Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a Pokémon? That’s a question that Spike Chunsoft has looked to answer since 2005, when the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series was birthed.
Differentiated from the mainline Pokémon adventures, the player unexpectedly becomes a Pokémon and partners up with others as they warily trek through dank dungeons.
The developer has had chance to iterate on the idea, tweaking each successive game to address complaints directed at the gameplay in their predecessor. That was certainly the case with Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity, which had fixed numerous issues but threw its own into the mix. With Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon, the broader question that I had was in whether it could return the off-shoot series to its addictive heights while continuing to eradicate repeated gripes.
The answer is two-fold, in being yes and no. The story has always been the strongest part of the Mystery Dungeon series, and, after the last two games had disappointed, Super Mystery Dungeon treats us to the best that that has ever been penned for it.
It’s full of fun, laughter and all manner of emotions, and I certainly found that players will easily feel connected with the Pokémon that they encounter. The premise here is that Pokémon are being turned into stone, and so you join the Expedition Society to explore mystery dungeons to uncover the ominous source behind such troubling mischief. It will take a solid 15 – 20 hours to see the story through, but it was an element that I found wholly enjoyable.
As for gameplay, Super Mystery Dungeon retains some of the fixes delivered in Gates to Infinity – such as levelling all Pokémon up at once. But, it also keeps some of the more annoying ones.
In some cases I would enter a mystery dungeon, and start in a large room where there’s a Wild Pokémon on the far side – whether that be a Sandslash or Masquerain. They would use ranged attacks and, as I moved towards them, my Pokémon were knocked out before I could even do anything. The amount of Revival Seeds you need to carry with you at all times is ridiculous, but I guess that it has long been a part of Mystery Dungeon gameplay. That said it still feels antiquated, but once you reach the point where you can buy a Revival Seed hoard it no longer remains an issue.
There’s also an interesting difficulty curve in the game. Early on, you take a mission where you have to face a Salamence that is over 40 levels higher than you. Then, it joins you. This would seem peculiar for the overall balance of the game, but alters it so that you can’t just use higher levelled Pokémon repeatedly in order to gain an overbearing advantage. That said, facing them can be an absolute pain.
The recruiting mechanics are a bit different. Rather than leaving it to the potentially slim chance of recruiting a Pokémon once it has been defeated, players instead recruit Pokémon by doing missions for them or at the same time as other Pokémon. This means that you can only get each species of Pokémon once, or maybe twice. The finite amount of missions also lowers Super Mystery Dungeon’s longevity, especially as there aren’t that many dungeons that last longer than 40 floors. Even so, all 720 Pokémon are available and there are more than 120 mystery dungeons to haphazardly navigate your way through, so players certainly won’t feel shortchanged.
StreetPass lets you share your Pokémon of choice with other players, which can be used in some special mystery dungeons. While, as seen before, there is the ability to help played that fail a dungeon by using a password or QR Code that can be posted on Miiverse – with rewards earned for doing so. There’s also chance to share gameplay videos of your team tackling special dungeons online, but these can only be viewed in-game rather than being separately uploaded on YouTube.
Graphically, Super Mystery Dungeon is solid and the game’s soundtrack is astounding. The Pokémon models don’t have as much animation or fluidity as in the mainline titles, which is more noticeable when they are bounding around dungeons. It works as a cohesive whole, with the stereoscopic 3D elevating the visuals.
The soundtrack was composed by Keisuke Ito, Yasuhiro Kawagoe and Noriko Murakami, and truly captures Super Mystery Dungeon’s playful essence. Players can use the in-game Jukebox to listen to it, even while the Nintendo 3DS is in Sleep Mode – as seen with Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS.
Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon is a return to form for the series, which I was pleased to see after Gates to Infinity underwhelmed. There are still faults and uneven mechanics that must be ironed out if it is to continue, but my enjoyment came in the touching story sprinkled with humour and how well it brings the Pokémon world to life. Just beware of the difficulty curveballs that are thrown at you on occasion.