Adventure and secrecy await players in Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon as you pit yourself against tough foes within the rogue-like dungeon crawler. But with a weak storyline, odd pacing and character development that feels all too hollow, the game just fails to dazzle.
As the tenth release in the Pokémon spin-off series and developed by Spike Chunsoft, Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon is distinctly average rather than super; as its title suggests. By choosing one of 20 starter Pokemon, including those from all six generations, players will be able to pick one which suits them best or one that is established by answering a set of pre-determined questions. Keeping in the spirit of its predecessors, you’ll be sent down into the world of Pokemon and suffer from a severe case of amnesia – yes, that old chestnut. Upon waking up, you’ll be cornered by three Beheeyem until your fellow guardian Nuzleaf chases them away.
Comprising of 22 in-game chapters, Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon sets the scene in Serene Village – a quaint, humble town with nothing more than a school and a few houses. While its opening sequence and the meeting of your partner provide some highlights here, the lengthy and mundane tutorial session dilutes the experience entirely. From the daily school sessions to the monotonous field trips, it’s a three-hour lesson in drab and dreary land. Fortunately, Super Mystery Dungeon brightens up after the game’s basic chapters as you enlist within the Expedition Society. Working side by side with your partner and by encountering a number of legendaries that have mysteriously turned to stone, you’ll have to defeat the dark matter that’s threatening to usurp the Pokémon world.
With five continents to explore of grass, mist, air, water and sand, Super Mystery Dungeon isn’t short on gameplay. Each area will require you to pick up a pass from the Kecleon Shop before you are able to take on quests via the Connection Orb – given to you when joining the Expedition Society – and hunt down foes in the various dungeons. And while the dungeons deliver enough variation from their randomly generated layouts, the quests all bear the same resemblance as they did in the previous games in the franchise. From the simple treasure fetch quests to the save a companion and fight an enemy quests, there’s just not enough spice to warrant playing past the main storyline.
Though, with that said, the title does present a wonderfully robust selection of characters to team up with on your adventures. While not every Pokémon in the world is playable, you can at least speak to or see all 720 characters to date in the franchise; an impressive feat for the game. Of course, Super Mystery Dungeon also showcases a number of new elements to get to grips with. Players can use alliances to deal great damage in succession against one enemy, while there are also new items such as Looplets and Emeras.
Attaching a looplet to a party Pokémon will allow the wearer to receive certain stat buffs, while nullifying various status ailments. However, these depend entirely on which emeras you attach to the looplet; you can boost attack, defence or remove confusion for example. And though you can only attach one looplet to each party Pokémon, you can use up to eight emeras on one looplet at a time, depending on how many slots they have. Both alliances and looplets are a superb addition to the overall strategy of the game and remove the usual mundane, sluggish feeling from level grinding.
Food and hunger has always been considered to be a necessary part of the dungeon-crawler. In Super Mystery Dungeon, players have the ability to pick up and eat apples once their belly starts to deplete. Apples are the game’s go-to for filling up a belly and, although these can be found scattered across the dungeons in abundance, they are also quite an annoyance – particularly when trying to explore a dungeon in full. Since most of your pack will be filled with these luscious treats, looplets, and healing items, there isn’t much space for those more intriguing and rarer orbs. Though players have the ability to expand their pack’s hold limit throughout the storyline, being able to stack apples in sets of five would be more adequate and less of a niggling frustration. But then, I’ve never been any good at packing the necessities for long-haul adventures.
Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon’s gameplay, then, certainly makes up for the title’s less than appealing storyline. Taking anywhere between 25 and 30 plus hours to complete the main tale, most of which can be attributed to a heavy grievance with lengthy and unskippable cutscenes, it’s actually Spike Chunsoft’s unfortunate script work that causes many a pained expression. Most of the character dialogue on offer feels like it was written by children and for children. And while this isn’t a problem for youngsters, older fans that have grown up with the franchise may be wearing a permanent grimace. It’s cheesy rather than endearing and painful instead of entertaining. Couple that with characters that echo the world is doomed but run themselves ragged chasing after an Ampharos that can’t walk straight, it’s a typical hollow and empty affair.
Visually, Super Myster Dungeon is really quite lovely to view and play within. Carrying the same visuals as Gates to Infinity, many of the dungeons have their own quirks, with some even depleting your HP as you progress through. It also helps that each area comes with its own distinct music, keeping the battles quite fresh with a good beat in the background. Unfortunately, it doesn’t help matters when the game’s pacing is slightly askew. While you’ll have ample opportunities to explore the same area in the beginning, your freedom to take out quests towards the end of the storyline is practically obliterated as your party is locked into back-to-back dungeons. It’s this pacing that can severely knock players into game over territory if they are not careful, culminating in a fruitless search for your team in Super Mystery Dungeon’s separate world located on the home menu.
Though there are moments when Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon shines during its gameplay with the neat addition of alliances and looplets, the title’s storyline just isn’t up to scratch. Perhaps newcomers should throw caution to the wind here, while die-hard fans are welcome to bite. But for now, it’s best to dig our way out of this mystery dungeon.
*Based on the PAL Version