Monday, November 23, 2015

Review: Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon

If you missed my throwback review to Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time/Darkness/Sky last week, you may not be as aware of just how much I love this little spinoff series of Pokémon. Mystery Dungeon has quickly become my biggest love of the franchise. The intricate storytelling, the lovable characters, it's a treat for me. Some don't care for its repetitive gameplay, or style, and I will just say that's fine, it's not for everyone, but when a Mystery Dungeon game is coming over here to the states, you better believe that I'll be in line to pick it up. The fact that Super Mystery Dungeon came out on my birthday, made this all the more special for me. 

But how is Super Mystery Dungeon as a game? I was asking myself that over and over again as I unwrapped it and put it in my 3DS. I was nervous. If you don't know, the last entry of the franchise was a HUGE disappointment for me. Gates to Infinity had a few redeeming things, but all in all, it doesn't feel like a legit Mystery Dungeon game. It lacks the heart and soul that made me love this series in the first place. No interesting story, a bland partner Pokémon with little likable personality, no real tension or drama in what they call a story, and whenever there WAS tension or drama...I just didn't care. It just felt empty, and I never finished playing it. Well I've been playing Super Mystery Dungeon for the last few days now, and though I've not finished the main storyline, I am pleased to announce that Mystery Dungeon once again has that heart and soul of a true game in this series! 

Right off the bat, I was happy to see that the quiz has returned for the series.  In Gates to inifinity, not only were your choices for player and partner Pokémon extremely limited, but simply chose right off the bat what you wanted to be. Well, Super Mystery Dungeon brings back that quiz, and the extensive choices of who you wanna be.  BUT for those of you who will continue to complain about how the personality quiz just keeps you from your favorite Pokémon to play as, well guess what, you're in luck.  It asks you if the Pokémon it chooses out for you if satisfactory.  If it's not you can choose whatever one you want.  The same goes for your partner Pokémon, which is does a small new thing of trying to choose one out for you as well.  Some might argue that this nulllifies the quiz entirely, but honestly, I'm glad the quiz is back in the game, regardless of whether or not you choose who you want to be.  And I gotta say that the game has a clever subte intro when you first start up the game.  The top screen goes into the camera mode to simulate your presence in the actual human world, before this orb of light transports you into this tunnel where your quiz happens, and your Pokésona is revealed to you.  I thought that was pretty clever.

Already I was happy to be playing this game. But I was still nervous for the story.  What would we be doing? Now as I've said, I've yet to finish playing.  I don't know how close I am to the finish, or whatnot.  I never do.  And while the fist few levels can be kinda slow in story, the game does pick up and it's already grasped my imagination and my interest.  There are so many features and things about this story that have been improved over the last few Mystery Dungeon games, and after the triumph that was Explorers of Sky, that's saying a lot.  Speaking of which, this game does have its fair share of cameos from the previous games.  And by fair share, I mean they are all over the place.  They don't even count as Easter Eggs, they're all over the place.  In my short time, I've run into Corphish and Sunflora from the Wigglytuff Guild, Hydreigon, Quagsire, and Rampardos from Gates to Infinity, the game has Igglybuff, Wooper, and Budew in what I assume is a little homage to the bonus story mission of Igglybuff the Prodigy, and I even have full access to Team ACT from the very first games.  I'm not kidding.  I can send a level 56 Alakazam, a level 55 Tyranitar, and a level 36 Charizard on an expedition if I wanted to.  That's just a small handful of cameos I've come across, and I am betting I'll run into even more.

One thing I absolutely love about this game is the partner you choose.  Now the partner Pokémon has always been a favorite feature of these games.  The Pokémon you grow with, bond with and explore this world with is always loveable...for the most part (damn you Gates to Infinity), and it must be said that the personality, and overall character of you partner Pokémon has improved TENFOLD.  And I mean improved over each and every game in the series.  Even my beloved Sky.  While I will always love the partner pokémon of those other games, this one's personality is brought to a new life.  He shows more emotion, he's jittery, he's downright silly at times, and it's hard not to crack a smile at it at times.  He's a bit of a goofball, but a loveable goofball.  You join him, after you both are kinda outcasted amongst your other Pokémon friends, and begin to explore outside your town further and further, joining him in his dream to travel the world, map it, and eventually join what is known as the Epedition Society.    Yeah yeah, it's similar to the Wigglytuff Guild, but it's still cool in my eyes.  nd it absolutely needs to be said that your partner Pokémon and other Pokémon you take nito the dungeons are MUCH smarter than in previous games.  How smart?  They will notice if you're close to dying, and offer to heal you with an Oran Berry.  If you're fighting an enemy, they will position themselves in ways to lend assistance to take out that enemy.  If the room is covered in items, they will help you gather those items up.  This is impressive.  I've never seen the partner pokémon able to do all this before.  And your choices of teams will only be as diverse as your imagination, as this game features all 720 Pokémon, which is the first time such a game has been made.

