle, Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon can be one of the best entries in this series, but you really have to earn your freedom.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 5.0 Graphics
Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon is vibrant and colorful, with perfectly rendered characters. 3.8 Control
Learning the dungeon crawling controls is a little complicated, but once you know how to reach every shortcut, you’ll be a master explorer. 3.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music is quite pleasant, but not particularly exciting. 4.0 Play Value
The main campaign is pretty tedious, but once you’re past the first 20 hours, the 20-40 that follow are great. 3.8 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best