Pokémon Mystery Dungeon
About a year ago, I asked my 14-year old nephew why he always played Pokémon games. For years, he and his GBA were impossible to seperate and it was always some Pokemon game that he had put in the device. Even when you got a brand new DS and a couple of fun games, he kept playing the old stuff. What is it with kids these days?
If I can believe my nephew, the Pokémon games are the best games ever made. Accessible and deep, addictive and almost infinitely replayable. And, when looking at the recently published Top 20 of best sold game franchises, you have to give him credit. Pokémon is second with only the untouchable Mario in front of him. All other top franchises like Grand Theft Auto, Final Fantasy and even Zelda eat dust when compared to Pokémon and Mario.
That the cartoon was important for the success of the franchise is obvious. Myself I have little feeling with ancient turn-based RPGs, even less with the Pokémon cartoons, and I even hate that obnoxious yellow Pikachu. Still, I really wanted to review this game. Call it healthy curiosity.
When starting up Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Blue Rescue Team for the first time, you need to answer a couple of questions. They check your personality and in the end, based on your answers, you get the Pokémon assigned that best suits you. Contrary to the “gotta catch’em all” Pokémon games, you don’t need to train your little friend, as you are him. A big twist compared to the predecessors and Mystery Dungeon clearly steps off the known paths. I was a naive, talkative pokemon called Tododile. The blue water dragon charmed me and I was already happy to not have been put inside Pikachu.
Your adventure starts when you wake up in a world where only Pokémon live. You’re changed in such a peculiar creature and the big question is: “Why?”. You can’t remember anything anymore and it’s up to you to find out what your destiny is in this new reality. The world where you wake up in is also torn by natural disasters so it’s good that you get a companion. Together with this partner you start up a rescue team and get up from your lazy butt to help out Pokémon here and there. During your rescue actions you’ll get in contact with other Pokemon that can join your team. The choice is yours of course and I personally preferred to get rid of these “allies”.
The dungeons are random built every time to they constantly look different. This is a good thing as you’ll often have to enter the same one again to help a lost or exhausted critter. The fights are turn-based and you’ve got plenty of attacks and items at your disposal. There’s quite some depth in this part although you don’t need to be a master in strategy to win. Next to the dungeons, your world exists out of the little village where your base is set. Here you find a bank, a shop, a training dojo and a postal office but all in all there’s little to do. Don’t expect huge interaction with the inhabitants of the village.
Mystery Dungeon isn’t filled with great graphics, innovating gameplay or immersing storylines. In the end it’s nothing more than get in a dungeon, get out, go to the village, get new assignment, get in dungeon, and so on… All pretty based but it does work. I’ve played for over 20 hours already and my pocket monster has grown into one tough son of a … pokémon.
You won’t play play this game days in a row but there’s been a time where I would take my DS every ten minutes and do a quick dungeon. On the other side I did have to bite through sometimes to keep playing. During certain phases in the game the story stands still for a while and you’ll just have to do one dungeon after the other without getting any real rewards. Sad but fortunately the game remains just interesting enough to get over the dead moments.
You won’t hear me saying that the Pokémon games are the best ever but playing Mystery Dungeon did open my eyes. I start to see the appeal of the little critters (I do still hate Pikachu) and understand where all the success comes from. I’m still no convinced lover of the franchise but maybe Pokémon Diamond/Pearl will change that. Last up this: Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Blue Rescue Team (DS) and Red Rescue Team (GBA) are content-wise almost the same game.