Don't catch them all, for goodness sake. Kill them with no mercy!
Pokemon Mystery Dungeon breaks from the Pokemon formula so substantially that it may be worth a look for non-Pokemon fans. Though it is still in essence an RPG with monsters, it does not appear to feature any catching of “them all," as we might have expected. The game is billed as the first in which you play as actual Pokemon, as well as hear them speak. The battles are of a completely different form than previous Pokemon games, which should catch Pokemon-haters' eyes, while the game rides on the strength and diversity of the little creatures, making it perfect for fans as well.
The E3 demo begins with a series of questions about yourself. I actually felt vaguely uncomfortable about telling a DS everything about my life; some of the questions were, "If you were going to fill up a bucket, would you fill it a little, halfway, or all the way?" and "When you are alone, do you feel lonely?" and "If you saw a hand sticking out of a toilet, would you run and scream or shake it?" Though at first it was not clear why Pokemon Mystery Dungeon wanted to know these things about me, (I suppose I am pretty attractive), but after the grilling was complete I was advised that, based on my answers, I am, in fact always have been, a Cyndaquil. Who knew? Vincent (SS4Gogita) also played the game and he was assigned Charmander, while Mike Gamin (Pale) became Machop. Though Vincent was pleased with his entirely accurate Pokemonification, Pale was peeved with his. I personally think Machop is suitable for him. This feature alone got me hooked, and while it is unclear how many Pokemon possibilities there are, it must be in the double digits.
But this is no inconsequential game element – you see, you play a human who has been turned into a Pokemon, ergo it is appropriate that your Pokemon represent you. As soon as the game begins, you have a conversation with a Bulbasaur who wants to help you by taking you home, (no word on his intentions). You form a team and start wandering around. When you encounter an enemy, (funny enough, these are other Pokemon), you enter a battle mode of sorts. I say "of sorts" because the screen does not change in any way, though your character does get locked next to your opponent. It seems movement is possible while in this mode, but very limited. Your attacks are apparently on a timer. Once you hit the A button, your character will attack, then you must wait until you can attack again. Your ally, meanwhile, will attack the enemy independently. There are traditional experience points and stats that improve as you win battles.
As you are heading to Bulbasaur's Home of Wanton Delight, you encounter your first mission: help a Butterfree find her lost Caterpie. You travel through some generic land with grass, go down some stairs, pick up a few items, and finally find it. Overall, it wasn’t eventful, but the battle mechanic is simple and fun, and who doesn’t love to level up? It is unclear, though, why the Caterpie's life is more valuable than the countless Pidgeys you murder on the way.
An interesting facet of Pokemon Mystery Dungeon is the heavy reliance on dialogue, and, it would seem, story. There were a lot of things that my Cyndaquil had to say to the Bulbasaur, and there appears to be a town later on that is inhabited entirely by Pokemon. With a lot of dialogue, some dungeon hopping, and the chance to experience the Pokemon characters you already know, I can see fans of simple RPGs, real-time battle, and, of course, Pokemon getting a huge kick out of this game. The DS version did not seem to offer any extra DS features – the game played on the bottom screen, and the top was a map. Due to Nintendo’s abandonment of the GBA and GC at E3 2006, we probably won’t see what the other version, Red, is like.