Friday, October 15, 2010

Pokémon Magical Mystery Tour

I have been playing Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time lately. I got it a few years ago, but never seriously played though it until now. Since that time, a slightly updated version was released don't think it's really worth buying at this point, since I already "won" the main game in Time and am going though the post-game content (which is actually between 25% to 50% of the game and includes extra story bits... they always gotta go that extra mile). There are also apparently three new games coming out for the wii, but I probably won't be playing them as I haven't played anything on my wii in ages and don't feel like dealing with it. I also played though Blue Rescue Team quite some time ago, but besides the plot and some of the details, there really isn't that much difference. I will say I found Blue/Red's story a bit more touching though, even if a lot of elements seem to cross over a tiny bit.

In any case, I have to say as far as roguelikes go, the games are quite watered down and boring compared to most, even compared to most of the other "Mystery Dungeon" games. Most dungeons have no traps, and the items you can collect are mostly uninteresting. Whats worse is they completely took out needing to identify items, which was one of the cornerstone roguelike gameplay elements. The games do somewhat make up for it with a bigger focus on followers and character building, as is fitting to a Pokémon game. Like the main Pokémon games, you can get almost any enemy to join you, though instead of catching them, they just randomly sometimes join you when you defeat them. Each of them learn different moves just like the main Pokémon games, and some can evolve, although now you have to wait until the post-game to do so. In Blue/Red (btw, incase you didn't figurer it out, like the main Pokémon games most of the games are in pairs or triplets that is more or less the exact same game with different features or Pokémon) you are somewhat limited by who you can get to join you by each needing one of several "friend areas" that need to be unlocked before they will join, but that was done away with in Time/Darkness. I am not sure if that is a good thing or not overall, but it does make the party organization interface a lot less tedious, but it also means you can get anyone to join anytime you find them.

I think the games' biggest flaw is just that they are much too easy, especially for roguelikes, which are basically meant to kick your ass in as many nasty ways as possible. Not that it's totally a cakewalk, but as I said, though most of the game traps are missing, needing to identify items is completely gone, and you even keep most of your stuff if you die. I mean I know nethack-style "You accidentally bumped into the wrong thing. Too bad, you die. Start over from square one." stuff is a little much, but most of the other Mystery Dungeon games offer a good balance between starting over from scratch and death being nothing. Also the games don't autosave when you enter a dungeon like Izuna does.

By the way, I have Izuna 2, and it is absolutely fantastic... I kind of wish it had a follower system like Pokémon Mystery Dungeon though. Just tag switching between two partners is kinda lame compared to having an actual follower. Although the follower system in Pokémon Mystery Dungeon is not perfect either, as you can never directly control what they do. Chocobo's Dungeon 2 (which is basically Mystery Dungeon mixed with Final Fantasy... they sure do make a lot of crossover games with other corporations) did something interesting and had a partner character who could be controlled by another player, but it was sort of odd because the turn-based nature of the game and the two controller inputs often didn't work together that well. Ideally, I would like to see something like in Ultima 6, where you could more or less control each party member in turn if you wanted and could switch in and out of combat mode. It's a game mechanic I would like to see used more often because I feel it's a good balance between turn-based and real time combat. That reminds me of another little gripe about Pokémon Mystery Dungeon's followers, namely that to get them to go after enemies, you have to switch around a tactic setting, which is annoying if you constantly want to switch between "follow me" and "go after foes". If set to "follow me" they will never attack unless the enemy is in their range. Also sometimes their pathfinding if they are too far away will make them wander aimlessly and get killed, which can happen if you go in a U shaped corridor or such while one is behind a wall... it's complex to explain, but bassily they try and follow you in a direct line without moving around a bend in the road.

I also miss the ability to "fuse" equipment like in some of the other Mystery Dungeon games. Fusion works by combining two items into one that does the effects and has the power of both, Both Chocobo's Dungeon 2 (although you can't seem to be able to tranfer weapon's abliltys, just some attributes) and Shiren the Wanderer (which, along with it's squeals, are probably the only non-crossover games in the Mystery Dungeon series) as well as probably others have this feature. Izuna has a interesting gameplay mechanic that works in almost the same way, at least in regard to transferring a weapons special ability, but is a bit more limited because each weapon has a limited number of slots that can be used to attach ofuda to, including ones you get by transforming weapons that give you the weapon's special ability (you can "burn-in" some to increase a weapon's stats, but abilities are not transfered this way). Of course in Pokémon Mystery Dungeon, the only type of "equipment" is held items anyway, witch are more like collars in other Mystery Dungeon games which could never be fused anyway. In Pokémon Mystery Dungeon you can link moves, but thats not really the same thing.

