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Mystery Dungeon Franchise
不思議のダンジョン
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Information
Developer(s) Spike Chunsoft (formerly Chunsoft), Square Enix (formerly SquareSoft), Matrix Software, Cavia, Neverland, h.a.n.d., Arika
Publisher(s) Spike Chunsoft (formerly Chunsoft and Spike), Square Enix (formerly SquareSoft and Enix), Nintendo, The Pokémon Company, Sega, Atlus, Aksys Games, Namco, SoftBank Creative, Konami
Platform(s) Super Famicom, Nintendo 64, Nintendo Wii, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation, PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 4, Bandai WonderSwan, Sega Dreamcast, Microsoft Windows, Mobile Phones, Smartphones
Genre(s) Roguelike, Role-playing Game
Mode(s) Single player, Multiplayer Co-op, Multiplayer Competitive
Engine Various
Version Various
Release date(s)
WW September 13, 1993 - December 2, 2020
Additional info
System requirements
Varied by game and platform.
Release years for new titles
1993 Torneko's Great Adventure: Mystery Dungeon
1994
1995 Mystery Dungeon 2: Shiren the Wanderer
1996 BS Shiren the Wanderer: Save Surala
Shiren the Wanderer GB: Moonlight-Village Monster
1997 Chocobo's Mysterious Dungeon
1998 Chocobo's Dungeon 2
1999 Torneko: The Last Hope
2000 Shiren the Wanderer 2: Demon Invasion! Shiren Castle!
2001 Shiren the Wanderer GB2: Magic Castle of the Desert
2002 Shiren the Wanderer Side Story: Female Swordsman Asuka Arrives!
Torneko's Great Adventure 3: Mystery Dungeon
2003
2004 The Nightmare of Druaga: Mystery Dungeon
TwinBee Dungeon
Mobile Suit Gundam: Mystery Dungeon
2005 Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Red & Blue Rescue Team
2006 Dragon Quest: Young Yangus and the Mysterious Dungeon
2007 Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time & Darkness
2008 Shiren the Wanderer 3: The Sleeping Princess of the Karakuri Mansion
2009 Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Adventure Squad
2010 Shiren the Wanderer 4: The Eye of God and the Devil's Navel
Shiren the Wanderer 5: The Fortune Tower and the Dice of Fate
2011 Shiren the Wanderer: The Rainbow Labyrinth
2012 Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity
2013
2014
2015 Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon
Etrian Mystery Dungeon
Mystery Chronicle: One Way Heroics
2016
2017 Etrian Mystery Dungeon 2
2018
2019 Chocobo's Mystery Dungeon Every Buddy!
2020 Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX
Shiren the Wanderer: The Tower of Fortune and the Dice of Fate

The Mystery Dungeon franchise (Japanese: 不思議のダンジョン) is a long-running series of roguelikes created originally by Chunsoft (later Spike Chunsoft), a Japanese developer company, in 1993. Eventually growing to include other developers and publishers, the series now spans multiple console generations, platforms and uses both licensed and original characters.

About the franchise[edit | edit source]

Origins[edit | edit source]

During the 1990s, the computer role-playing game genre became famous in Japan due to the successful hit of the Dragon Quest series. However, most of the roguelike games that were published for PC used to not have a Japanese translation; the genre's recognition remained low as a result. While following the basic game system of roguelike games, other companies tried to bring the genre into a home console. Two of the earliest-known attempts were Sega's Fatal Labyrinth and Dragon Crystal, both games released in 1990, but which lacked the depth of a typical computer-based roguelike. Neither proved to be successful games.[1]

Koichi Nakamura, founder of Chunsoft and co-creator of the Dragon Quest series, conceived the series as Chunsoft's first original work.[2] After the launch of the Super Famicom and finishing development for Dragon Quest V, they ceased working on the Dragon Quest series and began working on the Mystery Dungeon series.[2] The series was based on the game Rogue, which has spawned its own genre called roguelike.[2] For a week, Nakamura played Rogue at the recommendation of a staff member, trying to understand the game's appeal, and concluded the high degree of challenge made the game very rewarding.[2] Torneko's Great Adventure: Mystery Dungeon was published in 1993 and became the first video game to bear the "Mystery Dungeon" moniker.[3] Even if it sold less than the series' main titles, the game has sold over 800,000 copies. Two years later, in 1995, Mystery Dungeon 2: Shiren the Wanderer was released as their second work, with a new world setting.

