Pokémon: Dungeon Crawl II
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.
Despite the phenomenal connectivity, there is still no co-op gameplay like we thought there would be. What’s up with that? How difficult could it be to reward players with multiplayer support? Thankfully, Friend Rescues are still pretty cool. Rescues turn out to be absolutely crucial in Explorers.
If you should fall in battle, which will happen frequently as the game is quite challenging, you can call upon the power of a distress call. By sending out a Friend Rescue you are asking someone to come and find you mid-dungeon and resurrect your character. Why not just accept failure? Because you’ll have to start the dungeon from scratch while losing all your hard-earned funds and nearly all the important items you found. This is simply an unacceptable situation, especially in the later levels. It will most likely cost you a pretty Gummi to get strangers from forums to come bail you out. As a result, look for Friend Rescues to drive this title. In addition, you can also exchange teams for Marowak Dojo workouts as well as send and receive Wonder Mail. Wonder Mail simply allows players to exchange jobs for a friend to beat.
Visuals are somewhat improved over Blue Rescue Team. They are still very simplistic, yet they’re more vibrant and engaging. The Pokémon are very well depicted, especially in PiP close-ups. The environments, including Treasure Town, the Guild quarters, the world map, and the dungeons are all very pleasing to the eye. An additional treat are the upbeat and catchy tunes that change with every new dungeon and section of town. The sounds of the rain, the ocean, and the effects that accompany plot changes are pleasant and appropriate.
Disappointingly, controls have not been improved over the last iteration. Don’t get me wrong; the controls are decent, but by no means are they great. The stylus-based controls are actually foiled by the markedly more efficient D-pad / button scheme. The only caveat to this is the diagonal attacks. It’s a lot easier to whip out a double tap with the stylus to attack a foe on the diagonal. All in all, the technical presentation is good and will satisfy the faithful.
When it’s all said and done, this is a very good game that I expect will fly off the shelves. That being said, the dungeon crawl mechanic is monotonous, and there isn’t enough new material to warrant purchasing the game if you already own Blue Rescue Team. I know that those words will fall on deaf-Pokémon-fan-ears, but I had to slip it in there anyway. Personally, I would demand a lot more innovation before spending my hobby cash on something I already own, but I guess the inclusion of 490 Pokémon spanning all the way through fourth generation is enough to satisfy the masses.
Don’t worry too much about which copy of Explorers you get. The only real difference between the two is the Pokémon exclusivity: Mewtwo is in Darkness and Celebi is in Time. If you have never played the Mystery Dungeon series or are a fan of Pokémon, then know that Mystery Dungeon Explorers of Time / Darkness is a complex and challenging dungeon crawler that has a lot to offer. Even though the dungeon crawling aspect is very repetitive, the connectivity features, the vast number and variety of Pokémon, Wonder Mail, hours of gameplay, difficulty, etc. makes this pure kiddy-crack!
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.6 Graphics
The visuals are very simplistic, yet vibrant and engaging. The Pokémon are very well depicted, especially in PiP close-ups. 3.0 Control
The controls are decent, but by no means great. The stylus-based controls are foiled by the markedly more efficient D-pad / button scheme. 3.7 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The upbeat and catchy tunes change with every new dungeon and section of town. The sounds of the rain, ocean, and the effects that accompany plot changes are pleasant and appropriate. 3.9
This game is almost identical to the previous Mystery Dungeon, which is to say that it has nearly everything a devoted Pokémon fan has been waiting for.
3.8 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.