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Jun 13, 2008

Review: Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Darkness/Time

Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Darkness/Time
Nintendo, Chunsoft
Both available on Nintendo DS

Mash ups are great when they bring two wonderful items together to make something even more magical, but Chunsoft’s idea of combining Pokemon and Mystery Dungeon games, two wonderful games on their own, didn’t quite work out to better creation together. While they’ve done this before with these two franchises, I doubt they were any better than the two Pokemon Mystery Dungeon titles, I’m about to review.

Players, in either version of PMD, are treated to playing as Pokemon, instead of a trainer, which the type is determined by the game through a neat personality quiz. You then get to pick your dungeon crawling Poke-partner from a small selection of different Pokemon, but choose carefully, because your partner with be with you throughout the whole game.

The plots for both games start off the same; your character awakes on a beach and finds a Pokemon trying to wake you up. While you appreciate their help, but you can’t figure out how you understand him, because Pokemons can’t talk to humans, but then you suddenly realize that you’re no longer a human, but a Pokemon too! From there the plot takes you and your new friend eventually to a guild where you sign up to perform tasks to earn money, items and level up your skills, all the while trying to discover the original of your transformation and the mystery behind the time gears.

With two versions of the PMD games, players who choose to play both versions will be rewarded with different types of Pokemon in each game, different layouts for the dungeons (which change every time you enter them anyway) and different opening scenes. Well worth it, if you’re a massive Poke-fan.

While most Pokemon games are well developed games, the mystery dungeon format is too intense for a Nintendo DS game and too hard for a kid’s game, which removes these games from two key markets that most Pokemon games tend to target. I play a lot of my DS games at work and you couldn’t save your game casually, so I found myself having to use the battery save feature on my Nintendo DS and hoping that nothing happened to turn the game off or pop the game card until I could find time to save it properly. Portable games need a good casual save feature or they won’t go over well, especially with busy adult players.

The difficulty of the games were so frustrating and unforgiving, I probably would have tossed the game card against the wall, if I hadn’t been borrowing it from a friend. If you or your partner dies, you both go back to the guild to start a new day over, plus you lose your money and some of your items. You can save your money and items at little banks, but you need all the items possible in the dungeons just to survive, so you just end up losing those items in no time.

The battle system allows you one basic attack and one special attack at a time, and with such limited attack choices during battle, death comes quickly and often. Special enemy attacks like bind or poison really took my characters down quickly and I couldn’t even buy healing items to remove those effects. Basically the system isn’t simple to master and if I’m having trouble as a skilled adult gamer, imagine how a 9-year-old is going to fair.

The graphics in the Pokemon franchise have definitely come a long way since I played them on my Gameboy Colour and I was really happy to see such colourful and detailed cartoon characters now. The sounds have been updated too, with the critters making cute, little poke-noises, instead of those horrible, screeching sounds they had on the old Gameboy versions.

Being that is the first Pokemon game I’ve had the chance to play since the days of the Red, Blue and Yellow versions, I was really looking forward to getting back into the franchise, but I think I jumped back in with the wrong series. I just found these games to be too hard and not very rewarding with the constant dying and restarting.

We, Pokemon purists, should probably stick with the latest Diamond & Pearl versions, while Mystery Dungeon/Pokemon fans can keep their weird hybrid games, because they don’t seem to play very well together as a team.

Rating: 4 out of 10
Forget it!

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