A dungeon-crawling series that took a spin on the Pokemon formula.
“Pokemon Mystery Dungeon? What’s that?”
Pokemon Mystery Dungeon is a spin-off series that was developed by the company Spike Chunsoft (Who you may remember more for the Danganronpa series), that decided to dip their toes into the Pokemon franchise that involved adventuring through dungeons. The first games in the series, Blue Rescue Team and Red Rescue Team, were successful enough to make more games. This resulted in two DS titles titled Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time and Explorers of Darkness. Due to the games being successful as well, they decided to make a “definitive” version of the DS titles entitled Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Sky. People considered this to be the most fondly remembered out of all the Mystery Dungeon games. And lets find out what made it so special.
Rather than beginning as a 10-year old kid collecting Gym Badges and becoming the Pokemon League Champion, the game starts with a personality quiz. Depending on the answers you give will determine what kind of Pokemon you will become. After which, you can choose which Pokemon will be your partner. Afterwards, the story begins with your character passed out on a beach after a nasty storm, to which it then follows the partner Pokemon, who’s trying to join a guild, resulting in failure due to their cowardly nature. They head towards the beach as the sun sets, leading to a shot of Krabby blowing bubbles, making the scenery more memorable. Your partner then discovers you passed out, to which you wake up shortly afterwards. You have amnesia, with the only things you remember are your name and the fact that you’re a human. A short conversation later, a Koffing and a Zubat purposely run into your partner and steal a precious treasure of theirs, which they call a Relic Fragment, as they escape into a cave. The two of you then decide to work together to get it back, and this would kickstart your journey as an Exploration Team…
The game combines RPGs and Roguelike into the franchise; you move around randomly generated dungeons and search for the stairs that lead to the next floor, all the while finding money (called Poke), items that will help you on your journey (Such as Berries, Seeds, etc.), as well as encountering enemy Pokemon. The enemy will only move when you make a move, whether it’s taking a step in the dungeon or using an attack like Tackle or Growl. The games, being a Pokemon spin-off, also have things such as type advantages and disadvantages. So stuff like using a Grass-type attack on a Water-type Pokemon will do more damage, to name an example.
The Pokemon that can be encountered in the second-generation of Mystery Dungeon games (Time, Darkness, and Sky) are from Generations 1 – 4, so you’ll be seeing Pokemon from Bulbasaur to Skourpi during your adventure. For the Poke, you use it to buy items at the Kecleon Shop, which will contain items such as Apples, which will restore your Belly so that you don’t starve, or Orbs so that you can gain an advantage like making enemies in the room you’re in petrified. If you feel like you might faint in a dungeon, you can store your money at Duskull’s Bank and/or store your items in Kangaskhan’s Storage so that you won’t have the fear of losing items you consider too valuable to bring with you. Later on you will have access to other facilities, such as Xatu’s Appraisal, who will open up Boxes to reveal its contents for a small fee, and Marowak’s Dojo, which you can use to help train you up and gain more money and items that you can keep during the training sessions.
One of the strongest points for this game to me was its characters. It’s shining examples would be the cast of Wigglytuff’s Guild, consisting of various apprentices that want to become fully fledged exploration teams, ranging from Bidoof, who was the latest rookie before you and your partner arrived, Diglett, who works on sentry duty to see if the Pokemon are trustworthy to enter the guild, and Chatot, the Guildmaster’s advisor. My favorite character in the guild is without a doubt Guildmaster Wigglytuff. A jolly and childlike Pokemon who loves to eat Perfect Apples. Though despite his cheerful demeanor, he’s the Guildmaster for a reason, and won’t hesitate to show his power when in combat. The other characters that appear are likable as well, such as the siblings Azurill and Maril, two Pokemon who want to make their mother feel better from a sickness. As well as other minor characters like other rescue teams such as Team Razor Wind and Team AWD.
Being a definitive version of the second generation of Mystery Dungeon titles, they added in some new features. One of which is Spinda’s Cafe, a cafe for explorers that lets you do things such as gather new quests from passerbys, have some drinks from the food in your bag as ingredients, and the Recycling Shop, where you can recycle items in your Treasure Bag and Kangaskhan’s Storage to get new items such as Reviver Seeds and Prize Tickets, to which you can earn some nice items if you’re lucky. This can lead to potential new party members, new dungeons to explore, and other events that may happen while in the cafe.
Another new feature they’ve added were the Special Episodes. These episodes are unlocked throughout the story, and can be played at any point in the main menu. The Special Episodes have a total of five stories, each one starring a different character, ranging from Bidoof’s origins to one of Sunflora’s adventures while your team is out exploring a dungeon. The Special Episodes are some of my favorite parts of the game, since it gives characters we’re already familiar with more personality.
In the end, Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Sky proved to be enough of a success to wanting another game in series, which we wouldn’t get until the 3DS was out for some time. The game brought players an interesting cast of characters, a fun combat system, a mixture of comedy and tense moments, as well as shedding light on familiar characters. Even if you haven’t played a single Mystery Dungeon game but want to get a start, I highly recommend starting with this game.