I started out my time with Pokemon Mysterious Dungeon by being placed in control of a very cute little Skitty, who apparently leads a rescue team in the town you start out in. After meeting a Torchic who lives nearby, the two join forces and obtain a mission from a simple little mailbox outside the Skitty hero's house. The job? Some Magnemites are in trouble in the nearby Thunderwave Cave, and it's up to your rescue team to save the day!
By means of an overworld map ala Super Mario RPG, I was able to navigate the pair of Pokemon heroes easily to the next area, the cave, where the core of the gameplay is found. Maneuvering through the cave was a little bit awkward at first; indeed, most of the controls took a little bit of getting used to, though by the end of the experience it wasn't too bad. The game appears at first glance to be an action RPG, but in reality it is more tactical in nature; when enemy Pokemon draw near, attacks are placed based on a sort of grid-based chess-like system. If enemy Pokemon appear on the same screen as the player, certain indirect special attacks such as Growl or Tail Whip will be effective, and require PP (as they did in the original Pokemon titles). In a grid square right next to an enemy, on the other hand, I was able to use either a default attack using the A button or an offensive special attack. My Skitty had the Tackle option available to it, which was more effective than a default attack and it also granted more experience upon an enemy's defeat, though of course, also required PP to use. As in recent Pokemon titles, Pokemon have innate abilities; for example, Skitty had a special ability to randomly infatuate attacking opponents. Attacks are not performed in realtime; instead, they are turn-based, and the Torchic that was accompanying me acted on its own, in turn, controlled by AI.
It's difficult to tell exactly how good the AI is in this respect, and I wasn't entirely sure if I could actually take control of Torchic myself. Level-ups occurred fairly frequently throughout the dungeon, and as one might suspect, new techniques and boosted stats are the bonus that comes with that.
The dungeon itself was interesting for the first floor, but became a little bit monotonous by the end; the dungeon design seems to be either largely uncreative or just randomly-generated. Items such as berries, apples, and money lie about and may be easily obtained by walking right over them. Keeping your Pokemon well-fed seems to be an important element in this game, as feeding the Pokemon heroes regularly will keep their bellies full; they gradually become hungrier over time. After fighting my way through six floors of the dungeon, I stumbled upon the Magnemites in trouble, and by rescuing them, I was transported outside, where they happily rewarded me with a monetary reimbursement for a job well done. It's unclear at this point if this means that it will be a mission-based game or not, but it certainly seems like a possibility.
Graphically, the game looked sub-par for a DS game, but the gameplay itself was fairly involving and an interesting take on the original Pokemon system once I got to know the game a little bit better. Hopefully, this will prove to be a promising, brand-new entry into the Pokemon franchise when it finally hits North American stores later this year.