This year marks the 20th anniversary of Pokémon, a series beloved by adults and children alike. To celebrate, fans are getting a treasure trove of Pokémon memorabilia. Special edition New Nintendo 3DS bundles will be released in February with remasters of the original Pokémon “Red” and “Blue” games pre-loaded and matching faceplates, limited edition plush versions of Pikachu and various legendary Pokémon will be released throughout the year, along with digital versions for the most recent games, and shirts and accessories with the special 20th Anniversary logo will be sold on the Pokémon Center website.
With all the hype for the 20th anniversary, spin-off Pokémon series can be easily forgotten. However, the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series countered that by releasing its latest entry, Pokémon “Super Mystery Dungeon”, in Sept. of 2015, just in time for the holiday season. “Super Mystery Dungeon” is the first game released in the series since 2013’s “Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity.” I played “Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time,” which was released in 2008, while in middle school, and I have many fond memories of the game. After trying a demo of “Super Mystery Dungeon”, I decided to buy the game.
For those who have not played any of the “Mystery Dungeon” games, they are turn-based RPGs, where the player, after taking a short personality test, is assigned a Pokémon, usually either a generation starter or Pikachu, and plays as that Pokémon for the duration of the game. The player Pokémon is aware that it was once a human, but nothing else, which ties in the idea of what could happen if the player was actually turned into a Pokémon. A partner Pokémon is also assigned, and the player must balance each Pokémon’s strengths, weaknesses, and health while in battle. Both Pokémon work to help the other Pokémon of the world by answering requests, and exploring different dungeons.
The first thing I noticed in “Super Mystery Dungeon” was that the introduction was handled slightly differently from past games in the series. Instead of going straight to completing requests and exploring, the player Pokémon is enrolled in a small school, where requests are traded for assignments for a short amount of time. These assignments act as tutorials for how to fight and use items in dungeons, and work well. New techniques and items are introduced little by little, so the player feels fully prepared to complete requests when the time comes. Alliance attacks, which allow the party to all attack the opponent at once, and Looplets, held items that work in tandem with Emera crystals to give the Pokémon stat boosts and other improvements, are both new introductions to the series. Both are clearly explained within this tutorial, and the player gets the chance to test each out soon after the explanation.
As for the game itself, the updated art style looks adorable, and works well with the 3D capabilities of the 3DS and New 3DS. The controls are clean and precise, although the circle pad can occasionally get a little confused when used for movement in dungeons, as the dungeon floors operate on a grid system while the overworld does not. The storyline itself is engaging, and the postgame content is relaxed, allowing the player to move at their own pace between requests and story missions.
Unfortunately, that relaxed pace is hard to find in the main storyline. Once the tutorial is completed, the player is shot through the rest of the story fairly quickly. It is impossible to complete all requests before the end of the storyline, and the player can’t put off preset story expeditions, which was usually possible in previous “Mystery Dungeon” titles. Another big change from past games is that the player can’t recruit Pokémon in dungeons. Instead, the player must wait until a connection is formed with the Pokémon, by fulfilling a request from the sought Pokémon, or by being introduced by a different Pokémon whose request was fulfilled. It can become frustrating, as the player must wait much longer for these connections than they would for recruitment in past games, and therefore have to wait longer for stronger allies. While these shortcomings are apparent, it is important to remember that “Super Mystery Dungeon” is rated E by the ESRB, and is intended for a much younger audience. The problems I mentioned are fairly minor when looked at within the context of the game. After spending about a month and a half playing it, I can say with certainty that Pokémon “Super Mystery Dungeon” is a solid entry in the franchise, and plays with new ideas that come across and work well. Whether you are a veteran “Mystery Dungeon” player, or checking out the series for the first time, you’re sure to enjoy your time spent exploring the world of Pokémon.
Megan Sabers is a fourth-year student majoring in business marketing. She can be reached at MS789222@wcupa.edu.