Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon

Super Mystery Dungeon came out 5 years ago, but I’m playing it now, so… yeah.

Ed Note: the full name for any of the games in the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series tends to be Pokémon Mystery Dungeon : <Title of the Rest of the Game>. Because these titles end up being 7 words long, I’ve shortened them down to just <Title of the Rest of the Game> for this writeup.

I really like the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series. This shouldn’t be confused with the Mystery Dungeon Mainline series, or any of the spinoffs. In fact, I recently tried to play one of the mainline series, which led me back to playing Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon instead, because Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate kicked my ass.

So what exactly makes up the Mystery Dungeon series, why do I like the spinoff Pok é mon games better, and am I filthy casual for jumping off the mainline series?

First off, let’s briefly talk about the Mystery Dungeon Series as a whole. It’s the name for a whole bunch of games published by Chunsoft. And because I’ve only played one game in the series that isn’t a spinoff, I’m gonna just link the Wikipedia article here. Generally speaking, though, it’s one of the few games that can be described as roguelike without annoying that magical group of people who are overly twitchy about the roguelike label being misapplied. That is to say, it’s a turn-based dungeon crawler on a grid.

So, second question. Why do I like the Pokémon spinoff games better? While this article is specifically talking about Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon, I’ve played and really enjoyed Blue Rescue Team and Explorers of Time. Gates to Infinity was mediocre. But it didn’t turn me off the series enough to avoid Super Mystery Dungeon when it came out. To answer why I like the spinoff games better than the mainline ones, I’m going to compare the games to what I’ve seen so far of Shiren, and list the things the Pokémon games do differently. Here’re a few of the reasons:

Wiping in a dungeon in the spinoff games doesn’t reset your level. While you do lose all your items and money, you don’t go back to level 1. This means that you can grind your way through bullshit, and a wipe doesn’t feel like a complete loss of progress.

Speaking of which, escape scrolls/escape orbs (items that let you escape the dungeon with all of your stuff if everything looks like it’s about to go to shit) actually drop in the Pokemon games, while they apparently only show up if you get rescued in a dungeon in the mainline series.

Oh, and revival seeds exist, so that when an enemy you haven’t seen before TPK’s your squad, you can actually keep playing, instead of just getting dunked on.

The fact that the game has Pokémon as the characters is a benefit, but perhaps even more importantly for me, as the games go on, you get the ability to play as almost any of them, which gives a massive pool of playable characters.

Outside of all these mechanics though, one thing I’ve always liked about Pokémon in general is the sense of exploration. There’s always been something neat and magical for me about the idea of venturing around somewhere and discovering something fantastic. And while I don’t get that feeling from the current mainline Pokémon games, it’s still present in the Mystery Dungeon spinoffs.

So now that we know why I like the Pokémon spinoffs the best, let’s talk about why I like Super Mystery Dungeon the most of the spinoffs.

While the general gameplay is the same, there are a few big changes to how teambuilding works for the post game. For starters, you recruit new team members by completing missions and adding them to your connection sphere. This is nice compared to the older games which instead required you to defeat an enemy, and then win a hidden role to recruit them. In addition to that, you then had to either complete or escape the dungeon with said team member.

Next up, treasure! Super Mystery Dungeon has treasure chests, like the games before it, but also has gold bars, a secondary currency that you keep regardless of whether you wipe or not in a dungeon. They’re just fun to get, and unlike other items, they don’t actually show up on the mini-map. Instead, they show as little sparkles that you have to walk over, and when you do, you’ll get gold bars or another useful item.

If I have a complaint about Super Mystery Dungeon, it would be that prior to the postgame, the game felt a bit slow. To be fair, I was playing it about 3 years ago. But I remember being frustrated by how slowly I learned new moves and leveled up.

So that’s the Mystery Dungeon set of games. If the idea of a cool little Pokemon dungeon crawler with a massive amount of content and postgame appeals to you, break out that 3DS, grab yourself a copy off eBay, and dive in.

Pokémon: Unite

You can skip Pokémon: Unite, unless you’re a massive sucker for anything Pokémon related. Like I am.

For me, the ultimate test of any licensed game consists of two very simple questions:

  1. Would I play this game if it didn’t have the licensed branding?

    And
  2. Am I going to play it anyway, because I am a consumer whore?

For the best sort of licensed game, such as something like Pokémon Mystery Dungeon, the answer to question 1 is a solid “Yes.” This is something I can say with confidence because I’ve been playing a bunch of Shiren the Wanderer, and it kicks ass. Then we have stuff like Pokken, which is more of a “Sorta,”(but it’s not because the game is bad, just because I don’t really play fighting games).

