March 6, 2020
Nintendo, The Pokémon Company
Ever wanted a Pokémon game without all the humans in it? Well, 15 years ago, Nintendo obliged by releasing Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Red Rescue Team for the GBA and Blue Rescue Team for the Nintendo DS. Putting the focus squarely on the creatures this time around, the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series were dungeon-crawlers where your team explores massive dungeons and rescues Pokémon in danger. Now, Nintendo has ported the content of the first two games into one package for the Nintendo Switch, complete with a massive visual upgrade and some quality of life improvements. Despite some ageing gameplay foundations, Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX mostly holds up 15 years later.
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX starts the player off with a personality quiz. Your answers will determine which Pokémon you play as for the main campaign, but fortunately you can override the quiz’s suggestion if you have a preferred Pokémon you would like to play as. After selecting your avatar Pokémon and your partner, you are dropped into the world. You play as an amnesiac Pokémon, who is certain that they used to be a human, and team up with your partner to uncover some answers and create a rescue team.
In terms of gameplay Pokémon Mystery Dungeon DX is mostly untouched from its GBA and DS predecessors. Gameplay alternates from travelling around Pokémon Square, stocking up on supplies and managing your team, and delving into dungeons and engaging in grid-based dungeon-crawling. The number of Pokémon you can have in your party has been upgraded from 4 to 8, and elements from later Pokémon generations, like the Fairy type and Mega Evolutions, have been added in. The Gummi system, which allowed players to customise party member AI, has been greatly simplified in a good way, reducing the amount of micromanaging that was previously necessary. For the most part though, it is a fairly faithful port to the modern console.
The Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series has generally had a greater emphasis on story and characterisation than the mainline series. While less complex than the next game in the series, Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX has its fair share of engaging characters and emotional moments. Scenes that made me cry as an eight year old back when I played it on the GBA still pack an emotional punch 15 years later.
“…the game can certainly start to drag in the later stages.”
The game’s dungeons did start to try my patience by the later stages of the main storyline, however. Pokémon Mystery Dungeon’s main means of adding difficulty is to just make each dungeon longer. Considering that losing all your Pokémon leads to losing all the money and items you took with you into the dungeon, that is a lot of progress to throw away after committing 20 or 30 minutes to a dungeon. Especially considering the very repetitive level design, the game can certainly start to drag in the later stages.
Adding to the repetition is a sense that the game is playing itself. This is literally true with a new feature that automates a lot of the exploration of each floor. Considering you can press the A button for your Pokémon to use whatever move is most effective against the target, you can get through most of the game without much manual input if you wanted. Of course, you can still manually choose each move and decide which rooms to explore if you prefer. However, I won’t deny that some of the longer dungeons became pretty dull, and I was honestly glad for a mechanic to speed it up a bit.
The most notable upgrade from the original games is on the visual front. All of the scenery and Pokémon are rendered in a beautiful watercolour style reminiscent of the title screen illustrations from the original game. Even the increasingly samey dungeon design still looked visually appealing 15 hours in. The cutscenes use the added graphical power to add more cinematic camera angles, which looked amazing. It looks even better when played on the Switch’s docked mode displayed on a television. This is in addition to the catchy and memorable soundtrack, which has been faithfully remastered for this release.
- Appealing watercolour visuals and memorable soundtrack
- Quality of life improvements address some of the original games' flaws
- Surprisingly emotional story and likeable characters
- Later dungeons can really drag
- Repetitive dungeon design and combat
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX is not for everyone. I can easily recommend its bright and colourful visuals and enjoyable story and characters. However, the actual gameplay has always been divisive, and this entry probably won’t change your mind if you’re not already a fan of the PMD franchise. The quality of life improvements in its gameplay make it the best version of the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team games, but the somewhat tedious endgame dungeons and overall repetitive dungeon crawling probably won’t win over anyone who has previously not found the spin-off series compelling.