As you might know, by this time Pokemon Mystery Dungeon 2 has come out, but I don't have the game. I do have this one, though, and this game's a lot like the sequel, apparently, except in the plot area. Speaking of the plot, it's mostly the plot that makes me take the game out and start playing it again. For a Pokemon game, the plot is surprisingly well-developed--on the slight occasion, cheesy and even stereotype--but it has so many plot twists thrown into it that it honestly makes you think hard about the many problems you are questioned with, and sometimes you'll be on the edge of your toes waiting for the answer. But enough about the plot, that'll come later. The other reason, as I explained in the review's title, is the fact that you get to go and rescue other Pokemon in need. They send SOS letters, often times to you personally, and you go into a mysterious dungeon to rescue them. That's what the game's practically based around; after all, this is "Red Rescue Team." Blue Rescue Team, made for the DS (which is the system both Pokemon Mystery Dungeon 2s are on), differs very slightly in that the controls are different and there are only certain Pokemon that can be recruited in Blue Rescue Team, and the same with Red Rescue Team. I will rate the game in a score between 1/10 in seven categories: Plot, Graphics, Sound and Music, Gameplay, Replay Value (I used to call it "Aftermath Fun," but that's just too confusing), Control Ease, and Game Length. After that will come the total score, any flaws in the game, and the conclusion.
"While the gameplay is not TOTALLY different, it's the story and save-people jobs that bring you back."
PLOT: 10/10. Like I said, the plot is half the reason I come back to play this game. As I also mentioned, the plot can occasionally have its cheesy moments, but these tend to be few and far between. And ALSO like I've said, the plot has many plot twists thrown into it, so you'll frequently be thinking, "What? I didn't know that was going to happen!" The plot is that you find yourself lying in the middle of nowhere with somebody who will be your partner that wakes you up. You are a human...at least, you were. When you look at yourself...you're a Pokemon. How did this happen? Without much time to ponder this, you and your partner hear from a distressed Butterfree that its son Caterpie fell into a fissure that suddenly opened up in the ground, and when Butterfree went to save Caterpie, once-peaceful Pokemon suddenly attacked aggressively. After saving Caterpie, a rescue team is formed, and many adventures are taken. Revealing much more would be spoiling the plot, since so much happens in a short time, but mainly the plot is full of trying to find out who you really are, helping those in need, saving the world (what else?), and even clearing your name of some dirty things somebody says of you....
GRAPHICS: 7/10. Being on the Game Boy Advance, you can expect 2D graphics, but these seem to be extremely outdated and old, like something you'd find on the Super Nintendo. Still, colors are extremely bright--dull worlds can sometimes mean dull games, you know--and while you can almost see each individual pixel, the collection of them all forming the Pokemon still looks nice enough to prevent you from saying, "Blech." If you really want to see the graphics, check out the Images section of this game here on GameFAQs.
SOUND AND MUSIC: 7/10. Again, this is the Game Boy Advance, so you can expect sounds to naturally be a little muffled and scratchy. It's hard to play a violin or trumpet or something and make it sound perfectly crisp on an "older" hand-held gaming console. The music is not usually anything all that special simply because of the aforementioned restrictions, but it tends to set the mood. When something terrible and often panicky has just been discovered, just the right music plays. And when it's an overjoying moment, just the right music plays again. And even when something sad happens, the right music plays. (The end of the game's main plot can be a tearjerker, especially for you emotional ones out there.) The dungeon music itself, however, is the real "nothing special" part--at times, you may even criticize the music for being so simple and almost under-developed. As for sounds, they also sound outdated. Consisting mainly of bloops, bleeps, and other simple sounds, they might annoy you at first, but after enough playing, you don't notice them. There is no voicework in the game ay all. Just sounds. When attacks are done, just a short little sound plays that still sounds mostly like a bleep.
