Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of SkyESRB:
Platform: Nintendo DS , DSI
Developer: Chun Soft
Nintendo Wi-Fi compatible
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Sky is the newest installment in the Mystery Dungeon series. The game expands on the fun found in Pokémon Explorers of Time and Explorers of Darkness. Players get the chance to be a Pokémon and team up with another Pokémon. Together both set out on an adventure of exploration and discovery, ultimately saving the world from destruction. With additional Pokémon, new special episodes and enhanced communication features, this game is said to be a grand adventure with a moving story and stunning finale.
The graphics engine employed has changed very little, if at all, from previous Mystery Dungeon games as it looks exactly like the previous two. The developers have essentially recycled an old GBA inspired graphic engine with the same interface. I for one was a little startled at how old and antiquated the game looked for a DS title. The animation is pretty much non-existent while the environments are very flat and bland. I suppose the games subject matter really doesn’t need too much flair in terms of visuals, but there really has been no progression since the last game. Some cut-scenes would have helped matters some, but there are none of those in the game either. Overall I was a little disappointed.
The game’s sounds and music are surprisingly mediocre. The hummable tunes are catchy, but they get tiresome quickly as they tend to get repetitive. The music is the same old stuff you heard in the previous Mystery Dungeon games. The sound effects are very few and quite sparse; this also leads to repetitive grating overload. This is very surprising to me as DS titles, no matter what the game; usually have great soundtracks which I can get into. I’d love to use the headphones, but to be honest there really is no reason to. There are no voice samples and no cool audio accompaniments with any attacks, how disappointing.
Most Pokémon fans know that when a new Pokémon game is released they can expect more versions to follow. After a year or so Pokémon Yellow, Crystal, and Emerald all took their original games and added significant new features. Most recently Pokémon Platinum expanded upon Diamond and Pearl with all sorts of new features, mini-games, and connectivity features. I’m not much of a Pokémon fan, but I noticed these now features right away. With the new release of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Sky, gamers would hope for a significant change in the game and its content.
For those of you that are new to the series, let me explain a little. Chun Soft's Mystery Dungeon franchise is a series of role-playing games that focus largely on randomly generated dungeons. Players move through the dungeons in a simultaneous turn-based system on a grid. Overall it’s more strategy than action, with a dose of whatever happens... happens, since pretty much everything in the game is random. As with most randomly generated mayhem, sometimes you luck out, and sometimes you don’t, and of course whatever happens there's nothing you can do to change it.
Explorers of Sky is packaged to be a bigger, better version of the previous two Mystery Dungeon games. It boasts new items, adventures and expanded communication. The trouble with the game is that it has the same plot, characters, and dungeons of other games in the series. This may not be a huge problem for hardcore fans of the games, but to be honest I would feel a bit ripped off. The game, once you get started, is pretty ho hum and lacks that exploration fun factor that the other games before it had. This is mainly due to having seen most of this game before. The sense of adventure has been effectively quashed.
The tried and true plot remains the same. You somehow get turned into a Pokémon, and instead of trying to immediately figure out what happened you join an exploration club. You also have psychic powers which make you essentially a Pokémon guru. There is something n ew in the game, namely two new starter characters: Riolu and Phanpy. You can use the older characters as partners only. The game plays virtually the same no matter who you use or who you get.
Explorers of Sky utilizes a traditional battle grid system, where you fight enemies in turn-based format. Aside from some evolutionary attacks, there is nothing notable. Even worse, the touch-screen controls are sloppy, with no option to use the good old d-pad to direct your Pokémon. This was frustrating for me, and I did have put the game down a few times during play. Sure, you can work around the shortcomings, but the frustration factor will ramp up easily and quickly which is surprising for a game of this nature.
There are eight new dungeons, bringing the total to 69. While the number of dungeons is plenty most are repetitive and uninspired. Since most areas are virtually like the others, the game does get quite boring aside from the odd bit here and there. I think fans of the series will probably like the new dungeons and areas, but most other gamers may put the game down sooner than later.
Most of these new dungeons are played in the Special Episodes, a new side game. This side game actually consists of five episodes that expand on the original story, providing back stories to some of the characters in the game like Wigglytuff and Sunflora. This is really the only true new content. Unfortunately players have to play through the game before unlocking these episodes, and while the later episodes are kind of interesting, the early ones are more of the same terrible story. If these episodes had been incorporated into the main game it would have added some new story elements and made it feel like a different game.
In terms of online functionality, no matter how many times I tried I could not trade items over the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection service. There really is not too much in the way of content to trade online, but not being able to do it at all left a bad taste in my mouth. On the flip side I was able to connect and access the game’s other local multiplayer features. The game features a new Wonder Mail S system. Wonder Mail is the most used Wi-Fi feature in the game. While every other feature is compatible with the older games, the Wonder Mail S is a new format, and only compatible with other copies of Explorers of Sky. I could maybe understand only being able to send missions to other copies of Sky, but why can't I receive missions from what is essentially the same game? Seems like a strange omission to me.
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