I play a little of everything, I’ll admit, and I enjoy act of gaming enough to ensure I’ll like most of what I play. There are a couple of franchises that stay close to my heart, though. We all know about my addiction to Hyperdimension Neptunia, for instance, and I’ve been a fan of Pokémon since I was a kid. So when Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon came up on the radar, well, I had to pick it up.
Roguelikes AND Pokémon? It’s like peanut butter and jelly! Ketchup and mustard! Two great tastes that taste great together.
This one plays a lot like previous Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games. As always, you play as a human transported into the world of Pokémon. You’ll be assigned a starter Pokémon to serve as your main character through a personality quiz at the beginning of the game, though in this case you’re able to override the quiz and just pick something if you’d prefer. You’ll then explore dungeons according to the whims of the plot, which is fairly standard but well-written enough to keep you entertained. Eventually you’ll finish the plot and earn the right to lock yourself away for days playing the enormous amount of postgame content.
Dungeon exploration works much like the previous games, though there are a couple twists here and there. You’ll still delve in the usual turn-based style a la the average roguelike. You’ll fight foes using various Pokémon moves, though you also have a low-damage normal attack to use as a last resort. Careful rationing of your moves is important, as they each have a PP value that limits their use and can only be restored through items and rest stops in dungeons. You also need to manage hunger, as overzealous exploration can result in your Pokémon starving into unconsciousness. Running out of HP results in your being kicked out of the dungeon sans items, though you can recruit other players to mount a rescue mission so you can continue where you left off.
The twists I mentioned help add a little more to the game than just finding the most super-effective moves and enough items to keep using them repeatedly. Hunger plays a second role now, as there are new combo attacks that involve multiple party members; everyone attacks simultaneously which does a ton of damage, but using this saps your hunger meter rapidly. You can also find a new type of Pokémon equipment called a Looplet, which is basically a slotted bracelet. The slots can be filled with Emeras, delicate magic gems that provide hefty bonuses but must be grabbed quickly before they shatter. Emeras also vanish outside of a dungeon, so you’ll need to reslot your Looplets each time you go on an adventure.
Another change that makes Super Mystery Dungeon stand out: instead of relying on random chance to generate recruits, Super Mystery Dungeon makes use of a new system called the Connection Orb. Your team’s tasks are generated by Pokémon in need and tracked by the Orb; when you complete a request, chances are that the Pokémon who assigned it to you will join up and might even bring friends along. You can also come across Pokémon in dungeons at random who need help and will join if you offer it. Finally, Pokémon in town can join your rescue team by simply talking to them.
This is a love-it-or-hate-it system; while it does take a lot of the frustration out of adding members to your rescue team, it does take some of the “catch ’em all” out of this Pokémon game as well. It can also result in some bizarre situations regarding difficulty. One early request I did involved taking down a level 50 Salamence with my level 14 starters. By abusing items I was able to just barely scrape out a victory and was then astounded to find that the Salamence joined my rescue team. Pokémon fans know what a beast Salamence is, and this one was still at level 50 and ready to use whenever I liked. It was cool to have this extra power boost, but it certainly ate into the game’s challenge for a while.
Super Mystery Dungeon goes with the 3D model style we’ve seen since Pokémon X and Y, and just like in those games it looks fantastic. As mentioned, the writing is pretty good for a game about talking Pokémon going to school and embarking on dungeon adventures. It’s a very playable game as well, particularly since there’s now an item that lets you save in the middle of a dungeon run so you can progress even when you don’t have a lot of time to play.
The Pokémon roguelikes have always been well-made, enjoyable games…well, let’s not talk about Gates to Infinity, but the rest have all been pretty good! Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon continues that trend. It’s a well-made game worthy of carrying the torch of one of Nintendo’s star franchises. Go check it out.