The Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series has always intrigued me. It was one of the first spinoff series I’d ever been introduced to, starting with a demo of Red Rescue Team on GameBoy Advance. Essentially, the Trainer and Pokémon concepts of the main series are meshed together in a top-down exploration adventure with turn-based combat. Yet despite how intriguing the series is, I never really felt inclined to play any of it beyond Explorers of Darkness for the Nintendo DS…that is, until just this year. When 360chrism was streaming his first Explorers of Sky playthrough, I dropped by a few streams (probably lurking) and noticed chat saying Super Mystery Dungeon was good (whereas Gates to Infinity was never vouched for), which ultimately compelled me to buy the game at 5/8 price and try it for myself.
Overall rating (early this time): 8.8/10. The gameplay is a bit clunky, especially in the beginning, but it gets better as it goes on and contains all the elements to be expected of a Pokémon Mystery Dungeon game: fun, frustration, and a heartfelt story with minimal dependence on previous installments. Also, the final boss was a pleasant surprise…[considering every boss in Darkness was a Pokémon and the non-Pokémon enemies of Super were a fun sort of gimmicky.] <- Homemade spoiler tag
Super Mystery Dungeon was released during the sixth generation of Pokémon, which means it has Mega Evolutions (in a roundabout way) and contains the first 720 Pokémon of the National Pokédex (i.e. sadly no Volcanion). It lacks Hidden Abilities, which is a bit irritating, but at least it has an Ability-changing item and tutor moves. And more importantly, it abandons the complicated methods of evolution (Darkness facilitated only some, and to a less significant degree) and only goes by level requirement if applicable (although evolution cannot be done until the epilogue).
A few mechanics that differentiate Super Mystery Dungeon from the pre-3D installments:
- Recruitment is very non-standard. The tradition before was to KO Pokémon for a chance to recruit them, but now certain Pokémon provide certain expeditions in order for guaranteed recruitment (and some will even join if you interact with them in the overworld). This proves a benefactor to immersion, but it also means that you can’t nickname any Pokémon but your starter and partner.
- Alongside the usual Orbs, Super Mystery Dungeon has a more compact form of item called Wands, which you use to fire a finite number of magic projectiles with special effects.
- Looplets are held items that become incrementally useful as you pick up temporary collectibles called Emeras, each with its own special effect. (A particular Emera (Awakening) is what allows Mega Evolution.)
- Arguably the most fun mechanic of all, the in-game days sometimes present a trio of “motivated” Pokémon that can be put into the expedition team for additional experience. I call it “fun” because it encourages variety in team formations.
On the anecdotal side of things, I answered the personality quiz honestly and ended up with Turtwig as a starter. The game suggested Pikachu as a partner, but that’s not a good complement, so I refused and was able to instead choose Fennekin as my partner. (It was the best complement of the gen 6 choices.) Starter and partner names were Franklin and Helga respectively, and I named my team the Hundreds. My playtime so far is roughly 100 hours, and I have the most difficult quarter of the game left to complete.
À la prochaine! (Until next time!)