Date: 11/16/2009 11:30AM
Game Time: 1:52
Pokemon Mystery Dungeon begins with a personality test. After asking me questions that included how I react to someone farting in public, the game concludes that my personality is Mystic Purple. I like the color purple, so I thought that was neato. Then it told me my personality. I am jolly and I make others laugh -- so far, so good. Also, I cry a lot, and often bounce between crying and laughing multiple times a day. That also soun-- wait? What did it just say? In fact, the game has trouble understanding how I cope with daily life, given my bipolar, emotionally fragile state where I regularly switch between making others happy, and sobbing in fetal position in a corner, alone. This... this does not sound like me at all.
In conclusion, the game says that because my personality is Jolly, I am a Totodile.
Okaaaaaay. That was weird. But I like water pokemon so I can live with it. I get to pick my "partner," so I go with a male Charmander. I wanted a fire pokemon to cover my watery weaknesses, and the only other choices were a fire monkey and a fire... duckling? I don't know. I think it's a pokemon from one of the games I didn't play.
The game opens with Charmander being a sissy. He's trying to walk into a house, but he's scared. Awesome. My partner is a total wuss. While being a wuss, some evil pokemon sneak up on him and steal his precious treasure -- a rock -- and run off. Just when he's about to piss himself and spend the rest of the evening crying about how pathetic his life is, I wake up on a beach and offer to help him get his rock back.
After we beat up the baddies, Charmander and I go back to the beach and watch the sunset together. He rambles about his dreams, his fears, his insecurities, and how I've taught him to be brave and strong. Wait. When I picked a partner -- it was platonic, right? This kid I just met seems to have a major mancrush on me.
With me playing butch, I convince Charmander to muster the courage to walk into the house he was so afraid of earlier. Ends up it's an explorer guild for newbie adventurers. We go in together and bunk up in the same tiny room. Again, Charmander insists on rambling about how his life was meaningless until he met me... uh, an hour ago... and now he's brave and strong and courageous thanks to me. We look out at the moon together and the screen fades to black. I can only assume that I had gay sex with a prepubescent lizard at that moment, given the lead up. Seems my personality is Mystic Purple in more ways than one.
That was just the first 30 minutes -- I've played two more dungeons since then. This thing is easy enough that I plan on reviewing it. You see, it's a secret here, but every now and then reviewers get games we can choose to throw in the trash instead of reviewing. If the RPGamer powers that be think no one cares about it, and no reviewer wants to play it, it doesn't get reviewed. I seem to be the go-to guy here for Japanese dungeon crawler "roguelikes" no one wants, so I offered to give Explorers of Sky (and I seriously hope there's a place in this game named Sky, or Nintendo is teaching impressionable children horrible things about grammar) a whirl. If it's torture, I can trash it. If it's not, it becomes Neverland Card Battles -- a subpar game I review and no one cares.
Date: 11/19/2009 11:50PM
Game Time: 8:30
The next major plot point involved an adorable blue baby pokemon gayly squeaking to his/her/its big brother about apples, candy, and happiness. Then a Drowzee intrudes. This is no normal Drowzee, though. A sprite artist went through great pains to touch up the standard Drowzee pic so it looks like the offspring of a creepy old pedophile and a Drowzee. The pedophile/Drowzee hybrid promises to give Baby and Brother treasures if they follow him down a shady secluded path, then he quickly ditches Brother to be alone with Baby. After some ominous dialogue that gave me a mental image of a Drowzee raping an Azurill (it didn't help that a tiny cave in the background looked unfortunately similar to an anus), I stepped in to save the day and beat the tar out of him.
Sadly, the plot pretty much ended there, and the rest of the weak story isn't leaving room for wit, humor, and unsettling innuendo for a child's game. Yeah, Charmander tells me daily that he's brave, strong, and courageous because of me. When he isn't saying that repeatedly, the main-character pokemon thinks about it in his internal monologue regularly. Either I didn't handle friendships normally when I was a kid and all children find a same-gendered soulmate/crush/fb when they are twelve, or this game goes way off the deep end with how obsessed the two leads are with each other. Conveniently, the game world has a full moon every other night and makes certain to show that Charmander and I talk to each other before sleeping while we gaze at it together.
