One of my favorite games was Chocobo’s Dungeon 2, which was an adventure game (with a nice plot line) coupled with a dungeon crawler. The main characters crawled through randomly generated dungeons in search of loot and bad guys. Very Rogue-like. (And if you didn’t know, Rogue is one of my favorites as well.)
When the Pokemon franchise first entered the dungeon crawler game with Pokemon Mystery Dungeon, it was like Christmas for me! I played the hell out of that DS game. It was the perfect mix of a Pokemon game and dungeon crawler.
So when I saw a new one in the series for the 3DS, only a few minutes passed between my discovering the game and my owning the game. Unfortunately, my enjoyment was fairly short-lived with this problematic successor.
Game Play & Plot: The game play is probably the biggest obstacle in this game. At the beginning, the story is very similar to the previous games. You’re a human and finds yourself suddenly in the body of a Pokémon, with no idea of how you got there or memories from your previous existence. You also discover that someone is turning Pokemon to stone. While repetitive, it has a nice hook so when I began the game, I was willing to go along for the ride.
After the opening scenes, the game tosses you into a tutorial mode of sorts where you slog through the daily grind of “going to school.” You wake up, say hello to folks, go to school, come home, and go to sleep. Repeat ad nauseam. For weeks. (So. Not. Kidding.) During this time, other characters comment very little on the actual plot (you know, the stone Pokemon and your being a human in Pokemon form).
One problem with the repetition is that you can’t skip the cut-scenes. These cut-scenes happen every single day. *facepalm* Another issue is that this tutorial area (which is MUCH longer than most games have) forces you into specific dungeons. At first, there is no choice on what dungeon you are going through and because you only get to do one dungeon a day, it is near impossible to level up correctly.
In most games, I save the assist items for boss battles, but in this game, you have to take your power-ups and other assist items in with you to every dungeon or you will die. Multiple times. When I reached the first boss, I felt 10-15 levels below where I should have been. The game balance in combat is horrible. Someone seriously did not play-test this at all. An example is that in a basic dungeon labeled as “NORMAL” difficulty, there are enemies who hit me for 140+ HP. Being that I was level 15 (with a total of 60 HP) and I was forced into the dungeon by the plot, you can see how this is an issue. We’re not talking about a boss but a basic Pokemon found in the normal dungeon.
Once you finally get some dungeon options, you are still limited to one dungeon a day, which severely limits game play enjoyment and leveling. Multiple FAQs show folks using specific dungeons with halfway points to exit out and repeat the same dungeon over and over to grind for levels. That shouldn’t be the way people progress through a game. In fact, I didn’t even think of it and because of that, I’ve spent the entire game continually saving myself via the rescue feature. I end up losing most boss battles the first time and die often in basic dungeons.
Because I’m dying so much, I find that the dungeon-crawler aspect is gone. Instead of exploring every room in a dungeon and looking for loot (of which there is precious little), I find myself tempted to fly through a dungeon as fast as possible so that I don’t die. That’s not a good way to play a dungeon-crawler.
Once you finally get past the monotony the first village and gain a ton of side-quests, you find yourself still trapped in repetitive cut-scenes you can’t skip, not to mention the one-dungeon-a-day limit. Even if I wanted to do all the side quests, it will be impossible for me to do so with this limit. I suspect I’ll have to do them all after beating the main quest.
Another flaw is that you can’t use vitamins to give your Pokémon permanent gains in their skills. Everything you use is temporary to that dungeon. That’s typical of some dungeon-crawlers, but not for Pokémon.
When I hit the climax of the game, I was highly disappointed as we still hadn’t moved (plot-wise) beyond “Someone is turning Pokémon to stone. Let’s find out who!” The main plot consists of ruling out people from our antagonist list–all the while almost completely ignoring the more obvious question of “Why am I a Pokemon??”
I’m almost done with the game and am none-the-wiser as to why anything is happening. I know jack about the characters and honestly, I don’t care to know more with a narrative this weak.
What I Liked: Parts of the crawling through dungeons…when I wasn’t dying anyway. I liked the looplets they added in. Those are pretty handy to keep status effects away.
What I Didn’t Like: The entire game. Seriously.
Overall Rating/Impression: This is so beyond a failing in both story line and its ability to be classified as a dungeon-crawler. It’s a half-assed attempt at a dungeon-crawler with a singular plot line connected with Spaghetti-O’s. 3/10
(Images from game are copyright their prospective copyright holders and used under fair use for review purposes only.)