Pokemon is a near never ending franchise these days. There are Pokemon fighting games, puzzle games, and tactics games, but there’s one Pokemon license that holds a special place in my heart; the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon series. Rescue Team Red and Explorers of Sky are still two of my favorite Pokemon games, with Explorers of Sky being one of my favorite games overall. Infinity Gates, on the other hand, left quite a bad taste in my mouth, so I was cautious of what the next game would look like. With Super Mystery Dungeon, it wasn’t a disappointment, but it certainly wasn’t a knock out.
Awoken with No Memories
As with all Pokemon Mystery Dungeons, you start the game off by selecting what kind of Pokemon you’ll be, with all the starter Pokemon available for any gender, unlike previous games. After you select the Pokemon, you find you are now in the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon world as a human transformed into a Pokemon. In this world, however, humans are nothing but myths (barring the three previous humans-turned-Pokemon that saved the world, only recently). You awake to a kind Nuzleaf who escorts to Serene Village, as Beyeehem chase you down for unknown reasons.
It’s in Serene Village that you meet your partner, a Pokemon you selected at the beginning of the game. In something very new, you and your partner are children who go to school for much of the start of the game. This is quite a departure from the first two Mystery Dungeons, as before you and your partner might’ve been young, but you never went to school and no one treated you like a child. In general it just reminds me of this image.
Super Mystery Dungeon really lacks good pacing. Serene Village feels like the beginning of the game, and you spend nearly half the story there. After the first couple of dungeons, you’ll be encouraged to join the Expedition Society, but you remain in the village going to school for 10 or so hours. After a while, you and your partner make the decision to finally
leave the small town and go to the somewhat more lively, Lively Town, where you and you partner become full-time members of the Expedition Society.
Randomly Generated Dungeons
These expeditions are done very differently from previous games. Instead of going to the bulletin and accepting random jobs, you’ll go into what’s called The Connection Orb, inside of your menu. Inside of the Connection Orb, there are individual missions from specific Pokemon. You’ll go into a dungeon and do whatever that task requires of you, be it a rescue, a bounty, retrieving an item, or an exploration with that Pokemon. Once accomplished, that Pokemon can go in dungeons with you, so long as it’s not plot related. Unlike old games, you’re immediately allowed to make that Pokemon the party leader, and even not have your character or your partner on the expedition.
The Mystery Dungeon’s are of course the main part of the game. Randomly generated maze-like floors, that go into more and more until you reach the end. All the while, you and your team will be battle different kinds of Pokemon, collecting items, money, and treasure along the way.
There’s a few differences between Super Mystery Dungeon and previous iterations. For one, there’s a big focus on temporary buffs. It’s advised that each Pokemon carry a Looplet that can hold Emeras; jewels that provide interesting buffs throughout the dungeon. Emera’s can cause the enemy status ailments, warp them upon attack, or give a bonus to you, such as increased attack power or a barrage effect that causes multiple hits. While the
Looplet will remain with you forever, Emeras will disappear at the end of the dungeon. If your Looplet is full, you also have the ability to immediately use the Emera on yourself for a buff to one of your stats for the dungeon. Oran berries also increase your overall HP every time you use them. Although this might make you think Dungeon’s would be harder or longer (ha), they are easier and shorter than previous games, with late game dungeons only lasting a dozen or so floors.
The visual design direction is par for the course. Super Mystery Dungeon keeps the style of previous games with a bit of updating. I think I’ve heard some criticize the aesthetic of Super Mystery Dungeon, calling it “dated”, but for me, graphic fidelity isn’t a big part of why I like these games; it’s servicable.
I think one of my favorite parts about Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Sky is the soundtrack, and although Super Mystery Dungeon isn’t quite on that level, it has a very good soundtrack. A few songs are overused, but the amount of stages in the game would require that. Some tracks really stuck out, those especially at the climax of the game. Usually dungeon tracks go under my radar, but this time around, I noticed that they all had a good feel to them. Often times they evoked an air of mystery or adventure, and they really did the job well.
As a Series Veteran
Obviously, I’m reviewing this game late, so I’ve seen a few other reviews by major sites. Most of them generally criticize the monotony of randomly generated dungeons and challenges. For me, I’ve followed the series from launch, and if you have too, you’ll likely agree that the gameplay is something you enjoy. If you’re new to the series, I’d think about how much you like the idea of a randomly generated game, in terms of level design and gameplay.
As a fan of the series, my major criticism lies in the pacing of Super Mystery Dungeon. You spend too much of the game as a kid, with only around half the game spent with the Expedition Society. This is compared to Blue/Red and Darkness/Time/Sky, in which you’ve established a Rescue Team or joined the Exploration Guild an hour in. It feels like the main game is just a prelude to the epilogue, as opposed to the epilogue being post-game content. Second off, there’s no real breaks in the game. There will be a few days where you and your partner can do some missions, but then you’ll be thrust into story missions, without any time when you can just gather resources and do missions, without worrying about being forced into the main story. In a game where you might need or want to grind levels, this takes away that opportunity.
Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon, passes in all the areas it should, but it just doesn’t excel the way I’d hope it would. Generally, the reason I keep up with the gameplay in these games, is because the narrative is at the least emotionally engaging. Super Mystery Dungeon is easier, duller, and stricter than its predecessors (Rescue Team & Explorers), but it’s significantly better than Infinity Gates. If you were a fan of the first two games, but disappointed in the last one, you’ll be happy to know Super Mystery Dungeon is an acceptable recovery from past errors.