Pokémon. It has to be one of my most cherished series. The first game I got my hands on was Pokémon Silver on the Gameboy Colour and it remains one of my favourite games of all time. On November 17, 2005, an eight-year-old me stumbled upon Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Blue Rescue Team for the Nintendo DS. After much patient pleading (actually let’s be real, I threw a tantrum), my parents decided to purchase it for me, saying it was a way to distract myself from the fact that we were moving. The game was an absolute marvel on the DS, so I think it’s pretty easy to say that I was eager to brush the dust off of my 3DS and play the next instalment in the Mystery Dungeon series.
Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon is a 3D tile-based dungeon crawler set in a Pokémon world where humans do not exist. You start out as a Pokémon child lying in a forest. It is here that you discover you have suffered from amnesia and cannot recollect anything outside of the fact that you were once human, making you somewhat of an enigma. After being discovered by a quaint old Pokémon named Nuzleaf, you find yourself in the quiet little Serene Village. The start of this story is an admittedly slow one, offering little explanation as to how you came to be where you are and what your purpose is. Once you reach about Chapter 6 it picks up though and the story becomes a lot more interesting. Over the course of the game you’ll come to discover your identity while becoming entangled in an evil plot that threatens the peace of the land. Without wanting to spoil it, the game’s story is excellently told and is certainly a contender for one of the most engaging tales set in the Pokémon universe. The game offers about 23 chapters
with around 45 minutes to an hour’s worth of gameplay within each chapter, depending on the speed at which you progress. Upon the story’s completion, you are more or less left to your own devices and are free to roam the land. There are a myriad of side quests for you to complete which offer collectable Pokémon as a reward. As there are 720 Pokémon to collect, if you want to catch ’em all then expect to be spending over 100 hours of playtime.
The game sees the return of a few mechanics that featured in some of the previous titles. For starters, the Deposit Box, which was in the previous Gates to Infinity, sees a consecutive return, once again replacing the Kangaskhan Storage. The belly mechanic, which dictates how many moves you can make in a dungeon before you have to replenish it by consuming food, has also returned after being almost entirely removed in Gates to Infinity. The personality test (dictating which Pokémon you are as well as the partner you’ll meet later on) taken at the beginning of the game returns. This time, however, players can choose whichever starting Pokémon they like from a relatively large list of 20 candidates should they not like the choice handed to them based on their answers. This is a welcome change as you want to choose the Pokémon that best represents you, and the partner you meet in Serene Village also plays an integral part in the story. Hostile Pokémon can once again evolve inside dungeons after defeating Pokémon allied to you. The excellent Jukebox feature also makes a return allowing players to listen to all of the game’s music, and even music from previous titles too. Technical Machines (items that hold a Pokémon move that you can use it to teach them if they are able to learn it) are once again single-use items, aside from Rainbow Coloured TMs which have unlimited uses. Again, the size of your selected Pokémon also plays a factor in determining how many Pokémon you can take with you on an expedition, Legendary Pokémon included.
The game itself plays very smoothly. Traversing throughout the overworld (areas in which there are no enemies and feeding Pokémon isn’t necessary) is simple and quick, meaning it doesn’t take long to get back into the dungeons. Controls are easy to understand meaning players won’t find themselves perplexed with issuing commands. Throughout the game, the challenge of your expeditions increases gradually. Levelling is slow and HP has been properly balanced so you don’t become incredibly overpowered later on. However, once the main story is completed, various new dungeons become available to you and this is where the difficulty increases exponentially. Difficulty ratings jump from the standard Normal and Difficult to Very Difficult and Super Difficult. In the latter two difficulties, levelling weak Pokémon becomes somewhat of a chore and the gameplay balancing is a bit wonky. You essentially have to babysit low-level Pokémon by bringing a high-level Pokémon with you to farm XP. Low-level Pokémon are more or less a liability in serious fights and this means you’ll be deterred form bothering to level some of your allies due to how useless they are until they’ve gained some levels and the time involved in doing this.
As to be expected with a 3DS title, the graphics are nothing special. This is especially apparent when comparing it to the previous Pokémon titles Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, which had incredible visuals given the platform they were on. However, where the graphics waver, the quality of textures and the precise design of landscapes is superb. The bright, vibrant colours help you feel like you are indeed playing in a living, breathing world. Details feel up-scaled when the 3D mode is enabledand the visual depth is increased. Colours feel incredibly stimulating and the art style is only drab when needed, to convey despair or danger. Cinematics feel organic and can often immerse the player with a flurry of colour (and chaos at some points). These cinematics are key to to telling the story in an engaging fashion, with detailed visuals and some solid particle effects. All things considered, the graphics are still of a higher quality than most other titles on the 3DS.
The music that plays while you wander the overworld or traverse perilous dungeons is enchanting. Melodies are catchy and suit the tone of your surroundings perfectly. Early-game dungeons and the overworld share similarities in their scores in the sense that they all have a major key which conveys a bright and playful tone. However, especially throughout the main story, musical tone shifts dramatically and helps immerse the player into the harrowing and creepy settings of the dangerous dungeons. The music will shift to a sombre minor key at points to invoke emotion following some form of tragedy or calamity. The instruments used are very light, such as flutes and crisp acoustic guitars. The music is nothing short of masterful and perfectly fits the game’s atmosphere.
Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon is an expansive adventure which offers a fantastic story coupled with rich gameplay, superb music and good visuals. Despite some balancing issues in the harder difficulties and a slow start to the story, the game offers countless hours of enjoyment and is overall a very solid game. This game is a must for all 3DS owners and Pokémon fans alike.
Reviewed on 3DS