With the next chapters in the Pokémon RPG saga, Pokémon Diamond and Pokémon Pearl, set to debut on the DS, it looks like Nintendo has more or less wrapped up the series on GBA. Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Red Rescue Team is apparently a last hurrah for the franchise on the system, but be warned: This is quite a different game than what you’re used to
Unlike the other Pokémon RPGs, there are no humans to be found in Mystery Dungeon (well, not really). You play as a human who wakes up one day to discover that he (or she) has been turned into one of the collectable Pocket Monsters and is now living in a world populated with the creatures, which you now have the ability to converse with. A brief quiz that you take upon starting the game determines which critter you become, and after choosing a partner from a short list, you begin your adventure.
As you start to unravel the mystery behind your transformation, you and your partner form a Pokémon rescue team that specializes in traveling deep into the many dungeons that dot the landscape. Your services are desired by other Pokémon that hire you to rescue trapped friends, deliver items, or other such jobs. Standing in your way are other Pokémon that have been driven to randomly attack passers-by after some inexplicable earthquakes. Eventually, rival rescue teams will reveal themselves as well, impeding your progress even more.
The new style of gameplay in Mystery Dungeon will initially confuse those who are used to the standard Pokémon titles. This game has more in common with slightly obscure “dungeon crawlers” like the PlayStation’s Torneko: The Last Hope (which, like Mystery Dungeon, was developed by Chunsoft) and the PS2′s The Nightmare of Druaga than the multicolored games in the Pokémon series. There is no journeying from town to town, no gym battles, and no snagging new friends with Pokéballs.
I Choose Myself!
Even the battles are different. They’re still turn-based, but since you can freely move your team around the playing field while you fight, they feel more action-packed. When you’re in the dungeons, you can see enemy Pokémon wandering around. For every step you take, they take one as well. Soon, the two of you will be close enough to fight. Once you meet, you begin swapping attacks with your foes. The A button performs your character’s basic attack, but you can also open up the menu to select from your available special moves. You can also use any of the items in your inventory, which range from health items to weapons that you can throw for a long distance attack.
During these pseudo real-time bouts, you have to plan out the positions of your teammates. By maneuvering your buddies around your enemy, you can have multiple attacks hitting the same foe. Throughout the game, random enemies will be impressed with your fighting prowess and ask to join your team. Before they can, however, you’ll need to purchase a few “Friend Areas,” which are special locations scattered throughout the land where your newly recruited teammates can hang out when they’re not accompanying you on a mission. You can only have four people in your party at one time, so having a lot of Friend Areas becomes important, fast. Unfortunately, you don’t have much control over when Pokémon wish to join you, so building a good team is less about skill (as in the past Pokémon RPGs) and more about luck.