In 2006, Nintendo released the Chunsoft-developed Pokemon Mystery Dungeon:Red Rescue Team and Blue Rescue Team games. These two versions were only marginally different. The game combined the Pokemon characters with Chunsoft’s traditional Mystery Dungeon gameplay, to moderate success but without the addictive nature of either.
It’s all just a little bit of history repeating. 2008 sees the release of yet another Pokemon Mystery Dungeon installment, Explorers of Time and Explorers of Darkness, and there’s really nothing new here. The new creatures from Diamond and Pearl have been added in, including the new starters. Upon playing, though, you come to realize that, except for type differences, the creatures all play the same. As long as your creature’s type isn’t weak to your opponent’s, battling is simply reusing your best move until one of you loses.
The controls are also the same as in Rescue Team. Moving in cardinal directions is easy enough, but the game expects the player to move diagonally, and doing so requires holding down the L button and pressing a diagonal. This is an understandable attempt at making it easier to not accidentally move left when you want to move up-left, but the implementation is weak, and accidental moves still happen. Unfortunately, this comes up in battle, and a wasted move leaves you open to an extra attack. Many times, the battles are even, so victory is then a result of lucky breaks rather than skill and tactical prowess.
One thing that the game (and every Mystery Dungeon game) has going for it is the use of randomized dungeons. Human-designed dungeons are typically more challenging and enjoyable; random dungeons sometimes spawn exits in the same room as entrances. However, this random nature does allow for infinite replayability. If someone truly wants to complete this game, it takes getting hundreds of characters to level 100. While this is highly unlikely, some prefer games that offer a lot of bang for the buck, and it’s hard to argue against PMD in that regard.
The difference in Time and Darkness essentially boils down to the top prize Pokemon: Darkness features Mewtwo and Time stars Celebi. There are also a few other exclusives, but those are not very powerful and are simply a ploy to promote trade between versions.
To justify these two versions, an addition in the latest Mystery Dungeon games is the ability to “call for help” and have another player rescue you from a dungeon, allowing you to keep your items and experience instead of losing most of it. Explorers allows this to be done through the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection or local wireless. While this is an intriguing feature, most players can get themselves back to that area in the time it takes to find a friend to rescue them.
Explorers of Time and Explorers of Darkness aren’t bad. For people who really enjoy Chunsoft games, it continues the line, and for those who haven’t ever played one, this isn’t a bad way to get a taste of the genre. For those, however, that dabbled in the genre with the first PMD game, there isn’t much here to warrant a second purchase.