Nintendo demoed two upcoming DS dungeon crawlers--Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time and Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Darkness--at its recent press event in San Francisco. The two games, like the proper Pokemon games, feature the same content, but there's a different mix of Pokemon in each. The games are the sequel to 2006's Pokemon Mystery Dungeon Red and Blue, which appeared on the Game Boy Advance and DS respectively. To keep things simple, the two sequels stick to the DS and build on the basic dungeon hack-and-slash of their predecessors. We had the chance to try out work-in-progress versions of the games to see how they're shaping up.
You are once again cast as a human who has been turned into a Pokemon, and the specific details on the why and how are to be discovered as you go. When you first start the game, you'll be given a short personality quiz whose answers will determine just which of the 16 starting Pokemon you'll play as. Once that's sorted out, you'll kick off into the game and wake up on a beach. A few short cinematics later, you'll be on your way and adventuring. Your hub in the game will be Treasure Town, a standard role-playing game town with an assortment of important locales, such as a bank and the Wigglytuff Guild, which is where you'll pick up your quests. The guild will also contain an "outlaw" list of unsavory Pokemon you have to hunt down, bounty-hunter style.
The action is basically the same as in the previous entries in the series: You'll be exploring dungeons looking for Pokemon to help. Combat is a pseudo-turn-based system that will let you appear to move in real time but will let you take your time during attacks. The dungeons you'll explore are now randomly generated to add variety to the action. Another new feature is the ability to send out a help message to friends via an e-mail account you choose to bind in the game. These alerts will let them know to hop online and rescue you if you fall in a dungeon.
The visuals have seen some improvement since the original game and feature more detail. The Pokemon and environments we saw looked fine and showcased some nice touches of color. The audio is still pretty low-key, but it fits the action fine.
Based on what we played, Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time and Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Darkness are looking like solid follow-ups to the previous games in the series. While the games don't appear to be revolutionizing anything, they've got solid gameplay and more Pokemon than you can shake a stylus at. The online features are a neat addition to the gameplay and should please technically minded fans. The games are set to ship later this month on the DS. Look for our full review soon.