GAMEPLAY: 8/10. Like I said, this isn't an entirely new concept for Pokemon games. Well, I guess it is, really, seeing as you finally control the Pokemon and the game isn't either a "gotta catch 'em all game" or a "stupid spin-off." It does, however, seem to be caught right in the middle. The graphics and sounds are outdated--as mentioned above--and most of the same rules apply; you can only have four moves, you take turns to attack, and even the fact that the game is viewed from an above angle make it seem like not too much new. Basically, the way to play it is, when you move, the enemy moves. Attacking or using items also counts as moving. Level up by defeating enough Pokemon in your way. When in dungeons, you move invisible square by invisible square. (If you want to see these squares, press either Start or R.) As you make decisions, the enemy moves square by square. Find the staircases in each floor of the dungeon (which is always randomly created on the spur of the moment, so each dungeon floor is different) to move up to the next floor. When you find who you're supposed to be rescuing or some other objective, you may engage in boss fights or simply go back home instantly to claim your rewards. After saving Pokemon, you get points for how hard the mission was. If you get enough points, you'll move up a rank and be recognized more and more as a skilled team.
And yes, in this game, you can "catch" Pokemon. But it's not like the old, throw-the-Poke-Ball method. If you have the Pokemon's right "Friend Area"--in other words, a place they can stay while on your team--the Pokemon might ask to join your team after being defeated in some weird sign of admiration. If you can safely complete the dungeon and get the new recruits out of the dungeon without them fainting, you can keep them as recruits. As you level up (grow stronger in health, attack power, and defensive power) and increase in rank, the chances of Pokemon asking to join your team will increase.
If truth be told, I had no idea Pokemon Mystery Dungeon was going to be like this when I first got it. I could get my hands on little reliable info, so I was under the impression that this game would be a platformer, which would mean that Charmander would hop to a platform, kill the wild Pikachu-ma-bob, hop a few more platforms up, reach the goal...that sort of thing. So I was a little surprised when I first got the game that it was nothing like that, but I found that I enjoyed it anyway.
But it'd still be nice if one day Nintendo made a Pokemon platformer.
Oh yes, I've forgotten to mention the beginning of the game. You can be one of many different Pokemon to start with, but it's decided by taking a personality test. After answering some questions, which will end with "Are you a boy or a girl?" (the answer to that last question will decide which Pokemon you'll be, because each "personality" has a different Pokemon for the male and female genders), you will become a Pokemon. Not happy with it? Try again. My first character was Charmander, which is funny, because Charmander is the poster child for this game.
REPLAY VALUE: 10/10. The game does not end after the main plot. (That's why I call it the "main" plot.) The plot continues with you remaining as a Pokemon, so you can recruit every kind of Pokemon, make your rank the highest, unlock every dungeon, get every friend area, simply rescue oodles of Pokemon, and when that's all done, start over again with a different Pokemon and and different partner with different names and a different team. Much of the Friend Areas and dungeons can only be accessed AFTER you beat the game. It's hard to pack much more replay value into this.
CONTROL EASE: 6/10. Uh, yeah, uh, although the Game Boy Advance has few buttons, it can actually be hard to get the hang of it all for awhile. It'd probably take you about an hour to an hour and a half to work off all the little minor problems. Press A to do your ordinary attack; this moved has no PP (the amount of PP each move has determines how many times it can be used) and is unaffected by defense, but it has no type and is very weak. B, if held, will allow you to zoom across the entire place until you hit a wall, but pressing it lightly will bring up the pause menu. Hold R to allow yourself to move diagonally and turn in place. If you press L and A at the same time, you can use a "set" move instantly. If you press L and R, you can use a set item instantly, providing that it can be set. If you press L and B at the same time, it'll bring up the little information window and allow you to read the progress of former battles and the like. However, the little things come in the fact that the game tends to unexpectedly jerk your cursor to something, since it is assuming that you want to go there. This is SUPPOSED to be for your convenience, but if anything it wastes time and makes things frustrating. That's why it takes between an hour to an hour and a half to memorize the controls, since you need to learn to expect when it's going to jerk the cursor. (It usually does this right after you recruit another Pokemon and enter the "Team" section of the pause screen. It also does it when you exit out of a screen showing that Pokemon's details.)