Nakamura explained that the appeal of the Mystery Dungeon series is that every game is different and that players skills are constantly being challenged, which helps the player feel deeply involved.[2] Seiichiro Nagahata, who supervised and planned the development of Shiren the Wanderer DS, explained that the Mystery Dungeon series is all about "tension" and "reasoning".[4]

Dragon Quest Mystery Dungeon titles[edit | edit source]

See also the page: Dragon Quest Mystery Dungeon

After the launch of the Super Famicom and finishing development for Dragon Quest V, the company ceased working on the Dragon Quest series and began working on the Mystery Dungeon series.[2] The series was based on the 1980's game Rogue, which has spawned its own genre called roguelike.[2] For a week Koichi Nakamura, founder of Chunsoft and co-creator of the Dragon Quest series, played Rogue at the recommendation of a colleague, Seiichiro Nagahata, trying to understand the game's appeal, and concluded the high degree of challenge made the game very rewarding. While working on a roguelike game for the Super Famicom, the team decided to use characters from a recognizable franchise in Japan. Koichi Nakamura has asked Yuji Horii, creator of the Dragon Quest series, about the possibility to add characters and items from the Dragon Quest franchise, and Torneko, the merchant appearing in Chunsoft's previous work Dragon Quest IV, only to have the permission accepted soon after.[5][2] Torneko no Daibōken: Fushigi no Dungeon was published in 1993 and became the first video game to bear the "Mystery Dungeon" moniker.[6] Even if it sold less than the series' main titles, the game has sold over 800,000 copies. Koichi Nakamura conceived the series as Chunsoft's first original work.[2] The game spawned two sequels starring Torneko, Torneko: The Last Hope in 1999 and Dragon Quest Characters: Torneko's Great Adventure 3 in 2002, and a follow-up, Dragon Quest: Young Yangus and the Mysterious Dungeon in 2006, where Torneko would appear as a cameo instead of the protagonist. And indeed, the game became the first of the over thirty Mystery Dungeon rogue-like series.[7]

Other characters other than Torneko would become playable throughout the titles: Torneko's own son Tipper in Torneko's Great Adventure 3: Mystery Dungeon and Young Yangus in the spin-off and prequel of Dragon Quest Ⅷ: Journey of the Cursed King, Dragon Quest: Young Yangus and the Mysterious Dungeon.

As of now, only World of Dragon Warrior: Torneko: The Last Hope was able to receive an official translation and port in North America. The other games have remained in Japan due to the series' popularity in Japan, being more important than overseas between the '90s and the early 2000s.

Shiren the Wanderer titles[edit | edit source]

See also the page: Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer

The company wanted to work on the new features and gameplay mechanics added in NetHack, a variant of Rogue, one of them was being able to steal items from a shopkeeper. However, it was not possible to translate the new content from Nethack with characters from the Dragon Quest series; one such with Torneko who is a merchant. Two years after the release of Torneko's Great Adventure, Mystery Dungeon 2: Shiren the Wanderer was released as the company's second work for the Mystery Dungeon series, with a new world setting and unique characters.[5] Many titles from this series were developed simultaneously throughout the years, where one title was focused on creating original features in its gameplay than the other for which they were forced to focus on "traditional dungeon types" due to the limitations on the other hardware; Mystery Dungeon 2: Shiren the Wanderer on Super Famicom and Shiren the Wanderer GB: Moonlight Village Monster on Game Boy, and Shiren the Wanderer 2: Demon Invasion! Shiren Castle! on Nintendo 64 and Shiren the Wanderer GB2: Magic Castle of the Desert on Game Boy Color.[8] An unique gameplay element that first appeared in Moonlight Village Monster and would appear later in the Mystery Dungeon franchise and its crossovers is rescuing other players via passwords. They went with the idea of player sharing passwords instead of them using the Game Boy's Game Link Cable in order to help others since there were not many owners of the cable. This idea was expanded in Shiren the Wanderer Side Story: Swordswoman Asuka Arrives! with the addition of online support. Within the online support, players would receive new dungeons, called either "Weekly Dungeon"; a dungeon that can be played online on a weekly basis, or "Challenge Dungeon"; the dungeon's difficulty would be increased and useful items would appear less frequently.