But enough of bizarre relationships involving children. The gameplay itself is a bit too simple for my tastes, and that's saying something considering how simple these dungeon crawlers tend to be. My core issue is that the main quest is way too easy, thereby allowing me to play the game in a simple manner. The last dungeon I was in, I was slaughtering foes so effortlessly that I just started beelining to the stairs without wasting time with the whole "fighting" and "gaining levels" nonsense. This was a sequence with four separate dungeons in a row, and even without fighting many foes in them I still easily defeated the boss at the end of the chapter. I can't imagine how easy he would have been if I were at the right level.
Difficulty can be found in the optional quests, though. They have misleading ratings on them that do a good job of letting you know which are harder relative to each other, but give you no inclination as to how tough they are relative to your current level and abilities. For example, early in the game I took on a few grade B side quests and cleared them all in one dungeon sweep. Much later, I took on some grade C quests and got destroyed by the first one. I thought it was a fluke, dove back into the dungeon, and got destroyed again.
The issue comes in how opponents' stats work. Normal enemies are pathetically weak. The tougher monster(s) that appear in side quests are always at a much higher level that yours, and you get a game over when you or your partner dies. So when you stroll up to a pokemon that has three times your HP and deals damage equal to half your life, you or your partner are going to die, and you're going to die fast.
Of course, this being a kid's game, death has no real consequences. Charmander looks sad for two seconds, then bounces up and down in anticipation of the next day like he forgot his Ridalin again and it's as though the loss never happened. You lose a little gold. You lose a random assortment of the items you were carrying -- not all your items as is standard in this type of game. It creates a nasty trifecta of things I don't like: no challenge whatsoever 99% of the time, impossible difficulty the other 1%, and no penalty for dying. Why would I want to play a game like this? I win thoughtlessly unless I intentionally take on a hard side quest, and then I have a 50-50 chance of dying, dependent solely on whether or not the game rolls a foe I can't possibly kill.
I will admit that seeing all the pokemon is sorta cute. Even though this game isn't very good, it makes Pokemon Diamond more tempting. I want to fight with pokemon the right way rather than seeing the poor things wedged into a crappy dungeon crawler. For now, I'm still planning for the Silver/Gold remake to be my next foray into the series proper though.
Date: 11/20/2009 4:45PM
Game Time: 9:30
All the side quest scripts are randomly generated from templates. So there's a lot of "Please rescue <pokemon name> in the <dungeon name>." I just rescued this one little guy and he said:
"To show my thanks, I want you to have my Violent Seed!"
I erupted in laughter. I can't be the only person on Earth with a mind this dirty.
Date: 11/24/2009 12:10AM
Game Time: 21:00
It finally hit me what sucks about this game. Aside from Charmander and me, that is. You can only control the lead pokemon. In my case, that would be a Totodile. Remember when I was happy to get a Totodile earlier because I like water pokemon? Yeah, after playing through the electric pokemon-themed dungeon, I changed my mind.
You see, the main character pokemon, with all its expected weaknesses and strengths, always leads the attack. Dungeons tend to have pokemon of the same element hanging out together, so when I hit a dungeon full of ones that are strong against water, I'm hosed. It's like hitting the grass gym in one of the main series games and you have to start every battle with Squirtle taking the first hit. And you get a game over if he dies.
To keep the game from being impossible, pokemon in dungeons are pathetically underleveled. It doesn't matter too much if I am weak to every foe in the cave's element -- their stats are too pitiful to kill me quickly. This is why the game is so damn easy. And when I'm in a dungeon full of pokemon who are weak to water? It's a cakewalk. So the game ranges from "easy" to "a blind person pushing random buttons could beat this stage."