GAME LENGTH: 9/10. It's hard not to get sidetracked sometimes and complete rescues/train in the Makuhita Dojo/recruiting more Pokemon/whatever, so that'll simply add more time to your table. However, if you simply went through the game without doing any of these things, you'd still find the game to be long. I'd say that if you played it straight through, it'd take between 5-8 hours to complete. For a Game Boy Advance game, that's pretty impressive honestly, and this isn't counting the replay value or distractions like Pokemon rescues.
TOTAL SCORE: 57/70. That's very good. This puts it far above the "okay" range (which is about 50/70) and into a nice little enjoyable game.
FLAWS: The graphics and bleepy sounds may annoy you, as I've said, but they are often taken care of easily. Another annoying factor, though, is the fact that save points are few and far between. If you die, you lose all your money, most of your items, and exit the dungeon and must start from the beginning unless you found a save point IN the dungeon. You can save anytime by going to your house, but if you're in a rough spot in a dungeon, that doesn't usually help. A pathetic, use-anywhere imitation of a save point, called "quicksaving," allows you to save the game and turn it off to take a break. However, if you go back to your game, then shut it off without quicksaving or normal saving again, you'll wind up "dying" and going back to the last actual save point. Another little flaw may be that you can't spend forever on a dungeon floor. If you spend way too long, a message will say something like, "...Something is blowing...." If you don't get to the next floor quick enough, you'll be blown out of the dungeon to your last save point. This is especially annoying in the Meteor Cave stage, where the Deoxys illusions that you must kill to move up to the next floor tend to run around so much that you can't find them, and then you get blown out of the dungeon. As if having the Belly factor wasn't enough...and speaking of the Belly factor, your character gets hungry REAL fast in this game (compared to real life), and if you don't fill the belly up and it becomes empty, you'll lose health with each step you take. So not only must you beware of deadly Pokemon and of taking too long, but of all things starving to death just a few minutes after heavy a busload of berries, seeds, and large apples. Another little flaw is the fact that there are a lot of "hidden" dungeons you can unlock by certain means after you beat the game, and some of these have 99 floors to them. That's insane. It is REALLY annoying to go a long way, then die because of, guess what, hunger problems. I have literally been to the 98th floor and then died from a Lanturn's Flail which did an unbelievable 900 damage to me. Boy, was I steamed...anyway, you usually get great rewards for these things, such as legendary Pokemon that automatically join your team provided you have enough room. Some dungeons are not only 99 floor dungeons, but force you to become a level one Pokemon, erase all skills that you learned after level one, lose all your money and items, and are expected to get to the end. Not to mention that as the most pitiful level one to ever walk this earth, you are instantly pitted against level fives and sixes, which are WAY out of your league if you're a level one with no items and practically no moves. The final flaw is that the plot itself is awesome, but the makers of the game seem to have forgotten the more obvious parts. For instance, "Team Meanies" proudly admit to you the moment you lay eyes on them that their rescue team is a bluff and they're into world domination (which is cliched). Also, everybody suspects that there's something cooky about them, but come on, what does Team "Meanies" say to you!? Also, you and your Pokemon apparently have no idea at all of what "Pokemon evolution" is (not evolution like Darwin, but a Pokemon instantaneously transforming into a bigger, tougher beast). These guys are Pokemon themselves! The last of these little instances is when you and your partner (who has lived in this area all his life) have not heard of the most famous rescue team in, like, the world. Not just that, the most famous team in these parts. Which means obviously your partner should know them. But he doesn't. ???
I know this "flaws" section seems extremely long, but what does my overall score of 8/10 tell you? Still, with this many flaws, you should definitely think about the game a bit before you buy it.
CONCLUSION: While Pokemon Mystery Dungeon offers an incredible story about friendship, loyalty, and perseverance and the chance to save everybody, it has many restrictions as mentioned in the flaws sections. If you have a hacking device like a Gameshark, you might be able to eliminate some of those restrictions, but hey, they all count in as part of the strategy. Read over the flaws and gameplay sections and try to decide if you want to go ahead, enjoy the plot, and save the lives of not only individual people on a rescue team, but the whole world (eventually), or if so many problems and limits will sap the joy out of the game for you.
Overall rating 4.0 - Good