The naming and numbering convention of Shiren the Wanderer games is complex due to the fact that the company has made many games (all derived upon and building upon the "Mystery Dungeon" roguelike framework) on various platforms and localized for various markets over the course of decades. For example, what players today call "Shiren 1" (the first game featuring the character Shiren) was in fact originally called "Mystery Dungeon 2", as it was the second game using the Mystery Dungeon framework. Some games were apparently numbered based on their original release platform plus their release sequence on that platform while others originally had unique titles with no numbers featured. Then, over the course of time, some but not all of these games were ported to other platforms or localized into English and sold in other markets, often under a new name as the original name or number wouldn't have made much sense in the new market. Games that were released in English were often released many years after their initial Japanese releases, even though one or newer games in the series had already been released in Japan in the intervening period. Games that were re-released on other platforms also sometimes included additional content that was not part of the first release, or that was optional downloadable content (DLC) for the first release. Fortunately for the English-speaking audience, the company seems to have bundled all DLC whenever they have localized a game into English.

To date, only three Shiren games have been officially localized into English. Note that none of the English titles uses the same numbering system as the original Japanese titles did. But lack of officially localized releases has not stopped some hardcore English-speaking fans of the series from playing other games in the series, either via imported games and struggling to play in a foreign language or via hacks, mods and player translations. Consequently, this site has more complete information for games that were officially released in English but also has content for other games in the series as well.

The name or numbering convention is so complex that English-speaking fans of the series usually use shorthand names or nicknames for the games in the series. Unfortunately, there is no single canonical short name for each game used by all players, as different audiences favored different short names based on which release or re-release they were playing. For convenience, this site uses short names based on the original release title to the greatest extent possible, otherwise, the short name is derived from the original release platform plus the sequence on that platform.

This series has also let the franchise have its first spin-off game in 2004, titled Shiren Monsters: Netsal. It is only one game based on the monsters from the Shiren the Wanderer series.[9]

Chocobo's Mystery Dungeon titles[edit | edit source]

See also the page: Chocobo's Mystery Dungeon

The Chocobo's Mystery Dungeon series is fully developed and published by Square Enix, then SquareSoft before the merging with Enix. However, Nakamura has supervised the first two games. Chocobo's Mysterious Dungeon would become the first title to be released in the Chocobo sub-series, while Chocobo's Dungeon 2 became the first Mystery Dungeon title to be released outside of Japan. Starting in Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo's Dungeon, some of the more difficult game elements were removed so that it would appeal to "small children and female" players.[10]

As of now, only the original Chocobo's Mysterious Dungeon for the PlayStation and WonderSwan does not have an official translation or port in the west.

Pokémon Mystery Dungeon titles[edit | edit source]

See also the page: Pokémon Mystery Dungeon

The Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series is published by Nintendo and co-developed by The Pokémon Company. It is currently the most popular sub-series worldwide. Tsunekazu Ishihara has worked previously with Chunsoft. One of the company's work was Tetris 2 + Bombliss, where Ishihara was the game's producer and met Nakamura, who was the game's director. Prior to the development of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Red and Blue Rescue Team, Ishihara has played a few games from the Mystery Dungeon series, namely Torneko no Daibōken: Fushigi no Dungeon, and was impressed with the genre's depth and quality. The game's development started after Nagahata and Tomie approached Ishihara and agreed with working on an easier version of the genre for the mainline Pokémon fans.[11] During the development of Red and Blue Rescue Team, Kouji Maruta, one of the programmers for these two games, who also previously contributed to EarthBound and Shiren the Wanderer 2, stated the company went through bad business performance, as employees from Chunsoft would leave the company progressively due to this issue. The game's success not only helped giving more popularity in the franchise, it also helped Chunsoft from failure.[12]

As of now, only the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Adventure Squad titles do not have an official translation or port in the west.

