Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Darkness, capitalizes on the failures of the first entry in the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series. Offering a much more adorable and emotionally intense story, with addictive gameplay, I have found that this one is more of the pick-up and stay playing variety.
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Darkness launches by asking you, the player, a series of questions that gauge how well your personality traits match against the set of several Pokémon. The answers that the player gives determine which Pokémon they will play as for the entire game. The questions are quite interesting in that they sometimes match, even in its simplest state, the player. For a true Pokémon fan or just someone who knows exactly what Pokémon they want to be there are several faqs are available online that guide you in the way to answers questions to get who you want. After the player has chosen their Pokémon, they proceed to choose their partner. The partners range from the starters from all Pokémon generation games to including a few other choices. I went along and chose the adorably and always cute Pikachu. After choosing the Pokémon, the player proceeds into the Pokémon world.
The main story of the game is to discover why time has been stopping all over the region. One of the earliest opening cinematic sequences indicates that a Grovyle is stealing the games time gears. The mission is to stop Grovyle. I will admit that the story proceeds at a quick pace from the start. However, it is broken into pieces by the ability to go into a series of quests, if one wanted to build up the teams rank. The higher the rank the more items the player can carry or keep in storage. It is difficult to discuss the story any further as it will reveal pivotal events that are vital to the intrigue of the game.
The story soon takes off from their in which you will meet your partner and help them conquer their fear of several things in the world. Generally, the player serves as a way for the Pokémon partner to develop confidence with the benefit of creating a long lasting friendship. The player will soon be inducted into the Wigglytuff Guild (a team of explorations teams) as apprentices, and soon go on explorations quests.
The quests range from a variety of options. The quests can generally range from escort missions, search and rescues, or capture the bandit. There is a ranking system for these missions with different awards being award in respective denominations based on the difficulty. Some missions will reward you by allowing you to explore new areas that do not relate to the main story.
What makes this game appeal to people who aren't just Pokémon fans, is probably the idea of dungeon crawling, or for those that aren't in the arena of video game terminologists (and yes terminologist is a word), traveling through an infinite number of dungeons with layouts that change randomly. In the past Pokémon was a game in which the only idea is to catch Pokémon, travel through an over world map, and defeat a prestigious class of elite Pokémon trainers or go through a smattering of Pokémon recreational facilities in an effort to gather enough certifications to show that one has mastered the training of their Pokémon. Pokémon mystery dungeon strays away from that tradition and allows the player to play as a Pokémon, gather other Pokémon friends, and explore dungeons in an effort to see all Pokémon and gather treasure. Explorers of Darkness raises the bar over the previous version by offering the extensive story, more hilarious characters, more items, more Pokémon, and perhaps a feeling that what you are doing isn't just something random. I could not get into the previous offering for the middle of the game seemed like a chore.
Explorers of Darkness never feels like a chore for it attempts to make sure that you never get bored, whether from the witty and silly way that Team Skull (skulltank, zubat, and koffing) acts and responds, from the way that your partner attempts to bond with you, or the hilarious members of the Wigglytuff Guild. Most of the dungeons are kept short, offer save points (sometimes with access to the players storage), and provide healing for the player before they face a boss. Although that last part may make the game sound easy, some of the bosses are in themselves very difficult even with full health, if your team is not up to par.
Players are able to extend their team by attempting to recruit other Pokémon. Recruiting is generally random. Once you recruit a Pokémon, you can add it to your active team roster and take it with you (only in the most story intense battles will you not be able to use them).
In terms of sound, the game offers an interesting mix of tunes. I only have one favorite and that can be found in the first area of the game, the beach with the Krabby. The other music is a hit or miss for some people, I generally kept it on low while listening to other music but for boss battles or monster houses, I turned it up. The sound effects in the scenes are perfect and sound fitting, if not powerful.
On the graphics side of the spectrum, I would pin this as perhaps a beautiful game to behold. Somehow, the style of pencil artwork seems to expand this greatly and keep it looking fresh. The cinematic sequences are always interesting to see, and really do look beautiful.
After completion of the main story, players are given the ability to continue to play through and accomplish a few more chapters to get to know the guild, open up the ability to evolve, and recruit all 490+ Pokémon, or even rescue others via the Wi-Fi service.
Pros +Ability to recruit all 490+ Pokémon on one game +Emotional yet fast paced story line (about 20-25 hours to beat main story) +Hilarious Characters +Varying Dungeon Locations +Level Grinding is not required
Cons -Music could have been a bit more robust in dungeons -Some Attacks are a bit too unfair (such as Fury Swipes, can one hit KO, if all 5 hits hit) -Dungeons become a bit difficult -Monster Houses will kill low-level players or those inexperienced with using the items -Unless one really desires to keep his or her items, just save before a dungeon instead of waiting for someone on Wifi service to rescue the team