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The Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series mechanics differ from those used in the main series Pokémon games. The Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games are dungeon-crawlers in nature; as a result, some staple elements of the Pokémon series have been altered or excluded entirely.
There are a number of differences between the mechanics of Pokémon in the main games and those of Mystery Dungeon:
- Effort values (EVs) and individual values (IVs) are not elements of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon. Instead, each Pokémon has a set of base stats, which increase by fixed amounts when they level up. Stats may further increase through the use of Gummis, health drinks, Sitrus, and other items, and may be increased to any arbitrary amount.
- Each Pokémon has a fixed body size that is represented as a number from 0 to 4. When taking a team into a dungeon, the combined body size of the Pokémon in the team may not exceed a certain amount (at most of any dungeon, 6). Note that certain dungeons may restrict this further, and may also restrict the sheer number of Pokémon allowed in the dungeon.
- Speed is no longer regarded as a statistic; instead, it affects how many actions the Pokémon can make in a turn, ranging from as fast as four moves per turn to as slow as once every two turns. A reduction in Speed is considered to be a status condition. Furthermore, Ice-type Pokémon will have increased movement speed in snowy weather (a weather condition which itself is exclusive to Mystery Dungeon and is not to be confused with Hail).
- Stat changes from natures do not exist in Pokémon Mystery Dungeon.
Pokémon with two Abilities will be shown to have both (instead of just one). In addition, some Abilities differ from their counterparts in the main series:
- Different activation - Trace will only activate when hit by an attack, and the copied Ability is randomly chosen, while Truant only activates if a Wonder Orb or a special move is used.
- Minor changes - Torrent, Blaze, Overgrow, and Swarm will double the power of Water, Fire, Grass, and Bug-type moves, respectively, when the user has reached 1/4 of their total HP.
- Changes to suit environment - Intimidate reduces the opposing Pokémon's Attack by 20%, while Huge Power and Pure Power will have a 1/3 chance of dealing 50% more damage.
- Entirely changed - Speed Boost increases movement speed by one level every 250 turns while Swift Swim and Chlorophyll use the same attack twice in one turn while it is raining or sunny, respectively.
Evolution does not occur automatically; instead, it must be manually triggered. Evolution is explained in Story Mode as an effect of the world being in a state of danger. The ability of Pokémon to evolve must be unlocked through the course of Story Mode (in Blue Rescue Team and Red Rescue Team, Rayquaza must be defeated, while in Explorers of Time and Explorers of Darkness, the Wigglytuff's Guild must be defeated). Most notably, evolution does not instantly make a Pokémon stronger, unlike in the main series games.
Because of the different mechanics of Pokémon evolution, certain evolutions have been modified to require particular items:
- Pokémon that must be traded in order to evolve instead require the Link Cable.
- Feebas requires the Beauty Scarf to evolve into Milotic.
- Pokémon that require high friendship to evolve instead require that their IQ be sufficiently high (which differs among Pokémon).
- Magneton and Nosepass require the Coronet Rock to evolve into Magnezone and Probopass, respectively.
- Pokémon that evolve in the daytime instead require the Sun Ribbon.
- Pokémon that evolve at night instead require the Lunar Ribbon.
- Eevee requires a Mossy Rock to evolve into Leafeon or an Icy Rock to evolve into Glaceon.
All Pokémon have standard attacks (because of this, Shedinja may have more than one HP). Their regular attack does not expend PP when used, unlike other attacks. Pokémon may have four special attacks in addition to their regular attack. Special attacks may be linked together, wherein the linked moves are done in succession (in which case one PP is taken from each move).
- Some attacks that do specific HP damage (like SonicBoom) have different set HP.
- Transform only changes the form of the user, not their moves.
- Selfdestruct and Explosion will not necessarily knock out the user of the move. Instead, any team Pokémon within range (one tile for Selfdestruct, two for Explosion) will have their maximum HP cut in half, and any opposing Pokémon within range will receive 40 damage for Selfdestruct and 80 for Explosion. Note that Fire-types will receive only half damage from these moves. Any items within range are destroyed, and any wall tiles in range are converted to floor tiles.
There are two attacks specific to the Mystery Dungeon series: Wide Slash and Vacuum-Cut. No Pokémon learn either naturally, but all Pokémon that can use TMs can learn them through TM.
In addition to the moves it learns, certain tactics are available to the team leader in order to direct its teammates, which are determined by the team leader's level.
The moves available to be relearned at the Gulpin Link Shop in Blue Rescue Team and Red Rescue Team and the Electivire Link Shop in Explorers of Time and Explorers of Darkness are greatly expanded when compared to the Move Reminders in the main series games. Pokémon may also relearn moves from its previous forms up to the level in which evolution was performed.