Gameplay itself has evolved somewhat, and in many ways for the better.  It is more convienient to use moves now, and before Gates, I did not understand why I'd want to link moves, well this game gives you a reason to do that, and it's much more convienient to use those linked or alliance moves.  And this game will make you get in the habit of doing it more than you might want because for a long time, this game may just frustrate you beyond believability.  Super Mystery Dungeon might have earned it's title of super, because it is the most difficult Mystery Dungeon game I have ever played.  Where are I could plow through dungeons left and right in the other games, I found mysef scratching my head when moves that were SUPER EFFECTIVE were only doing ten damage to the opponent.  Yeah, during the first pat of this game, you really gotta strive to strengthen yourself, because you're gonna be tossed around.  A lot. One of the first missions, I found that I had to fight a Salamance at level 50.  I don't think I was past level 10 yet.I didn't do ANY damage to him in moves that surpassed 10 damage.  I had to continuously do Alliance moves, get revived by those Tiny Revive Seeds that aren't the same as normal revive seeds, until finally I just ate a blast seed and blasted his dragon ass away.  Yeah.  This game is ruthless.  It makes you think outside the box at times, and makes you prepare for expeditions in ways you never would before.  You'll find yourself maybe taking at least four evive seeds in with you, along with plenty of elixers, plenty of apples, and plenty of other things, that normally I wouldn't require more than one or two in the previous games.  Thankfully, the stronger you get the less stuff you'll find you need as you travel along, but in my case, I'm always overpreparing with the Revive seeds.  And remember, I've yet to run into things like those blasted Monster Houses...

There are other things in gameplay that I don't particularly care for.  One is the "pushing" of your partner Pokémon.  In previous games before this, if you wanted to backtrack, you could simply walk backward, and your partner would switch sides with you automatically. Now if you want that to happen, you need to hold the B button to switch, otherwise you'll just push him like a trainer pushes a boulder in Rocky Cave outside Cerulean City or wherever the heck that place is.  And while pushing can be beneficial at times, especially for me being a water Pokémon, who will often wander into the rivers and lakes of the mystery dungeons, I just can't help but feel that this push system could have been tweaked a bit more so that it wasn't so frustrating.  It's clunky, and I'm already missing the older system of just switching places, and having an inconvienient warp now and then.

Another thing, though this is mainly coming from my perspective as a 25-year-old adult male, is the fact that when first playing this, I found it weird that I was playing as a child in this game.  The game has you go to school in the beginning, the other Pokémon will talk to you like you're a child, you'll often run into problems that are pretty childish, but that's not so much a thing I am nagging about.  It's just something to look out for if you're anything like me, and enjoy playing games that aren't exactly targeted towards you as an audience. The music of Super Mystery Dungeon has also improved greatly.  I will say I miss the theme from Explorers of Sky, but the dungeon music sounds absolutely gorgeous, easily capturing the adventure spirit, and the mystery heart.  But even more than that, the simple music when you're with the other child pokémon just completely captures the moods and feelings.  It's another thing that cracks a smile on my face.

There are just so many things I want to talk about in this game that have been done right, that it's mind boggling.  I almost want to say that if you've not cared for the series before now, to give it a try.  It makes full use of the 3D screen unlike X, Y, OR, and AS do, with all the cameos, there are plenty of homages to the other games, and plenty of improvements and new features in this game that I've yet to try, heck I've already traveled to another Pokémon town, which is already a new feature.  It makes this world you're exploring seem bigger in so many ways.  And if that's not enough, Nintendo actually made a Buizel character.  I always wanted to see Buizel have a bit of a role in these stories, and Nintendo made one that almost fits my wishes to a completely.  In fact, I almost feel as if this game was made for me.  It came out on my it might as well have been made like that for me.

Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon is a solid eight out of ten.  A must have for other Mystery Dungeon fans, and one you might wanna consider buying if you've not been in the Mystery Dungeon crowd before.  Even if you didn't like it, I wanna say give it another shot.  Rent it or something.  I feel that so much of this game has been improved.  Now whether or not the story itself is as good as Explorers of Sky for me may forever be a mystery, but already it's up there amongst my favorites.  And after the disappointing Gates game...that is always a welcoming sign.  I would sit here and type more out, but if you'll excuse me, I must return to Lively Town, and continue with my partner Jolt the Pikachu to map this world out, and discover the answers to the mystery as to why the world is acting like it is (the whole thing with Pokémon turning to stone is really boggling my mind right now).  Gotta get those answers!

Please feel free to share your thoughts on the game down below.  And as always, thanks for reading.

Final Verdict: 8/10