On the flip side, we have games like Magic: Legends, which gets a solid double “No.”

And then in the middle, we have things like Disgaea: RPG, and, the actual topic of this article, Pokémon: Unite.

I am a sucker for pretty much anything Pokémon. This doesn’t mean I’m 100% “Consume Product,” but if there is something Pokémon related, and it doesn’t cost me money to try it, I probably will.

I’m not sure how long I’ll play Pokémon: Unite for. It honestly might be less than a week. The primary reason to play it over something else is that it’s on the Switch, it’s Pokémon themed… and that’s about it.

The main reason is that while the theming, sound, graphics, etc are charming, the gameplay itself is lacking any incredible moments, and the meta-progression/economy is absolute garbage. Also, I have some problems with its informational display, but at least my UI complaints are correctable.

Let’s start with the gameplay: Pokémon: Unite brings exactly one new interesting idea to the MOBA genre, and that is the victory condition/scoring. Instead of towers or ancients to destroy, there are a series of hoops. You gain score by collecting points, and then convert those points into score by channeling at these hoops. So the basic loop is: build up points by KOing wild Pokémon, go to a hoop, channel and score. It’s an interesting mechanic that leads to some neat tension. And that last sentence right there is a the nicest thing I’m gonna say about the game for the rest of this article.

Okay, this isn’t a great combat screenshot. The UI usually isn’t this busy, but it’s the one I have.

The rest of the game feels fairly standard, like a dumbed down version of Heroes of the Storm. There are a few different maps, with different layouts, but similar objectives. Your hero champion Pokémon have an auto-attack, two specials, an ultimate that takes 8 years to charge, and a summoner spell battle item. In either case, the end result is that in any fight, you have effectively two activatable moves, but I’ve yet to see a situation where it doesn’t feel like I’d want to just spam them. There’s no mana cost to discourage you from doing so, and the cooldowns for the moves are fairly short.

I can’t believe it’s not flash!

The end result is a game that feels bland, to the point that I’m bored with writing about how boring it can be. So let’s move on to the next part of the game that sucks: meta-progression.

Everything about the game’s meta-progression is garbage, and I can summarize why I hate the system in two sentences.

Unless you want to spend real money, unlocking a new character costs between 6000 and 10000 gold. The maximum amount of gold you can earn in a week from winning random battles is 2140.

Yes, you can get more gold from doing quests, and limited time events. Yes, you can get gold by leveling up your trainer level. Yes, you can get gold by finishing the tutorials, or doing some weird slot machine thing. It doesn’t matter. The core point is that the game is designed to be an absolute slog for grinding out the ability to play more characters, leveling up equipment, etc.

The game feels like a cheap mobile game, in the sense that it’s designed to make you log on to do your dailies, to build the habit of playing a few matches, and then leaving. Instead of having you come back for the gameplay, or exciting updates, you’ll come back because if you do for just a few more weeks, you can unlock a new character! Or you could just spend like $10, and get them right now!

Oh, and it has a premium currency, bonus boosters, a battle pass, and just about every other feasible way short of straight up gacha. The game even has a kinda gacha in its energy roulette system, but at least you can’t directly pay money for it.

Oh, and while we’re at it, I have one last big gripe. Keywords, description, functionality and stats. Every attack in the game is something like this:

Secondary gripe: why do I have to confirm moves being upgraded when I get them? Just upgrade them! Don’t make me press buttons twice.

And then we have items in the game that look like this:

40 SPEED UNITS OF SPEED

Do you see it? Or perhaps more specifically, do you not see it? “It” in this case, being any sort of useful information/way to measure the actual numbers/damage/etc that your character can do in a game? Because I sure don’t. At least this one they can probably fix, but why isn’t it there already?

Pokémon: Unite isn’t awful, but it isn’t very good. There are better games to play on the Switch, better MOBAs to play in general, and better Pokémon spinoffs. If for some reason after all this, you still want to play it, it’s Switch exclusive right now, so just go find it on the eShop.

MIT League Challenge 3/7/20

So, whenever I have good and bad news. I usually ask for the bad news first. So I’m gonna start with that.

I did not do well at the League Challenge. In fact, I came in second to last.

However, there is some good news to this, and it is as follows.

Yeah, I somehow managed to come in 4th. As you might have guessed, this would have been more impressive if it hadn’t been 5 people competing.

