Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Blue Rescue Team
The ever-popular dungeon crawler formula has hit the Pokemon universe...
Pokemania. It comes in all shades: Red, Blue, Emerald, Burnt Sienna ... OK, not necessarily all shades, but Pokemon has definitely seen its share of colors through the years, and with Diamond and Pearl approaching swiftly, the Poke-rainbow is growing further inclusive. As the first traditional Pokemon games on the DS, Diamond and Pearl have many die-hard Pokemon fans more excited than they've been in years, and they even seem to be preemptively stirring up as much interest as the first iterations of the series did so long ago. I can't seem to think of a time where I've actually been this excited for a Pokemon game...ever.
While the world awaits the Mecca of Pokemon titles, Nintendo still kept the series chugging along with regular installments on the DS, just not necessarily with regular gameplay. Pokemon Dash and Pokemon Trozei have already seen release, and the upcoming titles Pokemon Ranger and Pokemon Mystery Dungeon will be out this fall. All of these games explore the Pokemon franchise from a slightly different angle than the traditional Pokemon and trainer journey.
Pokemon Mystery Dungeon actually removes the trainer from the quest altogether as the player finds himself waking up as a Pokemon itself. The journey he embarks upon is to help find out why he changed from a normal boy into whatever particular Poke-critter you find yourself playing as. Answering several questions at the games onset determines the Pokemon you'll be playing through the games as. While an interesting mechanic, I find it hard to believe that players wouldn't rather choose a particular Pokemon. Sure, the game might deduce that I'm a Bulbasaur because I'm shy or mellow, but what If I know deep in my heart that I'm a Caterpie? There are only 16 playable Pokemon available, and they're supposedly popular, starter Pokemon from previous titles. Thanks Nintendo. Way to crush my dream of actually being a Wurmple. ...Don't laugh, I'm serious.
The journey to return to normalcy finds the player joining The Pokemon Rescue Team and helping to save many Pokemon from the dire situations they often find themselves in. The player belongs to either the blue or red rescue teams, depending on whether they've purchased the title for the DS or GBA respectively. The player also immediately finds a partner Pokemon at the beginning of his adventure, and they eventually form a team of several other recruits. These recruits can be shared using the DS by inserting both the DS and GBA carts at the same time. This is most useful, as it has always been with the series, when a player is interested in recruiting particular Pokemon that are specific to either version.
The game's story unfolds as your characters journey through the different parts of this Pokemon filled world including a town, a headquarters for your team which is appropriate to the particular type of Pokemon you're playing as, and the many dungeons in which the game's combat takes place. The dungeons are randomly-generated for the first time in Poke-history, and they're littered with violent Pokemon and many natural disasters that seem to be occurring slightly too often for the Pokemon to just accept them as chance.
Combat in the game's random dungeons changes from the series traditional RPG battles, to a more tactical-RPG, in which players move their Pokemon and attack using a set number or points for specific techniques and abilities. Techniques from the previous entries return in Pokemon Mystery Dungeon, but they're now based on range and available points. This makes for a battle system that many players could find engaging and creative, however players are only able to control their Pokemon's actions, and not the actions of their partner or teammates. That coupled with the fact that dieing in battle causes the player to lose all of their money, many of their items, and their entire team of Pokemon makes combat a more stressful and chaotic affair than other Pokemon titles.
Pokemon Mystery Dungeon is a more fleshed out title than either of the Pokemon spin-offs we've seen before, but removing some of the series staple gameplay elements could be just as damaging as it is rewarding. The game has a world full of Pokemon for any player to enjoy, and becoming one yourself will let you feel more love for Mudkip than you ever did before. Even if you'd rather be playing as Wurmple ... I know I would.