By Ian Boone. This is LOAD FILE, a highly tuned game dissection apparati. Wielding it today is Ian. His subject: ‘Super Pokemon Mystery Dungeon’ for the Nintendo 3DS.
In the time we’ve all spent in the endless pursuit of catching them all, we’ve often pondered the question, “What if I was not this cruel child trainer, but a Pokemon myself?” We have an answer in Spike-Chunsoft’s spin-off series, Pokemon Mystery Dungeon, but now we have the DEFINITIVE answer, with Super Pokemon Mystery Dungeon for the Nintendo 3DS.
Not content to merely tout the inclusion of all 720 known Pokemon, Super Pokemon Mystery Dungeon also brings many other new developments over from the main series, such as powerful Mega Evolutions and Fairy-type Pokemon from Generation 6. There are also new and returning mechanics specific to the Mystery Dungeon series in this entry. Some are good, some I could do without, but it all adds up to make an experience distinctly different than normal Pokemon games.
IT’S A MON’S WORLD WE LIVE IN
From the outset, the player is a human child that has been whisked away to a world where only Pokemon exist (and alarmingly enough, has been transformed into one). There are twenty Pokemon characters to play as, all from the starting selections in the other games. A partner character who will be your accomplice for most of the game is also chosen from this roster. Don’t like choice? Take a weird personality profile quiz, and the game will decide which Pokemon best suits the results. (Personally, I’ve always felt I had a little Snivy in me.)
With no memory of how the metamorphosis took place, the player must go native and fully embrace the Pokeworld they now live in. There’s class to attend, dungeon-diving missions to complete, and 719 hopeful friends to make. Something out there is also hunting down Pokemon and turning them to stone, and it will eventually fall on the player to stop it.
The appeal and charm found here is thick as twice-buttered bread. Turns out that when Pokemon say more than just their name, they won’t shut up! This is a good thing though, as it made the highlight of returning wearily to the village after a long dungeon romp. Going into a wrestling school and seeing Hawlucha (my favorite luchadore bird) teaching classes was a stupid thrill that made me smile reflexively.
THE GREAT DUNGEON LIMP
Once business is conducted in town, player and partner Pokemon set out into the great frontier on missions inside of randomized dungeons. Actions inside the dungeon are based on turns, i.e. a step being a turn, an attack being a turn. Monitoring the food level of the lead Pokemon’s Belly is necessary, as it is possible to wear them out if they don’t get food or rest.
When enemies are engaged, the game doesn’t switch to a battle screen like the main series. Instead, the face buttons will trigger the four different moves your Pokemon can know, and the player can move the Pokemon around in combat. The partner will move around and help according to a player-set strategy, but can’t be directly controlled.
A lot of the elemental matching-up matters just as usual, like dousing Fire Pokemon with Water attacks. But most any attack can just be mashed on until your foe lies broken and conquered, and then one can knock back health items. Never once did I feel like a lot of consideration had to be put into any fight.
With a tepid lineup this holiday for the Nintendo 3DS’s new releases, Super Pokemon Mystery Dungeon may seem like it’s worth a play. If you love charming characters but can overlook an iffy story, it’ll still be a 25ish hour slog of mediocre combat. Returning fans of the Mystery Dungeon series will enjoy a lot of the new features, bigger cast, and improved graphical features (like Pokemon actually wielding their equipped items).
For me, as an adult fan of Pokemon who ponders weird questions like “did humans and Pokemon share a common genetic ancestor?”, this spin-off just doesn’t do it. I need to be that asshole brat, running off to battle supervillains with the unleashed fury of my killer beasts. I don’t need to live the life of beasts.