Review by StartersoverLeg
Newest PMD Title Likely to Test Your Patience
Allow me to start this review off with some personal history with this franchise: Pokemon Blue Rescue Tram was the first game I ever got for my Nintendo DS when the device first came out. I loved the game so much that I continued to loyally buy every new release in the series until current day. Imagine my excitement when I heard about Super Mystery Dungeon, the "Definitive Mystery Dungeon Game". Obviously I purchased the game and immidiately got down to gameplay. These are my personal opinions/findings on this title.
1.) I don't care what anyone says- this game is TOUGH.
As I mentioned, I've played mystery dungeon games since the start, so I have a pretty good handle on how difficult they usually are. That said, right off the back this installment makes you work for every last EXP point and (P) you earn, to such an extent that I've had to turn off my game and walk away for a few hours to regain my composure.
Firstly, the average enemies are just plain harsh. In the previous games it was easy to out-level the grunts on each floor and take them down with a register attack. Now, however, I get the feeling that these Pokemon have discovered steroids. No longer am I losing to the occasional boss battle, but instead am going down to red health on nearly every enemy I run across. Even with two partners attacking along side you, it can sometimes take two or three turns just to defeat a single enemy. If this is the case right off the bat, then I can only shudder at the thought of higher-level resistance later.
Additionally, enemies evolve after nearly every KO they achieve, meaning that if one of your team faints during combat, YOU will now have to deal with something roughly twice as powerful as it was before. The chances of this happening? Higher than you might think, given that the new A.I.s for team members encourages them to wander after every item in every room and away from the relative safety of the group.
Also, Monster Houses and Traps appear almost immidiately during gameplay. Yup, you got it- those unusually strong enemies I was talking about? You could randomly find yourself surrounded by ten of them, ready to evolve as soon as your weakest link fails.
Now, normally these conditions wouldn't be too bad. After all, usually after failing a dungeon you lose only a bit of your held items and money, then you can keep trying again and again as you level up right? Heh, WRONG. because in this game, every time you fail you lose ALL of your belongings. That's right, every item that you bring to assist your survival can be lost forever as soon as you bite the dust. This on its own is extremely annoying, especially since certain items aren't easy to come by.
Speaking of items...the game has introduced a new stage of consumable below our usual findings. Instead of Reviver Seeds, the game starts you with "Tiny" Reviver Seeds, which revive you but don't refill your belly or let you regain PP for your moves. Especially annoying since you'll be relying on these a lot just to make it through basic dungeons. On the same hand they have added regular old "Elixirs" rather than the Max Elixirs we are so used to. Instead of fully refilling your PP, these little pickups only refill about half of your moves' availability. Again, extremely annoying since you'll need your special moves to defeat enemies as your regular "A" attack won't get you anywhere with these newly improved grunts.
These are only a few of the challenges I've found with this new game- and don't even get me started on the third request you're presented with. Just an hour or so into the game they expect you to defeat a Salamence, with moves that are mostly 1-hit KOS against your team, dependant on levels obviously.
Now onto the less brutal side of the game...
2) Cutesy story provides relief from the slaughter of dungeon-clearing.
At the start of the game when you pick your partner, you have the choice to say they are "cool" or "cute". As far as I can tell, this decides your partner's gender, and may or may not affect some dialogue here and there. I know this to be the case because I chose my partner to be a Pikachu and selected "cute", which gave her sprite the clover - tail that is distinctive of Females of the species.
Right of the bat my Cute Pikachu was making me smile and laugh through her playful and mischievous antics. She was extremely headstrong and wasn't afraid to speak her mind in an edgy yet innocent way. For players who don't care much for the story or characters, this might be a small detail, but to me it was a relief from how aggravating the dungeons themselves were. Watching my partner handle different situations in a comical and colorful way was fun for me, and instilled a drive to complete the next dungeon- if only to see what she would do next.
If by any chance a parent is reading this review, then I would also like to take a moment to express this game's fantastic job of relaying action to consequence in many relatable situations. If you have no interest in reading through this section, then feel free to skip until you see my capitalized END SECTION at the bottom of this part.
An example of this is a couple of rambunctious Pokemon at school who like pulling pranks and testing their classmates. (Did I mention that the story begins with the player attending Pokemon school? No? My bad...) Anyway, at one point in the game the two boys find out that the school is supposedly "haunted" at night and challenge their classmates to investigate the issue with them. The only problem with this is that the students would have to sneak out of their houses to attend the would-be ghost hunting. If you agree to sneak out and go to school with your partner, then by the end of the ordeal you will both be caught by your parent-figures and punished via lecture. Of course, this is in response to sneaking out without permission, while the parents actually support an adventurous attitude.
