While it's not as bad as Gamespot would like you to believe, it's not up to par with other Pokemon offerings either.

User Rating: 7.5 | Pokemon Fushigi no Dungeon: Ao no Kyuujotai DS
The world of Pokemon has finally made its way onto the Nintendo DS. However, it is nothing like the many titles you may already be familiar with. In Pokemon Mystery Dungeon (PMD), instead of playing a trainer trying to make it to the top of the Pokemon League, you play a pokemon itself! That's right, for the first time ever, you play as a pokemon and are able to communicate with your fellow critters in an understandable fashion. The simple idea of letting players understand their pokemon counterparts has been thrown around for years, but unfortunately, the outcome isn't up to par with other adventures. PMD has a lot in common with its predecessors in the fact that there are two options to choose from (Blue for DS and Red for GBA) and the fact that there are game-specific pokemon in each version. Another similarity to past outings is that the game, apart from the storyline, is mainly concerned with leveling up the various pokemon by battling. However, similarities beyond these facts are hard to come by.

A clever opening sequence has players answering personality questions. Afterwards, you are assigned to be the pokemon that most matches your personality profile. For my gameplay experience I was Torchic, a small bird pokemon of the fire persuasion. After naming yourself, you have the ability to pick your in-game partner, which is the one pokemon that will help and accompany you on your journey. You are given a list of available options, and in my case, I chose Squirtle, a turtle that is of the water type. While there is no saying that I couldn't choose another fire type, there is a great bit of strategy involved in picking the best one for the job. Since certain types prevail over other types (water beats rock - fire beats grass, and so on) you would want to choose the pokemon that will best compliment your own type. Since I had one of both fire and water, I had various strengths against opponents.

Moving on to the actual story, you awaken in a forest as the pokemon to which you were assigned. You find very early on that you are actually a human that has been transformed into a pokemon, and with the help of whichever ally you chose, you must travel the land in an effort to solve the mystery of your transformation. Along the way you will come across more pokemon who will want to help you, and this gives players another level of strategy when entering dungeons, since you can only take one extra critter with you.

Speaking of dungeons, the majority of your gameplay will be spent in these various levels. Unfortunately, this is a gameplay element that we should all be very familiar with by now, seeing as how there have been numerous copycats of ChunSoft's original formula. The dungeons come in various designs and with varying numbers of levels, but they are generally the same. If you've played Dark Cloud, you know what I'm talking about. Each time you enter the dungeon, the levels will be different, which helps the game stay fresh, but the fact that you could pick up any number of titles and have the same gameplay experience is disappointing to say the least.

Another element that has seen its fair share of copies is the "Belly" meter. Travel through a dungeon long enough and you will become hungry, so you must eat any of the numerous apples and gummies that are scattered randomly throughout the levels. Again, it's a nice touch in theory, but more original elements would have been appreciated.

Back above ground, you follow the 20 hour long storyline from your "birth" as a pokemon to the end of the tale. Only after you beat the original storyline can your pokemon counterparts evolve, which is another disappointing factor. The main draw of past titles was completing your Pokedex, but in this game, it's nowhere to be found.

When discussing the actual look and feel of the game, there isn't much to be said, other than the fact that the graphics look like a GameBoy Color threw up and that the sounds are so repetitive that I often played with the volume at nil. Catchy tunes, yes, but not varied enough to keep it interesting.

Even though the storyline itself is intriguing and the gameplay is intuitive, allowing players to actually have some fun, it is disappointing to see the world of Pokemon dropped to these sorts of standards. The dungeon aspect that you could find in much cheaper titles ruined a great idea overall, and even the fact that you can rescue your friends and trade items over Wi-Fi and passwords doesn't help matters. In the end, I have to say that it is a good thing that these aren't the last titles to be set in the Pokemon universe, or this would be a sad ending to an otherwise stellar series.

Review part of grrlgamer.com. Full review and screenshots at: http://www.grrlgamer.com/review.php?g=pokemonmdblue

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