Review: Pokemon Mystery Dungeon – Explorers of Sky (DS)
Another Pokemon game but according to the back cover this is a little different. “Now you can go beyond darkness…Outside the limits of time…And into the skies!” Hold on. Let’s rewind a little. Outside the limits of time. Whoever wrote this text believes that the sky exists outside the boundaries of time. This does not bode well. In and of itself a tiny piece of text on the back cover shouldn’t indicate how good a game will be but this is Pokemon. Watered down sequels is what Pokemon does best and I desperately wanted to grab onto something, anything at all, which would suggest this is more than another run-of-the-mill title in the long running series. Oh, this is a dungeon crawler, well now, that changes everything.
I often feel that my unhealthy level of sarcasm should come with its own side-notes just to indicate when it’s over. I am serious about things looking up when I noticed this was a dungeon crawler. I haven’t played the previous Mystery Dungeon games so I can’t offer any comparisons but it does mean I bring a fresh approach to the table. This is more like Zelda than the original Pokemon titles. No longer must you run around with balls in hand. Waiting for a cute Pokemon to wander along. Forcing your Pokemon slaves to beat up this new one which caught your eye. When the moment is right, as they are weak and helpless, you smack them in the face with your balls. If this ritual goes well you may have yourself another slave to play with. Good times. Mystery Dungeon cuts out the middle men, in other words the humans, and provides some straight up Pokemon on Pokemon action.
At the beginning of the game you’re asked a series of questions to determine what type of person you are and, because of this, what character you will play as. I was told that I am brave and that Pikachu would be my main character. When asked to choose a second character I went for Charmander because he is…hot. A couple of chavs attacked and mugged my fiery friend and something had to be done. After slapping them both around the Charmander, named Flame as I was feeling particularly creative, showed me the item he got back from the nasty chavs. The rock was covered in mysterious markings and this gave Flame a desire to be the world’s greatest explorer. My Pikachu character named Tiger, another example of impressive creativity, had lost his memory but believed himself to be a human who was somehow transformed into a Pokemon. It was all a mystery but since no evidence could be found and waiting around seemed like a waste of time the pair went off in search of glory and some answers.
The Dungeon crawling itself is real-time. You wander around freely until you come across an enemy. At this point things switch to turn-based and you are restricted to moving one space at a time. One problem with the combat is that the second character follows directly behind you. In most cases the characters can only attack when they are one space from an enemy. This forces you to sort of zig-zag into position rather than do the natural thing and turn to face the enemy head on. This becomes even more of a problem when more characters are added to your team and they act in exactly the same way. There is an option to change the tactics of your team-mates which allows you to give them free-will when attacking enemies. This partly solves the issue in that they’ll move independently of you but does occasionally result in your team-mates wandering off to another part of the map without you.
The mystery dungeons are randomly generated which keeps the game feeling fresh despite having to return to each area countless times. As you’d imagine in a title aimed at children the story and dialogue have been watered down but it does its job and is sure to please many youngsters. I have a problem with repetition, though not in the dungeon crawling itself as that’s part of the genre, and I was annoyed at each day starting in the same way. You’ll be woken by the screams of a Pokemon with a giant mouth. I know it’s just a Pokemon but an idiot is an idiot and I don’t like him.
Some of the dungeons can be pretty tough. There are two job boards, regular and outlaw, and these are where you’ll find your missions. The jobs on the regular board ask you to search a dungeon and bring back a specific Pokemon or item while the outlaw board is full of, as you may have guessed, outlaws. The outlaw jobs tend to be more problematic than the regular ones but each task has a handy lettered rating which indicates the difficulty.
This is a much better game than I expected and at times I found it hard to put down. I imagine that only one of these Mystery Dungeon titles are needed as the others will no doubt be very similar. Without having played the others it’s impossible to compare but what I can say is that if you like Pokemon and dungeon crawlers you can’t go wrong with Explorers of Sky.