When playing any Pokémon title have you ever thought, “I wonder what the life of a wild Pokémon is like”? Or perhaps you’ve mused “Forget keeping them in balls, I want to be one of them!” If you have, then for one thing you’re probably a touch too ‘involved’ with your hobby, but you’re equally the key demographic for Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon, where you can see a snapshot of Pokémon life, alongside dialogue that’s somewhat more involved than simply saying their name over and over again.
As with the previous Pokémon Mystery Dungeon titles your first steps into this world begins with your metamorphosis into a Pokémon, with the game asking you a number of leading questions in order to classify you. Quite how a question on whether you’d return home for a piece of forgotten schoolwork dictates whether you’re a Squirtle or a Mudkip is beyond me, but clearly the intensive algorithms do their work and make a decision, picking from a group of twenty candidates made up of all of the mainline game’s starter Pokémon.
I turned out to be a Lucario, perhaps due to my diligent work ethic, and then found my ‘cute’ companion was deemed to be a Pikachu, which is obviously what everybody wants right?
The game’s opening see’s you meet Nuzleaf, who takes you in, and decides quite swiftly to enrol you in the village school. You then meet your future best pal Pikachu who lives in the village with his pops – perhaps not his natural pops being a Carracosta – before the whole village come after him and chase him away, leaving you to your own devices. Right here is where you’ll embark on a short quest into your first mystery dungeon, and for the unprepared it could be excessively punishing.
Failing in your adventures at any stage means you not only lose all of your items, but your hard-won cash as well, and Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon doesn’t ease you in gently. Attacks from enemy Pokémon do worthy amounts of damage, and at this early stage you can find yourself in trouble within moments. Thankfully you’re prepared with a few healing items on hand, and can set to making your way through the unfamiliar environments.
As with other titles in the Mystery Dungeon family, all of the dungeon locations are randomly generated whenever you enter, meaning no two are alike, and every player’s experience of them will be different. They’re slightly more detailed than those found in the previous 3DS game which certainly helps to keep things visually interesting, which is probably going to prove a boon as they’re where you’ll spend the majority of your time as you progress.
While there’s plenty of Mystery Dungeon dynamics at work here, they’ve continued to bring key elements of the Pokémon series into play as well to ensure that fans of both franchises are well served. Levelling up sees your various stats increase, but just as in the mainline entries you also learn new moves which require you to forget one of your current ones. As there, this often causes much soul-searching, though it’s perhaps actually a little clearer here for comparing the pros and cons.
So far there’s a great solidity to the graphics, and Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon sits amongst a limited number of 3DS games where the 3D effect is both visually appealing and actually preferable to turning it off. Fans of the series will get a kick out of seeing Farfetch’d chatting to a Simipour, or a Pancham playing with Pikachu.
Amusingly your companion Pikachu is cast as a wild troublemaker, though he’s clearly misunderstood. Whether it’ll sit well with you when the pocket creatures have a full-blown chat rather than simply repeating their own name over and over is likely to be personal preference, but thus far there’s a neat little story to draw you in.
During these early sections it’s clear that Spike Chunsoft have aimed to build on the hugely successful Mystery Dungeon template by refining rather than revolutionising, but then when you have a property as strong as Pokémon, there’s probably little need to rock the boat.
Fans of both franchises, and previous entries in this series, will do well to keep an eye on Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon when it arrives on the 19th of February, with its light roguelike gameplay and beloved characters having the potential to keep you glued to your 3DS for many hours.