Originally posted November 25th 2015 on the Seafoam Gaming forums
Folks who know me are probably aware of the fact that the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon series changed my life, mostly due to the impact the original games had on my (at that time) rough life back in 2006. That personal story is conveyed in my Youtube video series, Eternal Memories. If you want to hear the whole story of that original playthrough, (and to see the future episodes in the series when they come) the Youtube playlist is right here.
With the fifth installment in this beloved spin-off franchise now available, was it worth the wait? Is it worth preordering if you are in the PAL regions? (Which gets the game on the 19th of February) Most importantly, is it worthy of the SUPER in the title? Let’s find out as I analyze this final chapter from a reviewer standpoint, just like I do with every other game I review here on Seafoam Gaming!
Title: Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon
System: Nintendo 3DS
Release date: 11/20/2015
The main game/story
The Pokemon Mystery Dungeon series is known for it’s detailed and captivating stories, and this game is no different. Therefore, I’m keeping this section spoiler free and will only mention what the back of the box explains in terms of the plot.
In this roguelike RPG, you take control of a Pokemon in a strange new world, as you and a partner Pokemon set out on an epic quest to solve the mystery of why Pokemon all across the world are turning to stone! With elements from all the previous Pokemon Mystery Dungeon titles combined into one, this game aims to be the biggest of the entire franchise.
For the most part, the presentation is similar to that of the previous PMD game, Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity, with a lot of character models and assets recycled from that title. However, this game still has a lot of new assets added in as well, most notably the rest of the 720 Pokemon who were either absent or didn’t exist when Gates to Infinity came out, some minor changes to the menus along with the nice variety of locales and cutscenes to look at during the gameplay. With the 3DS’s 3D effect turned all the way up, this world looks gorgeous, and is a sight to behold especially during some of the longer cutscenes!
Music and Sound:
Right off the bat when you boot up the game for the very first time, you’ll hear one of many, many amazing songs from this game, covering a wide variety of emotions and situations. From the relaxing, yet unsure nature of the personality test theme, to the more upbeat tunes from the story, along with the well composed themes for the majority of the dungeons, and you have a phenomenal soundtrack that’s worthy of listening to outside of the game. In fact, there’s even a Jukebox mode unlocked from the very beginning to let you do just that with a pair of headphones and your 3DS system put in sleep mode! This game also tends to recycle a few themes from the previous installment for a couple of the minor, non-story focused dungeons, but the good news is they still sound great and don’t feel out of place considering the fact that the same composers worked on both titles. (noisycroak Studios, to be exact!)
For the most part, the core gameplay is the same as it’s always been. You control a team of allies in randomly generated dungeons, and must strategically plan out your moves to defeat any enemy Pokemon in your way and make it to the stairs of each floor. It sounds incredibly simple and easy, but the good news is that the Mystery Dungeon series is far from easy, with a focus on careful planning and harsh punishments for those who fail the challenges that lie ahead, and Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon is no exception.
Do not be fooled, despite having the Pokemon license in the title, this is a Mystery Dungeon game through and through, with Pokemon elements well crafted into the experience from beginning to end. Exploring dungeons is very simple yet challenging, mainly because like always, your team will be wiped out if you aren’t careful. Unlike the previous installment in the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon series, this game brings back the challenging difficulty from the previous games, and adds some things to make the main story feel even more challenging than it has in the past. It’s still nowhere near as vicious as the Shiren series, but it’s still a game that will challenge you and will require some strategy at all times, even in the earlier dungeons of the game, as once you are defeated in a dungeon, you’ll lose all your items and money on hand unless you send out a rescue request and either rescue yourself or ask for a friend to rescue you, or by using a rare item known as the “Progress Device +” which lets you continue without losing anything.
How exactly are the Pokemon elements incorporated into the gameplay of the Mystery Dungeon formula? Well, like in the past installments, the elemental typing system is the biggest factor in terms of the gameplay, with every Pokemon having their own types which are either immune, weak or resistant to attacks of another type, just like in the main series. If you are at home with the typing system in the main series, then this game will be incredibly easy for you to get used to, although there is still more strategy required in terms of how you use those moves, since it still uses the grid format of Mystery Dungeon for exploring the dungeons themselves. Sometimes a move can only hit if you are right in front of an enemy Pokemon, while sometimes a move can hit from a long range as long as you are facing the direction of the enemy and are within a certain number of spaces.
