Pokemon Mystery Dungeon is one of my favourite pieces of media out there, and a fanpage for it was a decade overdue on my part.
What is Pokemon Mystery Dungeon? Why is it such a big deal? An isekai! It's an isekai. I could talk about PMD all day everyday if anyone would let me, but I'll start with the bare basics. It's a series of spin-off Pokemon games where, instead of capturing Pokemon and using them as cutely decorated spell-books, every single character, including the player, are the Pokemon themselves.
In each (english released) version, you awaken in the body of a Pokemon that is either assigned to you based on a personality quiz (based) or that you select yourself (that's fine too). You distinctly remember that you were human, but whether you recall anything else varies.
Almost imediately you meet a regular Pokemon who's species is also chosen at the beginning of the game. This cutie will be the best friend you've ever had and will follow to the ends of the earth if they have to. They love you.
Everything beyond this point is where each version's story goes in its own direction, though with very simily story beats and themes. My thoughts on each game are as following:
PMD2 / Explorers of Sky (Nintendo DS) Hands down the version with the most praised and extensive storylines (yes, plural). It's an extended cut of Explorers of Time & Darkness with extra missions, features, and special episodes that focus on the perspective of the various supporting cast. PMD2 likely has one of the most genuine and emotionally driven stories you'll find in a Pokemon game, focussing on themes of love, bravery, accepting your own mortality, and sacrifice. It was the first video game to ever make me cry and it's been an endless source of comfort to me ever since.
PMD1 / Red Rescue Team (Gameboy) Blue Rescue Team (Nintendo DS) PMD1 is the original installation of the PMD series and has a unique and beautifully comfy aesthetic. The story is far less developed that PMD2, but still comtains many of its core themes (friendship, bravery) though with none of the existential mortality talk. Although the story is lighter and simpler, it's still much more engaging that anything you'll find in main series Pokemon, with memorable moments and charming characters.An absolute classic!
PMDX / Rescue Team DX (Nintendo Switch) A loving remake of PMD1 with extensive quality of life improvements and watercolour-themed 3D visuals. I personally find the 2D visuals more charming, but as far as 3D installments go, this one is really pretty, despite how offputting some of the models and animations are on certain pokemon (RIP ekans and vaporeon).The gameplay is very different from its original version but this is far from a bad thing, and actually makes the game far more enjoyable and varied. I absolutely recommend picking it up!
PMD4 / Super Pokemon Mystery Dungeon (Nintando 3DS) The most criminally underated installation of the entire series! The beginning is slow and the visuals can be a bit bland, but the gameplay has all of the upgrades found in DX and the starter pool is the largest we've had yet. The story is the only version to compete with PMD2. The dialogue feels more natural, the story twists the previous games' tropes in some delightful ways, and the partner is now the shining start of the whole thing (finally being given their own backstory and adorably unique personality). The beginning may be slow, but please give this hidden gem a chance!
PMD3 / Gates to Infinity (Nintando 3DS) This is the only game in the series I've never seen the end of. This game has a lot of nice ideas and nice quirks but sadly enough time wasn't put into it to hold up to the other installments. Worst part is the bug that foiund its way into the english localization, which makes it impossible to speed up or skip the text scroll... even while navuigating the menu! This makes every interaction, text box and mechanic painfully slow and tedious. I really do want to beat this game one day, as it's still got a lot to offer a PMD fan, but sadly I do not have the patience right now.