Another way that this game's story could be beneficial for kids to play is in its acceptance of diversity and character. At the start of the game, your partner is considered annoying by a lot of the class, and a pain in the neck by the teachers. Their antics can be a bit reckless and oblivious to "personal space", but commit their actions out of genuine care for others and a desire to male friends. The only problem is that a majority of the classmates reject your partner, sometimes going as far as to call them "annoying" right to their face.
Throughout my real life schooling career I have seen this same situation play out many times, with one child so ambitious to make friends that they come across as annoying to the other children. Unfortunately this also pressures the other students into acting the same way toward the child, as being friends with them would make them seem annoying by association. However, as you play through the game YOU become the one to break the ice and become close with your partner pokemon. Once this happens, the others also start to warm up to them until the whole class is friends with them. This domino affect can relate to similar real-life situations, and perhaps show that one person accepting a reject could lead to good things in the end- no matter how unrealistic it might seem.
3.) Changes from previous games.
This installment of the Mystery Dungeon series has made some dramatic shifts from the previous ones, to such an extent that more experienced players might find it difficult to adjust. Below I will list some of the major changes, for you to decide which are positive or negative to the gameplay:
* Looplets and Emeras *
Looplets and emeras are items found in dungeons that can be given to pokemon to gain a complementary effect, much like Ribbons in the previous games. Once a looplet is found, it can be equipped to a pokemon, and from there fitted with emeras. Without emeras fitted to the looplet, there may be little to no benefit for the pokemon wearing it, as the looplet allows the holding pokemon to reap effects from emeras. Emeras are little crystal-like gems that each has a different effect. For example, some emeras grant a power boost, while others can do things like prevent negative status from harming the user. Sounds cool right?
However, there is a more complicated process to Looplets and emeras than what is on the surface. Firstly, while Looplets can be taken out of a dungeon like a regular item, emeras disappear the moment a dungeon is left. That means that any benefits received from the emeras is cleared and can't be regained unless you find the right combination of emeras in a different dungeon.
Also, as soon as you enter a room with an emera in it, a countdown appears above the emera that signifies its life. If the timer reaches 0 before you pick the emerald up, then the item poofs into a mess of crystal dust that cannot give you any benefit. The only use for this dust is by walking over a lot of it for the chance to create a new emera with a random effect.
I personally don't like the idea of Looplets and emeras, since I prefer lasting benefits over ones that are random and require work to regain. However, some players might appreciate this mechanic, so I leave it to you to decide how you feel.
* Recruiting Pokemon *
If you've played a Mystery Dungeon game before, then you know that a big part of the game is recruiting different pokemon to your team to train and play as. This process is loosely the equivalent of 'catching' pokemon in the main branch of the Pokemon gaming franchise, what with you following a process to get pokemon on your side for your personal use. To me personally, this has always been my favorite part of the MD games.
However, in this game you no longer recruit pokemon. Instead, you set up 'connections' with them by taking their requests, which then allows you to take them to dungeons with you. It sort of takes away from the exciting gamble of defeating pokemon and holding your breath for the chance that they ask to join you. This new "recruiting" setup, coupled with how much more difficult combat was made in this game, lead me to believe that the creators placed more value on battling then gaining pokemon, which came a slight dissapointment to me personally. However, once again I realize that more combat - centric players will appreciate this change and leave it's value up to anyone reading this.
* Other Changes *
Of course there are many other changes among these, such as the new 'wand' item, which roughly has the same effect as an orb would in the previous games. Additionally there is the raised chance for enemy pokemon evolution, as well as the removal of randomized pokemon request boards in place of the new connection orb quest layout. In all, the game is full of large and small changes alike- and with so many different types of players it can be difficult to make a definitive judgment on which changes are good or bad.
Al-in-all this game is fun, though made MUCH more difficult than necessary. The dungeons can be unforgiving, your only relief from the OP enemies being the vast array of items thrown at you along the way. However, I appreciate the story so far and the messages that it conveys, from actions versus consequence to situations of acceptance and friendship among all different types of people. The many changes thrown into this game are sure to cause some arguments in the community, but honestly it's difficult to say which changes are good or bad for the franchise. At this point I'm just happy to let the game be what it is, and play for as long as I can before rage - quiting in a difficult dungeon. A good game, though one that I would hardly consider the "Definite" Mystery Dungeon game, since so much of it has drastically changed from the other installments of the series.
Product Release: Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon (US, 11/20/15)
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