Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX Review
When a game is remade, the word “faithful” gets thrown around a lot. How faithful is the gameplay? How faithful are the graphics? How faithful is the story? It’s easy to see why this is the go-to word for remakes — older games have a lot of fans, a lot of whom were children when they played the original. These games are special, magical little pieces of nostalgia, and for a lot of remakes, the ultimate goal is to create an experience that matches the memories of those who played them years ago. Ideally, you want a game that is what your dumb, young brain built it up to be in your head when you played it for the very first time, perhaps decades ago. It’s safe to say that Pokémon Mystery Dungeon DX is definitely faithful to its inspiration — Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Red and Blue Rescue team — and it certainly looks and sounds beautiful to say the least. But often, a remake can be a little too faithful, leaving it feeling a little outdated, a little underdone, and sometimes, a little alienating to new players. Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX walks that line very tightly.
As with the games of its origin, Mystery Dungeon DX starts with a personality quiz; it’s a series of lighthearted questions, asking you what food you prefer, what you’d do in certain schoolyard situations, which colour is your favourite. Your answers to these questions will determine which Pokémon you play as throughout your journey, but unlike the originals, you’re not locked into this choice. If the quiz returns a Pokémon that you’re not too keen on, you’re free to reject it and pick from the list yourself. That list contains a tonne of Pokémon , but nothing you wouldn’t have found in the original; that means starter Pokémon from the first three generations, a couple oddballs like Skitty and Cubone, and of course, Pikachu. You’ll then get to pick and name your partner from the remaining list. Once these things are picked, you are locked in for good, so make your choices wisely; you’ll be playing 90% of the game with these two Pokémon in your party the whole time. For what it’s worth, I threw myself at the mercy of the quiz and got handed Mudkip, and chose my favourite Hoenn Pokémon Skitty as my partner.
From here, you’re thrown into the game world, where you find that you — a human — have been turned into a Pokémon. How shocking! Much of the game’s story revolves around this bizarre twist of fate, and to unravel this mystery, you and your partner team up to create a Rescue Team. Rescue Teams in the Mystery Dungeon world are pretty much what it says on the tin; you take on tasks to rescue Pokémon in distress, diving deep into dangerous dungeons and fighting against swathes of enraged Pokémon on your way to the rescue.
If you’ve played the original game, there’s not much here in terms of new story content. It follows all the same beats, and in many instances even follows the exact same script. That’s not to say there are no changes, there are tiny little moments here and there that differ, but it’s far from a complete overhaul. If you play Mystery Dungeon games for the story, you’re getting nothing new here. And that’s okay! Red and Blue Rescue Team had a lovely — if slightly underwhelming — little story, and in later parts of the game I found myself even tearing up a little. It’s hard to say if that was the nostalgia talking (but that probably was a factor) or just the hallmark of already good writing being brought to life with gorgeous new visuals.
Mechanically, there’s not much new to talk about, either. As with any Mystery Dungeon game, Pokémon or otherwise, dungeons consist of a randomised grid-based layout, with dozens of floors available in each dungeon. Each time you go to a dungeon, the layout will change, but the amount of floors will stay the same. Some of these dungeons get quite hefty, and late-game dungeons regularly have 99 floors, but you won’t always need to see the entire dungeon through. The Pokémon you’re rescuing might be on the 99th floor, or it might instead be on the 35th floor, or the 4th. You’ll know this before you embark on a mission, and you can take on multiple missions at a time, each on different floors of the dungeon.
When you finish a mission you have in a dungeon, you can choose to instantly teleport home, or journey onward to complete more missions, or just dive deeper into the dungeon in the hopes of good rewards. Again, it’s pretty much identical to the original in this aspect, or really any Mystery Dungeon game, and if that’s your jam, you’re going to feel right at home here. It’s a faithful recreation of the games that inspired it, and that means it tends to feel a little bit outdated, a little bit stilted, and honestly, a little bit of a step back from games that came before it like Super Mystery Dungeon on the 3DS. It’s a game that feels like an old game, but looks like a new one, and that can often be a bit jarring.
Despite the hardline faithfulness of much of the game, there are some mechanical aspects that have undergone some pretty heavy changes, as well as a few neat little additions. The major difference is in how combat works; in Red and Blue Rescue Team, you had four special moves (just like in the main games) in addition to a typeless, low-power move assigned to the A button that was more or less the go-to move for less powerful enemies. This allowed you to easily dispatch weaker enemies, while still retaining your precious PP for more challenging foes. Rescue Team DX does away with this typeless move, and instead offers only the four special moves, with a press of the A button instead choosing whichever special move is likely to deal the most damage on average. At first, this felt extremely limiting, and I found myself constantly running out of PP for ideal moves that I was trying my hardest to save for boss fights, simply because I had nothing else to deal with the dregs along the way. However, as the game progresses, there are a few neat little new features that make this much less of a problem.
The first was that your moves grow and get stronger as you use them. When a move levels up, it can increase in PP, accuracy, and even power, which can result in some pretty insane situations — for example, by the end of the game, one of my starting moves, Water Gun, was about as powerful as Hydro Pump, a powerful late-game water move. This mitigates the PP issue in the late game, as long as you’re willing to put up with a tough balancing act in the early game. These improvements to moves also carry over to every other allied Pokémon with that move, meaning that if I was to teach Water Gun to another Pokémon, say a Tentacool I found in the wild, it would also have that very strong, very high-PP version of it. And when you take note of the fact that powerful moves like Hydro Pump can also be upgraded, and these moves are often available via TMs to teach to as many Pokémon as you like, with enough time and PokéDollars, you can make just about any Pokémon incredibly powerful. Rescue Team DX also adds Mega Evolutions, and evolutions for Pokémon that didn’t otherwise appear in the originals, like Sylveon, but since these things are locked far behind the post-game, they probably won’t come into play too much for many many hours.
Mechanics aside, the only other new thing worth mentioning is the utterly gorgeous styling that has gone into this game. It boasts a unique artstyle, reminiscent of the watercolour art used in menus for the originals, and it’s incredibly cute and charming. It does tend to look a teensy bit funky on some Pokémon, but for most it looks like they’ve been painted right into the game in the most spectacular way. The music, as well, has been faithfully but lovingly recreated with modern instrumentation, a far cry from the GBA sounds of the original, and many, if not all, of the tracks on offer brought a swell of nostalgic emotion over me every time I heard them. It’s evidence of a development team that actively cares about and cherishes the games of my youth, and perhaps the games of their youth too.
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX is a difficult game to recommend. That’s not to say it’s bad by any stretch of the imagination — it’s an excellent game, just like its predecessors on the GBA and DS — but Mystery Dungeon games tend to be incredibly hit and miss. You either love the genre or you hate it. If you love it, there’s a lot of joy to be had here, especially if you played Red or Blue Rescue Team. If you don’t love it, there’s not a lot here that makes it worth playing, short of it being a cute little game about adorable Pokémon. More than anything though, Rescue Team DX is a textbook example of both what to do and what not to do in a remake, in a balancing act that lands more often than it falls.
+ Looks and sounds wonderful
+ New move system is clever
+ A few solid QOL changes
- Still feels like an old game
- Few changes to make it stand out
- A bit slow to get going