Spike Chunsoft’s Pokemon Mystery Dungeon line have always provided quite a service for potential roguelike players. They ease people into the idea of do or die dungeon crawling and risk assessment with familiar characters and a brightness that makes the idea of failure not so intimidating. While both Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity and Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon both boast a number of gameplay elements showing clear benefits to the series, the way the portray their worlds is equally important.
Both of the Nintendo 3DS entries in the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon series do an exemplary job of creating unique spaces. They’re places that feel natural, homesteads that Pokemon could have created, and thrive. They’re populated with plenty of people. There are unique landmarks and buildings that catch the eye. In Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity‘s Post Town and Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon‘s Serene Village and Lively Town, Spike Chunsoft has taken every opportunity to make places memorable. You get scenic views that depict the peace and tranquility of these safe spaces at a glance, yet still manage to show characters actively milling about.
The worlds of Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon and Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity feel alive. They’re inviting. At the same time, it doesn’t exactly mask the hazards, since the dungeons still feel foreboding. Lava, dark corners, twisting rivers and jagged rocks clearly broadcast danger. But their distinct atmospheres still encourage exploration. You want to know where each road goes, make it through every area and conquer them. Then, once that’s done, you get to return to the bright, safe and warm places like Post Town, Serene Village and Lively Town.
These sort of colorful things make the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon more appealing than typical roguelikes as well. Games in this RPG subset sometimes offer only a single dungeon, with different groupings of floors offering different color palettes if you’re lucky. There’s typically only one town and, given roguelikes’ roots in dark fantasy, vivacious series such as Pokemon Mystery Dungeon, Izuna and Shiren the Wanderer are the exception, not the rule. Roguelikes that focus on gameplay and challenge are great, but when there are also bright and diverse environments, the finished product. Every journey into a dungeon feels less repetitive when there are lively details around every area.
It also ensures that both Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity and Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon are true to the original series. This is a world where creatures can be any shape or color. They have fantastic powers and accomplish extraordinary things. It’s only appropriate that the games feature locations as bright and colorful as the characters who exploring them. The two go together like a technicolor team. It even makes more sense than a more rigid environment where each dungeon bleeds into the next. Such a thing would be more unrealistic.
Ambiance is of the utmost important in recent Pokemon Mystery Dungeon games. Keeping people hooked is critical. After all, this is a demanding genre that could turn off players with its high difficulty and repetitive nature. Being true to the characters, series, and audience can only increase the entertainment value. Spike Chunsoft very obviously does its best in terms of presentation, and anyone who plays Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity or Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon will appreciate that.