The injection of Pokémon characters and aspects hasn't done anything to improve ChunSoft's oft-copied dungeon hack.
- Story is well written and can easily consume 20 hours
- No shortage of rescue missions to attempt
- Interesting connectivity options between the two versions.
- Simplistic dungeon hack with Pokémon characters slapped on
- Dungeons recycle the same background tiles and enemies
- Random dungeon layouts don't always turn out sensibly
- Nothing to do in the overworld except shop and save.
Lovers of all things Pokémon are bound to be disappointed by Pokémon Mystery Dungeon, as are those looking for a role-playing game to play on their preferred Nintendo handheld. For starters, it isn't even a true Pokémon game. Nintendo and ChunSoft have simply taken a dungeon hack that ChunSoft has produced for numerous other publishers in the past and integrated the Pokémon franchise's characters and a few of its key concepts into it. The real kicker, though, is that ChunSoft's game wasn't that good to begin with, and the injection of Pokémon elements hasn't done a thing to change that.
ChunSoft has been churning out Mystery Dungeon games for various publishers since the early 1990s. Although most were published only in Japan, a couple have made their way to North America, including Chocobo's Dungeon 2 and Torneko: The Last Hope, both for the Sony PlayStation. Like those games, Pokémon Mystery Dungeon has you exploring randomly generated dungeons and fighting the monsters inside them in a manner that combines real-time movement with some of the nuances of turn-based games. In a nutshell, every time you take a step or perform an action, the enemies in the dungeon also take a step or perform an action. You command a party of as many as four Pokémon. You have direct control over the lead Pokémon's actions, but the CPU controls the other characters. For the most part, what happens in the dungeons is all of the usual stuff that you'd expect from a dungeon hack. You can perform close-up or ranged attacks, throw rocks and iron scraps at enemies from afar, and pick up any items that happen to be sitting around. Pokémon become stronger and learn new attacks as they gain experience, various items can be collected and used, and gold can be collected for later spending in the village. Also, like every ChunSoft dungeon hack, this game has a hunger meter. If you don't occasionally eat an apple or a seed, you'll faint and leave the dungeon.
Suffice it to say, Pokémon Mystery Dungeon has more in common with a litany of dungeon hacks than it does with any of Nintendo's traditional Pokémon role-playing games. Whereas a typical Pokémon game has a large overworld with multiple environments populated with hundreds of villagers and Pokémon, this game has only a single small overworld village populated by a few chatty Pokémon and a handful of useful shops. Everything of note, whether it's recruiting additional Pokémon or fighting legendary Pokémon, happens in any of the game's 16 or so dungeons. The game explains away its deviations from the usual Pokémon blueprint through its story. You assume the role of a human who has been transformed into a Pokémon and whisked off to a disaster-plagued continent populated by wild Pokémon. After arriving in a tiny forest, you are greeted by another Pokémon and you both decide to form a rescue team. The purpose of a rescue team is to help other Pokémon that have somehow become trapped in dungeons. This serves as all the excuse the game needs to constantly send you into dungeons, as Pokémon are constantly delivering mission requests to your mailbox. The overall story, which can take anywhere from 15 to 20 hours to complete, also pulls you into dungeons to quell legendary Pokémon to get to the bottom of why the world is currently falling apart.
Key Pokémon aspects have been incorporated into the game to varying degrees. Since there are no trainers around, you can't add new Pokémon to your team by capturing them. Instead, the wild Pokémon you defeat in battle will sometimes offer to join your rescue team. In a traditional Pokémon game, the Pokémon in your party evolve once they have reached a certain level. Here, evolution isn't even an option until you finish the main story. And once it does become an option, it's simply a choice you can make by visiting a specific cave. The major share of evolved Pokémon can be recruited during the normal course of the game. The process of teaching Pokémon new attacks, on the other hand, works almost exactly as it does in standard Pokémon games. Pokémon learn new attacks when they reach certain levels, or you can use rare TM items to teach them attacks whenever you like. This game also lets you link multiple attacks together during a single turn. Rounding out the list of key Pokémon aspects that made it into the game are elemental affinities, which also function much the way Pokémon veterans are familiar with. Water Pokémon are strong against fire Pokémon, ghost Pokémon are strong against psychic Pokémon, and so forth. In some dungeons, weather conditions can also hinder or help your Pokémon.
While the inclusion of characters and aspects from the Pokémon franchise serves to give Pokémon Mystery Dungeon a familiar and friendly atmosphere, it doesn't do much to address the weaknesses in ChunSoft's original dungeon hack. Chiefly, the design is overly simplistic and gets old really fast. Each dungeon typically has anywhere from 10 to 30 floors, which all recycle the same bland background tiles and contain the same three or four wild Pokémon. Although you can perform four different attacks, in practice you'll stick to the same reliable move and watch the same battles play out over and over again. There's a tinge of strategy involving the orientation of your Pokémon in relation to the enemy during battle, but what this boils down to is that it's best to have an ally next to you so you can double-team enemies. Wild Pokémon aren't aggressive as it is, and they don't do much to exploit obvious weaknesses. Making matters worse, the CPU has control over the backup Pokémon on the team, which takes yet another layer of control out of your hands. In some cases, particularly boss battles, you can let the CPU do all the work. Dungeon hacks are repetitive by nature, but this one takes sameness too far. Incredibly, aspects that would have made the game more interesting, such as traps, the ability to dig, and the ability to choose leaders, are in the game, but they don't become available until you've already completed the main story. Other flaws, such as randomly generated layouts that place an exit right next to your entry point, or the glitchy CPU artificial intelligence that sometimes sends your allies prancing off in the opposite direction, don't help.
- Player Reviews: 148
- Game Universe:
- Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Blue Rescue Team (DS, GBA),
- Pokemon Snap (N64),
- Pokemon Puzzle League (N64),
- PokePark 2: Wonders Beyond (WII),
- Pokemon Rumble Blast (3DS),
- Pokemon Black Version (DS),
- Pokemon White Version (DS),
- PokePark Wii: Pikachu's Adventure (WII),
- Pokemon Ranger: Guardian Signs (DS),
- Pokemon HeartGold Version (DS)
- Number of Players: