Nintendo seems to be on a roll with remaking some of their classic handheld games for the Switch. After last year's excellent remake of Link’s Awakening, now comes Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX. Thankfully it wasn’t just a one-time success as Mystery Dungeon is a surprisingly deep and enjoyable side-adventure that some might enjoy even more than the main titles.
Right off the bat, the storyline is the first thing that surprised me. Although I had played through the original Red Rescue game as a child, I clearly didn’t remember much of the plot going into the remake. Pokemon Mystery Dungeon puts you in the role of a human turned into a Pokemon, and you and your partner form a titular rescue team to help out a world full of natural disasters. There’s a surprising amount of depth to this story and even a decade later, it’s really cool to see events unfold from a Pokemon’s point of view. In fact, one of the highlights of the game is consistently charming writing. Like Link’s Awakening before it, Pokemon Mystery Dungeon also makes some big graphical changes in its jump to a more powerful console. The whole game is presented in a dreamy, art-book style, and there are times when it looks really gorgeous. Having a more stylised Pokemon adventure is a nice change of pace from the norm, although it is a shame that the 3D models don’t express as much as they could.
You’ll spend most of your time in the game going through dungeons and fighting other Pokemon. The whole ‘mystery’ part of the subtitle comes from how each floor is randomised. You’ll never run into the same stuff twice, which makes things a lot more replayable. That’s not to say that a whole lot changes, as it mostly just affects what traps and items you’ll run into but it’s better than a set path. If you’re on a story mission, you’ll mostly just be trying to get to the end, but side missions have you helping hurt Pokemon or bringing them items. You’ll also be trying to collect as much loot as possible, although it will initially seem like there’s not much of worth around. “Why should I need health pick-ups if the game is so darn easy?” I initially asked. That changes soon enough and you’ll be treasuring everything you pick up.
Initially, I found myself wondering whether it was nostalgia-blindness that made me love the original game as a kid. However, the further you get into Mystery Dungeon the more and more it picks up. The RPG mechanics become more intricate, the items become much more useful, the enemies become harder and you’ll find yourself actually getting quite invested in building up your team. There was no better feeling than getting through a dungeon with a team of 8 Pokemon I’d picked up along the way and a bunch of side-missions checked off my list. It’s just whether or not you have the patience to get through a lot of easy fights and endless walls of text in the first few hours. As someone who’s found it difficult to put down since, I implore you to push past some of the repetition.
Combat is a mixture of turn-based and real-time common to Mystery Dungeon games. You get to move your Pokemon on a grid-like structure, but you and your party attack in turns against the enemy. There can be some strategy involved, such as selecting your own moves, keeping an eye on your hunger and the typical type advantages but to be blunt it mostly consists of tapping A until one of you falls down. Pokemon Mystery Dungeon is at its best when it tries to actually challenge you. When you’re not just mindlessly wandering from floor to floor, the combat gets a chance to shine and you’ll actually find yourself using items that you find. As said before, this doesn’t really happen until later in the game, but when it does happen you’ll need to start paying more attention.
When you’re not going through dungeons rescuing Pokemon, you’ll be trying to boost your team or looking around the town square. You’ll end up spending most of your Poke on building Friend Camps for potential recruits, as there isn’t much need to be buying items from the shop. Unfortunately, these Friend Camps are the replacement for the friend areas found in the original releases, and frankly they aren’t an improvement. Rather than having an explorable area to roam around, you now just have a menu with a unique piece of art. It’s a shame, but it does admittedly speed up some of the team building.
There are a fair few quality of life changes made to DX and a lot of them are great. The ability to pick whoever you want to be at the start is very much appreciated, and little things like having a shortcut to the post office is a big time-saver. One of the more noteworthy additions to the game is the auto mode. Holding down the left bumper will automatically guide your party members towards the nearest items, before taking them to the stairs. If this seems like a lazy way to play, that’s because it is. You’ll only have to stop when an enemy is nearby, but it still cuts out a massive chunk of gameplay. I’m all for accessibility, but it’s far too easy to just hold the button and let the game nearly play itself. At the very least, if you find the feature intrusive you can always just not use it, which is what I opted to do.
I was also impressed by the variety of Pokemon available to the player. Being a remake, the game is based on the earlier generations as it should be, and there wasn’t a point where the same Pokemon had popped up too many times. The ability to recruit them has the same addictive qualities as mainline Pokemon games, and there’s even Shiny Pokemon so some gamers might find themselves playing just for those elements. For the remake, Mega-evolutions are also available for some Pokemon through the use of an item, but it’s nothing to write home about. It’s cool, even if it's not game-changing.
As you might expect with a dungeon-based game, a lot of the mechanics rely on RNG. How interesting the floors are is going to rely on something completely out of your control. Thankfully there are a lot of items that help relieve this, such as orbs that can generate specific floors. Most of the elements decided from RNG are okay like the traps and items, but I found the random weather to be a real pain. Randomly having to take damage every few seconds because it’s hailing is no fun even if you know how to get past it.
We do have to ask a familiar question with Gameboy game remakes- is it worth $50? In this case, I’d actually say yes. There is a ton for players to do after completing the main story, and with such a huge range of Pokemon to recruit, camps to buy and the essentially endless randomised dungeons, it’s very possible that you could put 60+ hours into completing it all. Even a rushed playthrough could take about 15 hours.
Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX is going to end up surprising a lot of people. Once you get past the initial few hours, it becomes clear why the series has sustained such a fan-base over a long period of time. Although it has its share of annoying faults, the entertaining story, the huge amount of content to complete, and the fun, simplistic gameplay makes it a great choice for Pokemon fans and dungeon-crawler fans alike.
Versions tested: Nintendo Switch
Disclaimer: A copy of this game was provided to RPG Site by the publisher.