I have to admit that the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon spinoffs are very enjoyable to play. While they are Pokémon themed versions of Spike Chunsoft’s Mysterious Dungeon games, which is a roguelike roleplaying game that consists of randomly generated dungeons, Pokémon Mystery Dungeon is the most known franchise out of the various licensed Mystery Dungeon games given how popular it is. The main basis of the game is that the player plays as a human who turned into a Pokémon with his/her memories lost and go on an adventure with a partner Pokémon.
While Blue and Red Rescue Team and Explorers of Time are geared to a young audience, it does not mean that the games are watered down. As you progress, the dungeons get progressively difficult, especially in the end game. Not to mention, there is a lot of nightmare fuel since the stories are a bit darker compared to the main series.
As mentioned in 2013, I find Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Gates to Infinity a very disappointing game. Not only they limited the amount of Pokémon that are in the games, but they made the game too easy while removing some things like hunger, personality test and genders along with adding DLC, which some fans are against. Given the backlash they received, Spike Chunsoft has listened and made Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon (ポケモン超不思議のダンジョン), a new installment to the series which contains all the Pokémon while mostly going back to the original formula with some changes and new additions. Does this game live up to the title? Let’s find out as I review the Japanese version.
The main plot of Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon involves the protagonist, who finds out that he or she got turned into a Pokémon in a world that is inhabited by only Pokémon. After looking at the lake’s reflection, the protagonist realizes that he or she has transformed into a Pokémon with no recollection of how it happened. After being attacked by three Beheeyem, a Nuzleaf comes to save you and guides the protagonist to the Serene Village (おだやかの村), where you meet your partner Pokémon and attend school there.
Eventually, the protagonist and your partner eventually leave the village to join the Expedition Society to complete the world map and help Pokémon that is in trouble and connect with them. During your work at the society, the protagonist and partner Pokémon goes to the Wind Continent and witness a legendary Pokémon turning into stone. With that, what mysteries lie behind these incidents and who is behind it as they find clues about his or her past.
Given that Gates to Infinity is not well received, Chunsoft basically decided to go back to the gameplay style of the first two games, minus IQ skills. Sadly, genders are completely omitted from the game along with the ability to nickname Pokémon (only the player, partner and any Pokémon received from a friend through Pelipper’s Island will have nicknames). The belly meter most notably returns, thus adding some difficulty along with the personality quiz, which is optional since you do not have to go with the Pokémon that was chosen for you. The same goes for the partner Pokémon.
On the other hand, Super Mystery Dungeon brings a lot of nice gameplay changes to the game. Now, it is possible to collect all 720 Pokémon, including all the legendries without having to defeat them while visiting all the continents based off the first three games. You can connect with other Pokémon by meeting them as they wonder in the dungeon, talk with them, rescue them, find their precious item, defeat a fugitive, unlock a door, etc. In some cases, they might introduce your team to other Pokémon, thus allowing you to connect with multiple Pokémon with the connection orb (つながりオーブ). Unlike the earlier games, you cannot have more than one of the same species, although you can obtain multiple forms.
With that, you can use the Pokémon that you connected with on your team. Unlike previous games, you are limited to only three Pokémon on a team excluding any guest members, which is a slight disappointment. In exchange, you can have multiple team sets, meaning that you don’t have to change members like in the previous games if you want to play with different Pokémon. This also means that you can also gain access to higher level Pokémon that you connected with. However, there might be a cool down period after you use them depending on your level of your player Pokémon.
Lastly, the other two main additions to the game are the Cooperation Ability (レンケイわざ) and the Ringlet. The Cooperation Ability is a new feature that allows your whole party to attack at the same time to deal more damage while disregarding type resistances as long they are nearby. In exchange, the belly meter will drain a bit. This gameplay mechanic can be useful in bringing down tough enemies, especially in boss battles.
Secondly, the Ringlet is a new item that replaces scarves, which gives special effects for the Pokémon that holds them while granting a number of empty slots to insert Lapis (ラピス) into them. Lapis are temporary gem-like items that you can find in dungeons that gives different effects when inserted into a Ringlet. However, you have to touch them in a certain period of time or they will shatter and leave behind dust. When you collect enough dust, you can rebuild a Lapis. Regardless, all the Lapis you insert in the Ringlet or inside your pack will disappear completely after your adventure ends. This means you have to pick them up again to regain their effects.
Aside from these two new additions, the usual additions from the sixth generation such as Mega Evolutions and the Fairy type are added as well. Not only that, it is now possible to rescue yourself by saving a QR code and scanning it with your camera when you at Pelipper’s Island. Lastly, wands are added, which are a mini version of orbs, but the effect only applies to one Pokémon.
As for the story and overall presentation, I have to admit that it was very good. Although I have never completed Gates to Infinity, the story of Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon feels almost like the Explorers of Time and Darkness since you are sent to the World of Nothingness and have to find a way back to the real world so that you can save the world. Not only that, there is a mole-like character with some subtle hints thrown in before the big reveal. While the final boss is not a legendary who is out to end the world or destroy it for their own benefit, the story pretty much maintains the dark feeling as the story progresses including the nightmare fuel associated with it. As always, the graphics and music does not disappoint either since they are fantastic.
Overall, does Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon lives up to its name? Even though there were a few changes that I did not like, I find this game a huge improvement over Gates to Infinity since it addressed most of the shortcomings of that game. Sure, you cannot nickname your Pokémon outside of the player and partner Pokémon along with the lack of genders, which probably does not matter since the dialog is gender neutral, I like some of the new gameplay mechanics in this game while not reducing the overall difficulty. Given the amount of end-game content and dungeons along with the ability to connect with all 720 Pokémon, I think most Pokémon fans who enjoy the series will like this game.
The localized release of this game comes out November 20th.
The Bottom Line
Strengths: Improved game mechanics, ability to connect with all 720 Pokémon, ability to explore all the dungeons from all continents, ability to save inside dungeons with an item without penalty, return of some missing features from the first two games, enjoyable story and great graphics and music.
Weaknesses: You cannot nickname your Pokémon besides the player or partner character, can only obtain one of each form of Pokémon, genders are omitted completely.
Recommended Japanese Level (Japanese version only): Intermediate – Beginner ¶