Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Darkness

Kombo’s Review Policy: Our reviews are written for you. Our goal is to write honest, to-the-point reviews that don’t waste your time. This is why we’ve split our reviews into four sections: What the Game’s About, What’s Hot, What’s Not and Final Word, so that you can easily find the information you want from our reviews.

What the Game’s About
The Mystery Dungeon series isn’t anything new. The series has a long history on Nintendo platforms and dates back to the original Game Boy when Chunsoft released Mysterious Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer GB. The franchise is known for its simple gameplay, randomly generated dungeons, and charming themes. Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Darkness, along with Explorers of Time, is the first pair of Mystery Dungeon games to be developed exclusively for the DS; and as a result new features are brought the series that have never been seen before.

What’s Hot
Every Pokemon fan can’t help but to be wrapped up in the charm that the little monsters bring with them in each and every title in which they appear. Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Darkness isn’t any different, as fans of the series will love interacting with the various Pokemon creatures strewn about the adventure. Always a strong point in any Pokemon game, Chunsoft continues the tradition of providing a light-hearted and charming experience throughout the entirety of the game.

In Chunsoft’s first go at bringing the Mystery Dungeon series to the DS, they were largely unwilling to make use of the DS hardware beyond the token utilization of the second screen. This time around the game makes use of the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, additional touch functionality, and improved dual screen usage. While the features aren’t integral to the gameplay, it’s nice to see the series take strides forward, especially given the conservative nature of the series.

Fans of the old-school dungeon crawler will get as much as they can handle with Mystery Dungeon’s randomly generated levels. Each dungeon is guaranteed to be a unique experience. At times this can be somewhat problematic, but at least it adds to the replay factor for those that enjoy the game.

What’s Not
As mentioned, earlier, the game uses randomly generated dungeons. While this ensures that you’ll never see the same dungeon twice, even on repeat plays, it also dooms the flow of the game. None of the dungeons have any sort of unique flavor to them, due to their completely random nature. In the end, you really can’t differentiate between early, mid-game, or end-game dungeons. Another issue, while rare, is that dungeons can be incredibly short due to the exit possibly appearing near the entrance due to the randomly placed dungeon assets. It probably would have been a simple thing to ensure that in the random placement of objects, that the exit be a significant distance from the entrance.

The story has its charm, but it’s not quite enough to drive the player’s interest through the entirety of the game unless they are a real Pokemon fan. Casual Pokemon fans, or those entirely new to the Pokemon franchise (if there are any left in this world), might not find the plot to be sufficiently engaging to carry them from dungeon to dungeon through to the game’s conclusion.

The game’s difficultly is pretty light and rarely will the gamer be challenged or stressed. In a game that hearkens back to old school dungeon crawling, challenge is one of the spices that keep things exciting; but with a toned-back difficulty, the edge is gone. For younger gamers, this is a blessing, for more experienced RPG players, it can be a bit of a downer.

When it comes down to it, Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Darkness could have used a bit more time evolving from previous iterations in the Mystery Dungeon series. The game isn’t bad, but it doesn’t offer anything particularly new or exciting.

Final Word
For a series that’s been around for longer than a decade, it’s time that the developer start thinking of new ways to freshen up the series. There’s nothing wrong with revisiting old-school gameplay or themes, but with all the recent innovations we’ve on the DS over the past few years, it really is hard to accept something that could be nearly identical on any other platform, past or present. Even with the charming Pokemon theme giving the title some added buoyancy, the old and simplistic formula barely floats these days. The game is worth checking out for Pokemon fanatics, but is not strong enough on its own merits to win over the general RPG player.