You can switch your party members' AI from "hide behind me like pansies" to "CHARRRRGE!!!!!!!" which I think I am supposed to do when I'm in a grass or electric dungeon. As my sarcasm should imply, telling your party members to sprint off on their own is a splendid way to watch them die. It didn't take too long for me to figure out how to move around the dungeon in a scaredy-cat way that I would be too embarassed to show someone who knows my love for tough games -- namely, how to trick my AI party members into taking the first hit even when their tactics are set to "stay back and be useless" instead of "run off and die fast." I'm not sure I'm having any fun, but I'm definitely dying less. Not that dying has any consequences of note, but out of habit I generally aim not to lose in games.
Date: 11/30/2009 12:00PM
Game Time: 25:00
Ugggggggggh. And that's not a reaction to the game. Since I last updated, I worked from home for a couple days, closed on a condo, drove to my hometown for Thanksgiving, drove back, moved into the new condo, and then scrubbed my old apartment until my fingers were red and bleeding and I decided to just give up and let the landlord keep my deposit because the stove still has caked Glenn-filth on it. It feels like I was last in the office four weeks ago, not 11 days ago. A series of angry e-mails in gibberish from my boss is not making this day go by quickly either.
Ugggggggggh. That was a reaction to Pokemon Mystery Dungeon this time. I made myself play it last night and this morning until it was done. In the final cutscene, Charmander concludes that I am the most important thing in the world to him. Blah, blah, blah. This game's blatant gayness and the rambling, ongoing bromance got old a while ago. Yeah, I still chuckle at how lame it is. Yeah, Charmander casually says things to me I've only heard in real life from male friends who were very, very drunk and needed an inebriated man-hug. Unfortunately, it makes for a ton of extraneous text bubbles I have to click through as Charmader finds six new ways to say "I love you, man!" and the ending sequence was just TOO DAMN FULL OF THEM!
Rage aside, this game is rather awful. It's not unplayable by any means, which is good I guess, but it's a mess in a few ways. It does many of the same things wrong that Izuna 1 did. Izuna 1 was the more irritating game of the two by far, mostly because it tried to be difficult while PMD tried to be easy. Izuna ended up being an infuriating experience while PMD ended up boring, but they fall into the same lazy design traps that can plague this subgenre -- no penalty for dying, beating tough dungeons requires re-entering them over and over until you are leveled enough and/or lucky enough to pass them, a heavy-handed bad script that makes the game even more annoying, a poorly designed interface, and boring inconsequential items. See Baroque if you want an example of interesting random item drops in a dungeon crawler.
I'm tired and apathetic and sore and cranky, which is three more excuses than I need to blow off my coworkers for dinner this week. Maybe one night this week I'll write up the review. Once my fingers heal up some, that is. Seriously -- typing pains me right now.
Date: 4/25/2010 2:10PM
Game Time: 28:00
And five months later, I sit down to finally write the review. It's been a while, so I reloaded my old game and played it for about an hour to refresh my memory and remind myself of how crappy the controls are. Surprise, surprise. After suffering through Shiren the Wanderer for the last two months, the interface on PMD doesn't seem so awful anymore.
Then I deleted my save and restarted to see if the beginning really was as ridiculous as I made it sound in my first post. I took the personality test again, and this time the questions were different. It still concluded that I'm Mystic Purple. Hey, there's consistency for you! So I prepared to read again about how I spend all day laughing hysterically or sobbing in a corner... but wait -- this time it says my personality is Lonely. The game tells me that I'm a solitary person. Okay, that's true. Sounds like a more accurate result than I got last time- what? Oh man. It goes on to say that I am embarrassed by my depressing loneliness, so I spend all day hiding it while displaying mock enjoyment of the company of others. Then the game reassures me that it's okay to be lonely, and I shouldn't be so embarrassed all the time. Is this game trying to give children psychological issues?
Because I'm Lonely, I'm a Bulbasaur, which embodies the true essence of solitude. Whatever. Now that I know how gay the plot is going to be, I pick a cute boy Squirtle to be my partner, and watch the plot's opening where, given the choice between entering the manly adventurer's guild or watching a sunset on a beach, Squirtle calls himself a coward and heads off toward the beach, where he happens to meet me, and we watch the sunset together...
The lesson here is that dreams inevitably lead to hideous implosions.