The crossover is undoubtedly a potent product. Amalgamating two potential audiences, the trick is to do so without alienating either of them, while drawing the best aspects of both together. Though the colourful cast of the Pokémon roster stand amongst the most iconic videogame creations of all time, and the Mystery Dungeon series’ looting and exploring is a bonified classic, in this case the finished article is distinctly less than the sum of its parts.
You’re cast as the newest resident of Serene Village, due, as in previous entries, to having been transmogrified into a Pokémon of your own design – well at least as far as answering a number of arbitrary questions is designing. It’s an unusual approach to character creation, and the bizarre psychology 101 questions – would you go back home for a forgotten piece of homework? – seem to have little true bearing on your chosen character and your companion. You can however override it, and there’s been a welcome increase to the roster with twenty critters to choose from.
At least it looks the part, with all of the Pokémon brought to life in 3D, and the central hub area of Serene Village looks bright and cheerful in action and in cutscenes. Those randomly generated Mystery Dungeons meanwhile have a touch more visual variety than in the previous games, but as a package it’s hard not to feel that this is a huge step down from the far more technically successful Etrian Mystery Dungeon, which brought a wealth of customisation and depth to the franchise.
The music doesn’t really help proceedings from feeling like anything else other than a silly little adventure, and the repetitive chirpy refrains will wear thin within a few hours. I’m still waiting for a fully-voiced Pokémon game, instead of the constant digital burble as reams of excruciating text roll by, but perhaps it’s simply beyond the 3DS to provide that for all 720 of the game’s potential participants.
Sadly there are some age-old annoyances to be found within the game, including unskippable cut-scenes. You can at least hold down the B button to shoot through them relatively snappily but there were times where I simply couldn’t cope with the twee drivel that was emanating from my 3DS. Of course, younger gamers may find it less abhorrent to their sensibilities, and things do mildly improve over the course of the game, but I spent the whole time just wishing it was done.
Even they may not get much out of the combat though, as you hold down the L button to select your Pokémon’s moves while your Pokémon and their companion bashes away at their enemy. There’s not much in the way of move animation, and so it all feels the same, simply bashing away with the same moves until you run out of PP.
One of the facets that they have clearly worked on though is the difficulty level, and there is actually some form of challenge to be had now, as you rely on healing items to keep you in a number of the encounters, particularly if you’re facing more than one foe. This does in fact add some much needed tension, even if the mechanics themselves still remain relatively dull. The problem there is that I can’t imagine anyone but the youngest of players being involved in the narrative, but that new-found difficulty is likely to cause them serious frustration.
There have been some further improvements made over the previous 3DS entry, Gates To Infinity, as well, including a better viewpoint that lets you see more of your surroundings, which does make exploration slightly less of a chore than its predecessor.
Equally, you have an extra level of customisation while exploring via Looplets, which are bracelets that you can set a number of passive skills to by collecting Emeras, with a range of benefits from increased damage to a higher chance of a critical hit. It gives you something else to busy yourself with while exploring, which certainly helps to enliven things after another bout of vapid conversation.
Despite some mild improvements over the last entry in the series, Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon is a bland and uninspiring slog that is unlikely to please anyone but the most ardent of fans. 3DS owners would be far better served waiting for the remastered versions of Pokemon Red and Blue than touching this with anything but the longest of barge poles.