A pocket monstrosity.
Since its inception, Pokemon has carved itself a large place in the annals of not just gaming, but marketing genius. I’d be hard pressed to think of anything else that can captivate so many ten-year-olds simultaneously and still wrangle in some old timers with simple yet deep gameplay. But just as Lego bred Duplo, the Pokemon titles have birthed the overly simplified action-RPG, Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Blue Rescue Team, which charms nearly as much as it bores.
Instead of the classic ‘Pokemon Trainer’ plotline, this time around you wake up as a Pokemon in a world full of talking Pocket Monsters (a step up from ‘Pikachu! Pika-Pikachuuuuu.’). The Pokemon you become is determined by a series of silly questions, and you’ll also choose a permanent partner from a slightly expanded list of starting Pokemon.
Once you marry Squirtle, you’re off to run errands, make friends (no catching here), and figure out why you turned into a Pokemon in the first place. Your arrival in Poke-land was heralded by madness-inducing earthquakes, so expect to eventually save the world for all of Poke-kind as well. Naturally, all your problems are solved by lots of dungeon crawling, which is also where all of the game’s problems begin.
Your ‘Rescue Team’ will spend its time responding to mail that sends you meandering through countless randomly-generated dungeons, escorting clients, delivering items, or just finding the one Pokemon on a floor that doesn’t try to kill you. While the random layouts are a neat feature, the dungeons themselves are nothing but tedious tunnels and rectangular rooms. They may change, but they still feel the same.
You explore the boring, grid-based landscapes in a pseudo, turn-based fashion where, for every step or move you execute, the enemy gets one in return. You’re only given direct control over your own character, with everyone else acting on a short list of tactics like “Go after foes” or “Run away”. Your partners are reasonably smart, but finer control over their movement and item usage would have helped immensely. That’s because if you, your sidekick, or anyone you happen to be escorting dies, you’re whisked out of the dungeon, losing any items or money you were holding as well as any experience gained. That’s the oldest trick in the dungeon crawling book, and it’s as frustrating now as it was years ago.
Instead of having you enslave Pokemon with your evil Pokeballs, Blue Rescue Team
takes a friendly approach to monster collection (you literally befriend them) that manages to be both confusing and
annoying. In order for other Pokemon to join you, you’ll have to buy access to the ‘Friend area’ they live in. Then, after smashing their cute little faces, your opponents will suddenly decide to join your entourage. At least, they will if the game magically decides they should, because a Pokemon’s desire to join you is governed by a hidden dice roll. You could gain four friends in four runs, or one in a hundred, with no way to boost the odds in your favor.
The only guaranteed way to make friends is by crawling through the same dungeons over and over, which is something you’ll have to do anyway if you want to access the final stage. The extra Poke-friends make level grinding a little more bearable, though without reliable rewards your patience will run out faster than you can say “Gyarados
In a strange twist, if you die but happen to be near a friend with their own copy of Blue Rescue Team
, as well as access to the area that killed you, you can send them an S.O.S. and they can come to your rescue, saving you the time and money involved in a dungeon restart. Or, if you’ve alienated all your friends like I have, you can opt to use the GBA’s Red Rescue Team
cartridge to save yourself. You’d have to be completely insane to buy this game if you already owned Red Rescue Team
, since they’re mostly identical, but knowing Pokemon fans
, you’ll probably buy both no matter what we say.
So we guess it really doesn’t matter that Blue Rescue Team
completely lacks versus and cooperative play modes. Sure you can trade monsters, and even import a CPU controlled version of your friends’ teams to fight, but it’s not the same as getting Mewtwo and burning your buds for their lunch money.
Aesthetically, at least, the series hasn’t lost any of its style. Familiar faces abound, running shops and generally hanging out, but again, the dungeons themselves are repetitive and tedious, and that’s where you spend most of your time. The menu systems are sleek, if a bit obtuse, and it’s nice that the second screen displays several important stats at a glance, but what’s really lacking is the stylus control. It’s inaccurate and feels very tacked-on. You’re much better off going with the buttons.
While it was just a matter of time before Chunsoft applied the classic Pokemon
theme to their Mysterious Dungeon
line of games, Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Blue Rescue Team
lacks most of the content that made Pokemon
so popular in the first place. Instead, it features the ancient failings of Roguelike
games, including dungeon restarts, level grinding and no versus play. Frankly, we’d rather catch a cold.