So what happened, and what went wrong? That’s what I’ll be covering in the rest of this writeup.

DECKLIST

Pokemon – 20
4 Jirachi TEU 99
3 Mewtwo & Mew-GX UNM 71
3 Dedenne-GX UNB 57
1 Charizard-GX HIF 9
1 Reshiram & Charizard-GX UNB 20
1 Magcargo-GX LOT 44
1 Latios-GX UNM 78
1 Naganadel-GX FLI 56
1 Naganadel-GX UNM 160
1 Solgaleo-GX PR-SM 104
1 Mega Lopunny & Jigglypuff-GX CEC 165
1 Victini V SSH 25
1 Blacephalon CEC 104
Trainer – 28
4 Welder UNB 189
1 Professor’s Research SSH 178
4 Quick Ball SSH 179
4 Cherish Ball UNM 191
4 Switch SSH 183
2 Great Catcher CEC 192
2 Reset Stamp UNM 206
2 Escape Board UPR 122
2 Stealthy Hood UNB 186
3 Giant Hearth UNM 197
Energy – 12
8 Fire Energy 2
2 Psychic Energy 5
2 Weakness Guard Energy UNM 213

If this list looks familar, that might be because it’s an exact copy of Nico Alabas’s ( @LimitlessNico ) list from the Melbourne International a few weeks back. You can see more of the standings, and decks used here.

GAME 1 – LOSS TO PIKAROM
Game 1 was against a an electric deck, that appeared to be a variant of Pikarom using the Morpeko V and Morpeko V MAX. However, instead of using the V Max’s attack, it primarily used memory energy with it to allow it to blast with Electro Wheel, and then retreat and swap in a Lillies Pokedoll. Overall, I wasn’t able to hit hard enough, and simply got beaten down and outplayed.

GAME 2 – WIN VS PIKAROM

Game 2 was a win, but was a much closer match up. Despite playing vs Pikarom, I was able to hold on, and after two of my Dedennes got sniped, my opponent misplayed, and tried to use Tapu Koko’s V’s Thunderous Bolt twice in a row. Unfortunately, that’s not how that attack works. The game went to time, and with both of us having two prizes left, he retreated his Tapu Koko V on turn two, meaning I needed to either knock out both of his basics in play, or the Koko on the bench. I was just barely able to get the 200 damage from Mega Lopunny & Jigglypuff GX with Puffy Smashers GX, and take the game on turn 3 of time.

GAME 3 – LOSS TO MILL

Game 3 was against mill, and was one of roughest openings I’ve ever had piloting the deck. My opening hand had no draw, and my starting Pokemon was Dedenne GX. Despite this, of the match-ups, this felt like the most winnable one. However, I utterly botched first. Of my three answers to a mill deck, my Blacephalon got milled turn one. Then, I rather foolish put both my Nagandel GX, and my Magcargo GX into the discard at the same time. From then on, I just got locked out and milled down with Pal Pad, Lt. Surge, and Bellelba & Brycen-Man.

For me, this game felt the worst because it was a match-up I could have won if I had played differently.

SO WHAT WENT WRONG?

Of the three games, I feel like I definitely should have been able to win at least 2 of them. However, in game 3, I critically failed to understand how the control combo worked, and made what I’d consider to be several major misplays. They were as follows

  1. Knocking out his pokemon, allowing him to use Lt. Surge
  2. Discarding both my Magcargo GX and Nagandel GX at the same time, allowing him to remove them with Girafarig.

I think that if I had gone for one at a time at a maximum, I would have possibly been able to reset the prize card status, or go for a mill win with Magcargo GX mill 5. But I let my win conditions get removed, while helping him set up his prizes.

For game 1, I think I would have won if I had teched slightly differently. One of the biggest issues I had piloting the deck overall was having a very hard time grabbing psychic energy when I needed it. The deck only runs two, and venom shock is a really good tool for dealing with benched mons, and stuff like Morpeko. If I was to run the list again, I might try adding a Viridian Forest.

I want to stress I don’t think this would generally improve the deck for a larger event. It did, after all, win an international. However, I think that the deck most likely shines against ADP and Zacian V decks. At a smaller event, however, a Viridian Forest would help the toolbox nature of the deck set up a bit faster.

Finally, I also mispredicted the sorts of decks I expected to see. I was expecting to see a lot more goons, and maybe a few weird grass decks. But there wasn’t actually a single one.

That’s all for now, thanks for reading, and hopefully I can report better progress next time.