Monday, December 17, 2012

Pokemon Mystery Dungeon - Blue Rescue Team

Gotta be 'em all in this combination of Mysterious Dungeon and Pokemon.
Review By Jerrynsteph4eva

Back in 2006, the Nintendo DS was beginning to shine and was truly showing off its power and new features. Naturally, Pokemon fans yearned for a DS Pokemon title. With Diamond and Pearl still in development, Nintendo decided to make two spin offs to hold fans over: a brand new title that showcases the DS touch screen entitled Pokemon Ranger and a collaboration with Chunsoft to make a Pokemon version of their already established Mysterious Dungeon series: Pokemon Mystery Dungeon.

Pokemon Mystery Dungeon is a roguelike, which for those of you who don't know is a game that features randomly generated dungeons that are separated by floors. As you explore the map, more will be revealed as you attempt to search for items and the stairs to the next level. However, the game also emphasises Pokemon capturing and rescues, which will be explained later.

Like the main series, Pokemon Mystery Dungeon is separated into two different versions, each with their own version exclusive Pokemon (with a catch, more on that later), though surprisingly, they were released on separate consoles: Red for the GBA and Blue for the DS. Fortunately, there's not many differences between the two versions so it's more a matter of preference.

Unlike any other game so far, Pokemon Mystery Dungeon has you playing as a Pokemon who can talk to other Pokemon. This is an intriguing feature that allows you to finally see what's going on inside different Pokemon's minds and the responses are varied based on each Pokemon you encounter (Raichu will be boasting about its electrical power while Slakoth will be acting lazy and unaware). This also gives you additional drive to attempt to catch every Pokemon.

The Pokemon you start out as is determined not by choice but rather by the gender you specify and by a short quiz which attempts to determine your personality and give you the Pokemon that closely matches is. After the game gives you your starter, you're allowed to choose a partner from the remaining choices. While not every Pokemon is available as a starter, all the starting Pokemon from the first three generations are selectable as well as several others that can't be chosen as the partner (Meowth, Eevee, Pikachu, Psyduck, Machop, Skitty).

The storyline of the game is actually pretty good, though it can be pretty predictable and corny at times. The game starts with you waking up as a Pokemon with no recollection of anything else other than that you were previously human. Your partner will approach and point out your metamorphosis. However, a frantic Butterfree asks you to rescue their child, Caterpie. After going through the game's first dungeon, you and your partner agree to start a rescue team to help Pokemon in times of trouble. From there, the story develops here and there until midway through the storyline, where things heat up dramatically.

The gameplay is where the game truly shines and is more strategic than the other Pokemon games. There are two main phases in the game: Dungeon mode and Free mode. Free mode is when you're at your base and the town. From here, you can check the bulletin board for jobs (rescues), purchase items, store and withdraw things from storage/the bank and link moves (which allows you to string several moves together into one large move, which takes only one turn instead of two/three/four). From this mode, you can choose to enter your choice of dungeons and explore, each with it's own unique Pokemon, rules and number of floors.

In Dungeon mode, things start to get more complicated. As soon as you enter the dungeon, you'll notice not only the game showing you your current floor but that the dungeon is randomly generated and is only showing you the room you start in. In fact, you could clear the same dungeon fifty seven different times and each time would be different than the last. Your goal is to explore the dungeon, picking up items, defeating Pokemon and searching for the stairs to the next floor until you reach the end of the dungeon. Like the main games, each Pokemon you have has a level, a moveset (which more can be learned later and prior moves can be relearned at the link shop) and stats with a new one: IQ.

Since you're directly controlling your Pokemon, there is no battle phase and battles take place as you're exploring. Therefore, any Pokemon you bring with you (i.e. your partner) are controlled by the computer and can be told several different tactics (attack anything that moves, keep close to me, get away from me, stand guard here). However, as you build up their IQ (through items called “Gummi's”), they'll learn new abilities you can switch on and off (such as the avoiding traps, attacking type-disadvantaged foes first and even to walk through walls and water). You can even learn these for the Pokemon you control.