You know though all my complaining, I still find the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games fun. In fact I find them more fun then the normal Pokémon games, which I often find involves a lot of tedious walking from place to place and backtracking whenever I suddenly find I need some HM move or something. In Pokémon Mystery Dungeon there is basically only one town and various random areas you can go to on a map. Also since combat is seamlessly integrated into exploring and never random, it usually is a heck of a lot faster and less tedious. Also I just really really like roguelikes.

Lastly, on the subject of roguelikes in general I have to say they really need to find more advanced dungeon generation methods. The "rooms connected to corridors" method gets old fast. Though a roguelike is always fun more because of the stuff in the dungeons then the dungeons themselves.

Also Lastly, on the subject of Pokémon, is it just me or does do the designs for pokemon get more and more retarded? I mean seriously what is this? Are all those random metal spikes really necessary? All of the later legendaries seem to have odd metal parts, but then I am not always fond of some of the original Pokémon ether.

(Note: From now on, I will try and make my pictograph link to any source image I may have used either as reference or directly traced as I did the last two times)


  1. The only thing I liked about the PMD games were the narrative-related aspects; the plot, characters, etc. The actual gameplay I found to be atrociously poorly designed. It's totally true that your partners are all absolutely worthless bums 90% of the time. And then the game makes you do escort missions that are soul-crushingly difficult. And then the final boss two shots me with its attacks and whenever I get close enough to actually attack, he just stops me cold using some BS ability. I just found it to be an utter nightmare to play, and I ended up wishing the story was just a book or something.

  2. I just had like 5 revive seeds and took a death or two. He doesn't actually have that much HP, and he was one of the only bosses that put up a fight. Escort missions aren't that hard if your careful, but can get annoying just because, as I said, party members can act stupid some times. In general though I actually enjoy the gameplay, I just think they could have done more with it. The narrative-related aspects were charming sometimes but rather cliche and sappy at other times.

  3. I just don't understand what's fun about huge penalties for dying :(

    What's the point of death penalties anyway, if the player can just save scum back to where they were? I couldn't finish the post storyline because I died and screwed up my save, and I lost all my powerful equipment I had, making it impossible to do the post-game dungeons anymore because I simply didn't have the power and items to do it.

  4. That's why I tend to store everything and never use it. But in Pokémon Mystery Dungeon equipment isn't as useful as a good solid move set anyway. You would probably hate nethack. It just makes you start over if you die, though you could cheat and back up your save, or use explorer mode which simply makes it so if you die the game can revive you at the cost of being unable to save your score.

    Really though, the point of a roguelike is not to get through the game, but to have fun playing. It's like an arcade game more then anything else. If you lose, you can start again better because you hopefully learned something, and can gain back anything you may have lost after a while.

  5. Oh, okay. With that kind of mentality, I would agree that type of game would be a lot more approachable.

  6. Although nethack DOES have an end, and it is perfectly possible to win if you know what you are doing, so it's not a pure endless arcade game.

    I think the Mystery Dungeon series attempts to have it both ways, by balancing it so you can keep just enough so you don't lose too much progress even if you do die, and by having the story move forward as you accomplish smaller goals. And as for losing stuff, you can re-get most anything you missed just exploring without needing to do much. Some games are better balanced then others of course.

    I guess Pokémon Mystery Dungeon's focus on narrative rather then pure gameplay makes it easy to be frustrated when you can't beat something to advance the plot, and that is one reason that I don't think games usually make a good storytelling medium in the first place, with some notable exceptions.

  7. For the record, I will say the dungeon I got stuck at in the endgame was the Aegis Cave. I LOATHE that dungeon, its gimmick is horrible.

    And I was also disappointed because I just hatched a Manaphy in the dungeon before that, and I couldn't make it further anymore to actually have her in my party... :(