There are also plenty of items at your disposal to use in order to change the title of battle, whether it’s the ever so helpful Tiny Reviver Seeds, the healing power of the Oran Berry, or the brand new Looplet items that replace the scarves from the previous Pokemon Mystery Dungeon titles, in the sense that they generally give a basic effect when you equip it. (Effects such as increasing the amount of experience you gain, making you immune to certain status aliments, etc) The most interesting thing about Looplets is that you can use them with the new Emera items that are found at random inside every dungeon. Whenever you enter a room with an Emera on the ground, you have a certain number of turns that you must pick it up in before it shatters into dust, and if you pick one up before it can shatter, you can equip it onto your looplet, giving you extra benefits for the duration of the dungeon. (Benefits such as being able to see every enemy Pokemon on the map, being able to dodge attacks from time to time and even surviving a powerful attack that would normally make you faint) These two new additions add a lot of strategy to the game, and helps tremendously in reducing the general repetitive nature the games had in the past, as no two trips to the same dungeon will be the exact same due to the randomness of the Emeras you find on the ground. Looplets also have limited slots for Emeras, so you can’t just add all of them in one and hope for the best, which requires some extra strategy on which party member will get what looplet, and which emeras will go on that looplet to make the best combination. It’s a genius concept that I honestly found addicting in some ways, due to how helpful the Emeras are compared to the orb, wand and seed items that are also found in dungeons, along with how it helps keep the game balanced without causing you to become incredibly overpowered or incredibly weak to the enemy Pokemon.
That being said, during the course of the main story, the game never felt cheap or overly difficult. Nearly every single knockout I suffered was my own fault, usually caused by poor planning in the dungeons, and not because I was underleveled or hit by a cheap move. Those moments can still happen if you bring your main protagonists to dungeons that aren’t part of the main storyline, but luckily the Pokemon you recruit along the way are at a good enough level to take on those dungeons for you. Not once during my playthrough of the main story did I ever have to grind levels in order to beat a boss, and most of the errors I made were either because I made a careless move or because I took my main duo into a dungeon they didn’t need to visit just yet. For nearly all the dungeons where you are required to use your main protagonists, I still managed to complete every one of them with ease, since in those dungeons the balance was just right to the point where my team never suffered from an overpowered onslaught of enemy attacks because they were at a higher level. The insane challenge level is still here if you want to make it even more difficult, but it’s never forced on you until after you beat the main story. (And by then your team should be at a good enough level to handle those difficult dungeons on your own)
With over 100 dungeons to choose from both during and after the main story, each with their own varieties of enemy Pokemon, missions and items to find, there’s a lot when it comes to variety here, and the new Connection Orb item helps make recruitment of other Pokemon easier than ever before. Unlike the previous installments where you could only recruit an enemy Pokemon at random upon defeating it in a dungeon, in Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon you can recruit any Pokemon you want by completing a mission for them on the connection orb, no dumb luck required. While there are a handful of Pokemon whose missions randomly appear from time to time in the middle of certain dungeons, those are few and far between, and it’s likely you’ll come across them while in the middle of other missions, making it nowhere near as frustrating as it was in the past, making it both fair and easy to recruit your favorites onto your team.
In conclusion, Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon is a game that I was honestly very nervous about when it came for me to write this review. Being a fan of the series ever since the North American release of the original games back in 2006, I knew I would have to set any biases aside and look at this from a critical standpoint, looking for anything that might hamper the enjoyment for others who aren’t so familiar with the roguelike genre or for those who aren’t fans of RPGs to begin with.
That being said, after completing the story in 19 hours of non-stop play, I can assure you that even I still have lots of things left to do when it comes to content, and that this game really shows how much the series has grown over the past ten years. Whether it’s looking for missions to solve in order to recruit the rest of the Pokemon, exploring newly discovered dungeons, or helping out folks on the internet thanks to the game’s handy rescue feature, there’s a lot to keep fans occupied in terms of the game’s replay value, which is a big contrast from the previous installment that suffered due to a heavier focus on story over the replay value. The good news is that the story in this title is still beautifully written with lots of twists and turns to keep any RPG fan engaged, so when you combine that with the high replay value and addicting gameplay, Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon is game worthy of the Super in the title, with something for literally any RPG fan to enjoy in this title, successfully combining the best elements from the previous entries into one spectacular sequel.
If you love a good story, pick this game up.
If you love an addicting yet challenging game, pick this game up.
If you love an amazing soundtrack and gorgeous visuals, pick this game up.
And if you love all of the above, pick this game up. Honestly this is a game that should be in your 3DS library without any questions, and is one of many great RPG adventures to embark on the Nintendo 3DS. I give Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon a 10 out of 10, and I truly believe it’s a game that was worth the wait and well put together. If you enjoy the main series of Pokemon, or other roguelikes such as Etrian Mystery Dungeon and Nihon Falcom’s Ys franchise then you’ll no doubt have a blast with Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon. No game is truly perfect, as the game’s challenge level may put off some folks who aren’t used to RPGs in general, but I still firmly believe that this game should be in your 3DS library without hesitation, mainly due to how accessible it is thanks to the amount of strategies you can come up with for clearing those dungeons.