Etrian Mystery Dungeon titles[edit | edit source]

See also the page: Etrian Mystery Dungeon

The Etrian Mystery Dungeon duology is co-developed and published by Atlus the latter being the developers of the Etrian Odyssey series, with most of the actual development done at Spike Chunsoft, while Atlus acted as supervisors. During development, both the companies would continuously share their most recent data on a shared server, and discuss details of the game direction using an instant messaging program; additionally, they would hold weekly meetings during which they made various arrangements for the game, and every month during development, Spike Chunsoft would send their latest playable build to Atlus, who would check the direction the game was going in.[13]

As of now, only Etrian Mystery Dungeon 2 does not have an official translation or port in the west.

Individual Mystery Dungeon titles[edit | edit source]

There were also a few titles that only got one installment. Namco's The Tower of Druaga, Konami's TwinBee and Bandai's Gundam franchises had a crossover with this franchise, and developed with help coming from Chunsoft. One Way Heroics would later receive a crossover with this franchise, while Seikimatsu Days: Our Era's End was developed as a new title for smartphones, before being shut down later.

Reception and popularity[edit | edit source]

See also: Mystery Dungeon references in other media.

The series can be seen as moderately popular in Japan whereas the overseas community has a smaller following of dedicated fans. Other games that are not developed or published by Chunsoft or Spike Chunsoft but use the same moniker or style would also appear throughout the years, such as the Touhou Project game Fushigi no Gensokyo.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Parish, Jeremy (January 17, 2019). Roguelikes: How a Niche PC RPG Genre Went Mainstream. USGamer. Retrieved on January 17, 2019.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 Parish, Jeremy (August 6, 2012). Koichi Nakamura Interview: On the Birth of the Console RPG. 1UP.com. Archived from the original on 2014-03-16. Retrieved on April 4, 2013.
  3. 「不思議のダンジョン」の絶妙なゲームバランスは、たった一枚のエクセルから生み出されている!? スパイク・チュンソフト中村光一氏と長畑成一郎氏が語るゲームの「編集」 (ja). denfaminicogamer (March 7, 2016). Retrieved on April 30, 2021.
  4. Ramon Aranda (February 27, 2008). Chunsoft Developer Speaks on the newest Pokemon Adventure. 411mania.com. Archived from the original on 2011-09-25. Retrieved on April 4, 2013.
  5. 5.0 5.1 すべては『ドアドア』から始まった――チュンソフト30周年のすべてを中村光一氏と振り返るロングインタビュー【前編】 (ja). Famitsu (June 8, 2014). Retrieved on September 2, 2021.
  6. 「不思議のダンジョン」の絶妙なゲームバランスは、たった一枚のエクセルから生み出されている!? スパイク・チュンソフト中村光一氏と長畑成一郎氏が語るゲームの「編集」 (ja). denfaminicogamer (March 7, 2016). Retrieved on September 2, 2021.
  7. Fahey, Mike (July 26, 2016). Shiren The Wanderer is a Mystery Dungeon Game Without Pokémon or Chocobos, That's All. Kotaku UK. Retrieved on September 2, 2021.
  8. Lee, WooJin (1999-10-04). Interview with Chunsoft Over Development of New N64 Action RPG!. RPGFan. Archived from the original on 2016-02-24. Retrieved on September 2, 2021.
  9. NETSAL (ja). Spike Chunsoft. Retrieved on September 2, 2021.
  10. Adam Riley (2008-03-25). Interview: hand Talks Chocobo Mystery Dungeon on Nintendo's Wii. C3 News]. Archived from the original on February 24, 2012. Retrieved on September 2, 2021.
  11. Satoru Iwata. Iwata Asks : Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity : An Impossible Combination. Retrieved on September 2, 2021.
  12. ほぼ日の学生採用企画 (ja). 1101.com (January 31, 2020). Retrieved on September 2, 2021. “『ポケモン不思議のダンジョン』とかも作りかけていたけど、おそらくこれも売れないだろうし、先行きの見通しがない状況だったと思うんです。でも、なんとその後、その『ポケモン不思議のダンジョン』が大ヒット。あんなにたくさんの人が辞める必要はなかったんじゃないかな、と思いますけど。で、ぼくも他の人と同じように別の開発会社に転職してテレビゲームの開発を続けるかどうかを考えはじめました。でも、その前にそうとう泣きましたよ。”
  13. Parish, Jeremy (March 17, 2015). Finding Balance in Etrian Mystery Dungeon. USGamer. Retrieved on September 2, 2021.