As you explore, you'll notice everything is done in turns. Each step you take costs one turn, as does each attack, each item use, etc. This means you have to think about each action before you do it, as doing something at the wrong time could mean a chance for your attackers to get a free attack in. Battling has changed since the main series too. While you can still use moves (each with their own PP just like the main series), you can also use a basic attack that hits everyone with no advantage/disadvantage and has no PP (though it's considerably weaker than moves).

This opens up a whole range of potential movesets as you can now make completely defensive moves (and even string them together! Imagine your foes frustration as you use Sand Attack and Double Team in the same turn). Which brings me to the next point: there are no such things as ineffective moves in this game. While Electrics will still want to be wary of Ground types, that Thunderbolt will actually hit it in this game (though at ¼ of the damage). This also applies to Splash, which serves no purpose in the main series but serves as a weak attack in this game (where it randomly flops onto a tile and whatever's there gets hit).

Some moves have also been altered to match the new gameplay. For example, Thunder still hits the square directly in front of you, however, Thunderbolt hits every Pokemon in every square immediately surrounding you. Moves like Heat Wave hit every Pokemon in the room you're currently in.

One thing you'll have to be wary of is your belly. Unlike other Pokemon games, as you explore and move, your belly drops. The lower it gets, the more hungry your Pokemon gets until it starts to lose HP with every step. It's simple to replenish (just eat an Apple or any food item) and can be expanded if you eat a food item when you're full. However, this also requires you to think a bit more before simply running around the dungeon.

As you explore dungeons, you're bound to find other Pokemon who will no doubt want to join you. Rather than capture them, you ‘befriend' them in this game. Each Pokemon has its own Friend Area that it needs before it can be ‘befriended'. After that, you're free to try and befriend it, which is just a fancy way of saying ‘beat it in battle and it may join you'. Most Pokemon can be recruited and the percentage of it joining you is different for each Pokemon (as well as the bonus percentages that add to it such as being a certain level or holding a friend bow). The game has enough space to hold one of every Pokemon in the game (each Unown letter counts as a unique Pokemon).

However, there is a catch. Your team can only hold up to four Pokemon and the total body size can't be over six stars (with most Pokemon being one or two stars). For example, you can catch a Goldeen (one star) with three one star members, but Onix will not join you until you clear out your party (as Onix is four stars). You can usually tell, as each large Pokemon is considerably bigger than the rest.

Most of the gameplay revolves around exploring dungeons, either for the exit (in which case you clear a dungeon) or for specific things that a job client wants you to find (such as a stray Pokemon needing help on a specific floor of a dungeon or a special item on a specific floor). Each job has a specific task, dungeon and floor they want you to go to and depending on the dungeon and floor will be rated between an E and * difficulty. As you complete the jobs, you'll be given rescue team rank points, which ups your rank each time you get a certain number of points (the more difficult the job, the higher the points) until you reach the ultimate rank.

One thing that makes this game so amazing is the fact that most of the game takes place after the main storyline is finished. Unlike most games which simply allow you to explore and complete sidequests after completing the game, this game has quite a bit of quests that are unlocked after beating the game and even more dungeons that open up after the game is finished. Just to put things into perspective, I've put over 70 hours into the game since completing it and I'm not even finished! Truly this is one game that you'll be playing long after the main story.

For you collectors out there, Nintendo finally woke up and allowed us to catch all 386 Pokemon without the need to trade or go to events. This is colossal and, while time consuming, is a feature that's great. While there are two different versions with version exclusive Pokemon (Magikarp, Lapras, Aipom, Porygon2 and Minun for Blue. Feebas, Mantine, Roselia, Porygon and Plusle for Red), they can be unlocked using specific Wonder Mail.

Which brings me to my next coolest feature: Wonder Mail. Most missions contain a Wonder Mail password, which you can write down and use to give your friends or replay the mission on a different file. Your friend need help finding a specific item? Send him the Wonder Mail password for the mission and he can complete the mission for it. Need a specific friend area? Go online and grab the password. The possibilities are endless!