- Main article: Recruitment
Instead of capturing Pokémon (as in the main series games), Pokémon may be recruited to the player's team. Recruitment rates are different for each Pokémon and can be increased by factors such as the level of the team leader and any items being held. Some dungeons may prevent recruitment while some Pokémon must be recruited by special means.
The Mystery Dungeon series introduced Level 1 Pokémon, an aspect which wasn't introduced until Generation IV of the main series. This may occur for wild Pokémon or guest Pokémon, and in the sequels, new Pokémon who ask to join after a mission is done. Evolved Pokémon may also be encountered at lower levels than those at which they would have evolved.
Most Ghost-type Pokémon, as well as Darkrai, can walk through wall tiles. While on a wall tile, they cannot be attacked but can attack their foes. However, their belly empties at a rate of 5 per step.
- Main article: Status ailments in Mystery Dungeon
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon introduced its own series of status conditions, of which any number may occur at once. These range from the conventional statuses (Paralysis, Poison, etc.) to "pseudo-statuses" (Confusion, Attraction, Flinching (here called Cringing), etc.). Statuses may be inflicted to account for two-turn attacks (i.e. SolarBeam or Sky Attack), low-priority moves (i.e. Counter, Endure, or Vital Throw), or moves whose effects last multiple turns (Mist, Safeguard, Charge, Perish Song, Taunt, Encore, etc.).
- Status durations may also differ between Mystery Dungeon and the main series; most notable is that Paralysis, Leg Hold (affected from Arena Trap or Magnet Pull), and most other statuses are temporary. Burn and Poison remain permanent, however. In addition, Pokémon may be affected with both Sleep and Paralysis, and (much like in the TCG) other status ailments may replace previous ones. For instance, a Poisoned Pokémon may become Paralyzed instead.
- Pokémon will never attack themselves while Confused. However, they may move or attack in a random direction (including hitting teammates). Note that Confusion does not affect thrown items.
- Main article: Damage modification (Mystery Dungeon)
- Type effectiveness has been greatly changed:
- "Super effective" attacks will only deal 140% damage instead of twice as much or 200% damage in the main games.
- Attacks that are "not very effective" will deal 70% damage instead of 50% in the main games.
- Attacks to which the attacked Pokémon is "immune" (called "ineffective attacks" here) deal 50% damage instead of 0% or no damage in the main games. However, as in the main games, Pokémon may be immune to certain status conditions based on its type (for example, Arbok remains immune to Toxic). Note that the effects of Abilities remain unchanged (for example, Ground-type attacks are still ineffective against Pokémon who can Levitate).
- The damage bonus that Critical Hits provide is only 150% instead of 200% in the main games.
- Each move has an inherent Critical Hit rate, which may be modified with items (such as the Scope Lens) or IQ abilities (like Type-Advantage Master). The use of Focus Energy ensures that the next special move will be a Critical Hit.
- Defeating a Pokémon using at least one special move will net twice as much experience. Note that an opposing Pokémon using moves on itself counts towards receiving the experience bonus, but using special moves that miss the opponent (or that hit, but do no damage) does not.
- Defeating a Pokémon using linked moves will net 50% more experience.
- If an enemy were to faint by means other than the party attacking it (such as by the effects of a sandstorm), the members of the party will not gain experience points.
- All Pokémon in the party gain experience whether or not they attack the opponent.
- In Gates To Infinity, all Pokémon on the player's team will receive experience, regardless of whether or not they were in the party that entered the dungeon.
Held Berries take one turn to consume (which must be done manually in many cases), as opposed to being consumed automatically in the same turn that they are needed.
The Oran and Sitrus Berries play slightly different roles. The Oran Berry heals 100 HP (rather than 10 in the main series), while the Sitrus Berry heals all HP (rather than only 30 HP or 1/4 of the Pokémon's total HP in the main series).
- Sitrus Berries can also increase the player's total HP by 2 points if consumed at full health.
The element of hunger and IQ led to the adoption of the concepts of Food and Gummis, respectively. The only human-made items present that are also present in the main series games are Max Elixirs and TMs. Other items include Wonder Orbs and Scarves.
In addition, any Pokémon can hold any item.
- Main article: Throwing item
Much like in the Safari Zone of the main series games, where the player is able to toss Bait or throw a Rock (or Mud) at Pokémon, throwing items in Pokémon Mystery Dungeon deals damage. The player is able to stock up to 99 units of a throwing item in a single item space in contrast to other items, where multiple items take up multiple spaces in the item list.
- This does not apply to Unown Stones.