Pokemon Mystery Dungeon has been running for just over 10 years as a series, and we reviewed the last one back in 2013 when it first surfaced. It’s been three years, and we have a new Mystery Dungeon game, this time titled Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon. Have things changed significantly? Is it a better game? Is it super dungeony? How mysterious is it?? All these questions and more will receive answers when we return. But first help me into my Pokemon suit, will you?
Yer a Pokemon, Harry
Pokemon is a massive industry, spawning more than 30 separate games, more than 20 different TV series, more than a handful of movies, comic books, and toys, and more than its fair share of Guinness World Records. It’s currently the third best selling video game franchise (after Mario spin-off titles and the core Super Mario platformer games), and The Pokemon Company is worth billions. No surprises that there are almost as many different kinds of Pokemon games as there are Mario games. Which brings us neatly to the latest arrival from Spike Chunsoft: Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon.
As in prior games, Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon begins with the conceit that you are a human—from the human world, no less!—who has automagically become a Pokemon. Isn’t it a sheer stroke of luck, then, that you can choose which one you want to be? Well, as long as your choice fits within the starting set of 20 Pokemon. Once you’ve chosen your final form (I chose Torchic, but I was heavily leaning toward Charmander), you’re dumped rather unceremoniously into the Pokemon world (where humans are a myth, I might add), and left to explore as many mysterious dungeons as your little heart desires. Well…after you get through the story, anyhow. And I’m sad to say that the story can become a little tedious at times. Once you clear that bit, however, the game suddenly opens up to become a lot more fun.
The game still follows much the same formula as before: the game is a roguelike that allows you to explore randomly-generated dungeons. Unlike prior games, Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon doesn’t give you each Pokemon to add to your party roster at random: you have to quest through dungeons to find them. And in true “gotta-catch-em-all” mentality, you can find and recruit all 700+ Pokemon. That’s a lot of catching.
Easy Peasy Sitrus Berry Squeezy
While I found the prior game a bit of a breeze to play, Super Mystery Dungeon ramps up the difficulty quite early. This made me sit up and pay a bit of attention, because I was expecting another casual romp through the caves, not a game where I’d have to rethink my strategies. What makes it interesting is that some of the attacks can affect an entire room, some a number of squares ahead of you, and there are effects that affect the entire dungeon floor. Thankfully, when you gain experience, so does everyone else in your roster, whether they’re in the active party or not.
After you manage to clear the opening, constrained bits of story and you’re given the run of the world, the game truly comes into its own. You’re no longer stuck to an underpowered Pokemon, for example, and if you’ve got more powerful characters in your roster, you’re finally free to use them as the main explorer. Don’t think this will make the game much easier, because some of those boss characters are truly tough.
A Pokemon of a different colour
One of the bigger differences in this game is the addition of Emeras, gems that can significantly power-up your beastie (Ed: Is there a Pokemon called “Beastie”? I think there should be one called “Beastie”). The catch is that you have to find Emeras in the wild, and whenever you enter a room, a timer goes off, giving you a certain number of moves to get to that Emera before it disintegrates.
Another difference is the addition of Alliance attacks, an attack that uses all of your party members to effectively deal a ridiculous amount of damage to a foe. Between Emeras and Alliance attacks, these new addition add enough to separate Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon from its predecessors. They also add a new level of strategy to what used to be “find the stairs, get out” style of gameplay. Although, to be fair, there’s still a good deal of that to be had.
While Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon is a far better game (eventually) than many of the earlier ones, it’s still a roguelike with Pokemon. If you enjoy neither Pokemon nor exploring randomly-generated corridors, you’re probably better off with a different game. However, those fans of both will find plenty here to keep them occupied. Because the dungeons are randomly generated, you’re likely to never see precisely the same one twice, and because you can go on to collect a ridiculous amount of Pokemon, expect to play here for a good long while.