Of course, sooner or later you're going to die, which has a much harsher penalty in this game. Instead of waking up at a Pokecenter, you lose all of your money and some of your items. However, there is hope: you can call out to friends to rescue you using the above Wonder Mail! Of course, you can also use wireless/link cable if your friends are close by and using the same version as you. However, if they manage to rescue you, you'll reawaken in the same spot you died in good as new and the rescuer will obtain rescue team points as if it were a job they were doing. You can also send them a thank you note, which gives them even more rescue team points. In fact, if you're so inclined, you can take your rescue team to the internet and perform rescues for the entire world if you wanted!

Like I mentioned earlier, there are two versions of the game with their own exclusive Pokemon (which I mentioned you could get with Wonder Mail) and there's really no difference between them aside from a few points. First, the DS allows you to use the GBA controls/map view or you could use the additional buttons to help you move as well as placing the map on the top screen. The DS also uses wireless communication rather than a link cable (though no Wi-fi unfortunately).

However, if you own both versions, you can unlock two cool features. First is the ability to rescue yourself. If you happen to die, you can fire up Blue (with Red in the GBA slot) and use the Dual Slot function to grab the SOS code from either version and rescue the other. You can then grab the thank you note yourself. The other is the ability to upload your team from Red to unlock a new training dungeon with your Red team as the boss. While they're not worth buying both versions over, it's a cool addition if you happen to own them.

The game also features cameos from future Pokemon and five different fourth generation Pokemon are available to see: Mime Jr, Weavell, Munchlax, Lucario and Bonsly. While it's not worth purchasing the game over (they've been old news for a while), it was cool of the developers to offer a sneak peek at the upcoming generation.

Not everything is perfect about these games though. While they are amazing and fun, they're also quite difficult. There are several dungeons that have 99 floors to explore (some with several bosses along the way) and there are even some that reduce your level down to 1 temporarily and give you a moveset you're stuck with. Some will even take your items and money away and will act as if you're starting over. Later dungeons will have you screaming as well due to the inclusions of invisible traps which range from the harmless (stat reducers, confusion squares) to the extreme (explosions that do 80+ damage, warp tiles that throw you across the dungeon, pitfall traps that kill your partners, sleep traps that put you to sleep). Normally this would be aggravating enough but most rooms in the late dungeons have anywhere from 2 to 5 traps (some right next to each other) causing you to scream until you learn the anti-trap IQ skill.

Pokemon intelligence is also not very high in this game unless you spend lots of time building up IQ and specifying tactics. Your teammates will often walk right into a trap that you just revealed, each in a row until you get far away from it and they will attack sleeping Pokemon, regardless of your/their health. It also doesn't help that any Pokemon that hasn't permanently joined the team (after you clear or exit a dungeon) will be forever lost if defeated before clearing the dungeon (which gets really old when going for rarer Pokemon such as Chansey or Kecleon).

Pokemon also seem way harder to recruit than normal. It seems like common Pokemon will join you every time you defeat them, but start looking for specific Pokemon and it may take six or seven times before it finally caves in and joins you. It also seems as if the game knows you're looking for specific Pokemon and does not spawn them, even if they're supposedly common. Take Magikarp, one of the most common Pokemon in the main games. Try looking for it in Waterfall Pond (the only place it appears) and you'll find that it's nowhere to be found unless you wait half an hour. The worst example of this is Kecleon, which has a 1/1000 chance of recruitment with max level and a friend bow. After killing Kecleon for three combined hours and no join, I gave up on getting one. However, there is an out: if you can clear the 99 floor Wish Cave and have the max rank, you can wish for any Pokemon you have yet to join you, which in many cases is harder than going for the Pokemon itself.

The game also does not let you evolve until postgame, a feature that makes sense story wise, but sucks as you'll likely have lost out on many stats due to all the leveling you have to do to beat the game. While it's not a major complaint, it kind of sucks having to wait to evolve your starters.

All in all, this game is an amazing side game that's just as addicting as the main games (maybe even more so) and is a unique twist on the series. Though it may have a few problems that bring down the overall experience, the game is worth every penny you might find it for (though the sequels are even more fun). If you can find either version for a good price, snatch it up and you'll find a new wave of Pokemania in this game.

NAME: POKEMON MYSTERY DUNGEON - BLUE RESCUE TEAM
SYSTEM: Nintendo DS

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1 comment:

  1. I feel like a kid again! THAT can talk to Pokemon! :D !!!!

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