If I’m being honest I didn’t really have anything planned for this post. I always seem to forget that sometimes the month ends up with five Fridays and so I have to come up with another new post. Now I could write a post about the next generation and keep up the trend I have been going with for the past month. What stops me from doing so is the fact that I may want to return to another month of Pokémon in the future to cover the other four generations and doing one of the generations now would mess things up. So instead let’s consider this Gen 4.5 as I talk about one of the spinoff games that I truly love in Gen IV and that is Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time/Darkness/Sky. This should be obvious but I am going to gush a lot so be wary of spoilers. The reason why I love this game so much is mainly because the story is really well thought out and engaging. I can’t even begin to describe how ecstatic I was on my first playthrough of this game. To begin with let’s start with the fact that the game decided to actually do something interesting with Pokémon that are essentially gods. The whole main story revolves around trying to prevent the flow of time from being distorted to the point where it stops entirely. Now it sounds a lot more impressive and high stakes than just bad guys trying to take over the world in a very incompetent manner. As far as time travel stories go, I find this one to be pretty decent and it actually allows for some interesting questions and character moments. It is amazing how I actually feel like I am saving the world more than I ever did in any mainstream Pokémon game. It really feels like an actual RPG.
Well, when I say that I mainly mean in terms of scale since the gameplay feels kind of like a mix between an RPG and an RTS I guess? As you move through mystery dungeons, which is a fun way of saying go through procedurally generated dungeons, you encounter Pokémon that spawn in and they move as you move through the dungeon and encountering them leads to a battle. It is possible to be ganged up on multiple Pokémon at once because of this which I think feels a lot more realistic that walking into some grass and encountering one Pokémon at a time. Then again what is realistic about Pokémon anyway? What can get annoying is when Pokémon with weather effects spawn and constantly do damage to you. This is especially bad when you have run out of food and are going hungry. Yes, there is a hunger meter and yes I usually do run out of food. It’s fine though since most dungeons aren’t long enough for this to be a considerable issue. All the battling feels more complicated and yet familiar and so I find it to be a lot of fun. That is until I end up finding a monster house where twenty Pokémon spawn in around me and I pray to Arceus that I won’t get wiped. I think my favorite thing about the gameplay though is the fact that the areas are procedurally generated which I’ll admit is a bit weird. The reason why I like it so much is because I can play the same levels multiple times to find different Pokémon and it never feels that tedious since the layouts are different each time. If I am going to grind, I would rather have it so it doesn’t feel too repetitive so having the environment changing each time is a nice way to help with that. Of course be able to fight multiple Pokémon in quick succession really helps with that.
Let’s go back to the story for a bit. The main story as I mentioned is quite great on its own and unlike the first games of the Mystery Dungeon series, your role is more significant to the story than just telling Rayquaza to look up. Your presence in the game is mysterious, but you learn more about why you are there as time goes on. You even have a special role to play by being able to see into the past and the future. Now you end up finding out as the game goes on the circumstances that led to you traveling through time and eventually becoming a Pokémon. You don’t even get the full picture until after beating the true final boss of the game. Yes, there is a true final boss. in fact there is a lot more story after the initial ending. By the end I really felt a connection to the different characters and I felt like I was a part of this world. How is it that I can be more involved in this story than I am trying to be a Pokémon trainer. Although to be honest, don’t you think it’s weird. Nowadays why do we go out on a journey again? We go out to complete the Pokédex right? Just think about how the professor of the region entrusts you with a task and somewhere along the way not only does that get pushed to the side and forgotten about entirely, but you also end up stumbling into saving the world and becoming the champion. Then the game ends as if to say that this was everything you set out to achieve. When did that even happen? In the Mystery Dungeon games the plot is simply save the world, but everything is based around that idea. Mainstream Pokémon games have no idea what they are doing when it comes to the story. Saving the world should not be a mild distraction on your way to becoming the champion. At least have a little bit of worldbuilding so that I care about what is happening. To be fair, all of this is mainly directed at Gen IV, a generation that can have such entertaining spinoffs and yet has one of the most basic and safest Pokémon experiences imaginable. I guess at the end of the day the reason why I like the spinoffs in Gen IV is because they choose to actually focus on the Pokémon. Look, I just wanted to get my thoughts across to highlight more about my blogpost last week. I promise next time I will do something more lighthearted such as why most Pokémon trainers are forbidden from having dads.