First things first: this is not a Pokemon game in dungeon-crawling format. It’s a dungeon crawler, or more specifically, Nethack, with Pokemon. There have been many disappointed reviewers and players who expected a typical Pokemon game and was disappointed at what Mystery Dungeon was. For those who come into the game without bias, a decent amount of enjoyment could be had.
The story begins with a series of questions to be answered by the player. Once the player answers these questions, a pokemon matching the answers of the questions is chosen to be the player character. Why the player wakes up as a pokemon is unknown in the beginning of the game. The rest of the story consists of the player forming a rescue group to help other pokemon with various tasks in the dungeons and saving the village from some mysterious doom.
Those familiar with rogue-like games such as Nethack will feel right at home about the dungeons. Each move counts as a turn, so exploring the dungeon and fighting are all turn based. Instead of being brought to a separate fighting screen, players fight enemies in the same top-down perspective used in exploring. In addition to a partner pokemon which the player can choose in the beginning, other pokemon can be recruited to fight in the party. Players can only control their own Pokemon and other pokemon in the team are controlled by given general orders such as “Stick by me” or “Attach enemies.” There is a learning curve to overcome for those who are expecting a regular turn based Pokemon battle.
The music and sound effects are forgettable, which could be good or bad. It’s possible to play the game with the volume turned off without missing much. But at the same time, the dungeon music could have been a little catchier.
The story might be a little cliched and basic, but that’s not the selling point of this game. The game actually starts after the main story is finished. That’s when the extra dungeons can be explored, including an “endless” dungeon like the one in Nethack. Pokemon Mystery Dungeon isn’t so much a story or character driven game, but a exploration game. Understandably, this game isn’t for everyone, but for anyone who wants a good portable rogue game, it’s the perfect match. Just don’t be one of those people who are scared away by the Pokemon label.