Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX is just one of many spinoffs in a long line of video games set within the Pokémon universe. In this case, this is a remake of a spinoff from 2006 that originally launched on Nintendo DS as pair of games. Having played but forgotten the original games, my curiosity was piqued when Nintendo revealed a remake was in the works on Nintendo Switch. To get into the spirit of the Mystery Dungeon games, I looked up the handful of episodes created to celebrate the series, which saw a human protagonist turn into a talking Squirtle.
Immediately after starting the game, a series of questions about who you are, and your personality must be answered. From those questions, the game will decide which Pokémon best suits you and you’ll begin the game as that Pokémon. As you wake up in the game, it is quickly noted you are no longer a human, but a human trapped in a Pokémon’s body. Don’t panic though; there are tons of new friends waiting to make your acquaintance, and those willing to join your team as you explore the dungeons within the world.
With Spike Chunsoft returning to helm the series, I was hoping we’d get something familiar but new. Instead, much of the same gameplay returns albeit in much nicer wrapping paper. Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team (which needed a better name) is not the average Pokémon game. Instead, it’s a procedurally generated dungeon crawler where you and your team of Pokémon work together to save others, forming a Rescue Team as you explore multiple floors as you save wayward Pokémon in each dungeon. You can also recruit new teammates by defeating them in battle or by assisting them in quests, regardless of the condition, you want to recruit as many friends as possible.
Combat combines familiar elements found in the Pokémon series with a grid-based structure that you and your team move around on. Each Pokémon has four standard attacks that are mapped to the face buttons. Additionally, you can shift into Auto Mode, which effectively removes the need of focusing on the game and allows your characters to select the best moves automatically. Both player and enemy take turns one by one and that slows down the flow of combat. It’s slower than the regular Pokémon games but never a drag, so encounters never last longer than necessary.
Being a roguelite means that unlike a standard roguelike if you faint in a dungeon, all you lose is the items you’ve gained as well and money. There is a workaround though, which involves asking other online players to help you out by answering your call for help.
In between exploring dungeons, there are brief periods of respite but there is little to do. You can turn in completed quests, fine-tune your roster and upgrade their skills, and visit Pokémon Square, a place to gather consumables, store money, recruit others to your Rescue Team. There is also the Link Shop, a place where you’re able to link two moves together, essentially allowing a Pokémon to use two moves at once, and even remember a forgotten move. One of the more essential places is Makuhita Dojo, a place where Pokémon train. By using tickets, which are earned through missions and sidequests, you can level up your Pokémon much faster.
So, while you can level up Pokémon, you may be wondering if you can evolve your team. In short, yes, it is possible. But it comes after completing the main story and only after visiting Pokémon Square and finding the Luminous Cave, and when you enter is where you can start evolving your team. As long as you meet the criteria, which is based on the Pokémon, and whether they require Evolution Crystals which become available in the endgame.
A big upgrade from the original games is the new art style. Gone are the pixel-inspired sprites, replaced with a watercolour inspired design. However, as much as wonderful as each Pokémon looks, the environments, in particular the dungeons, lack the same level of detail. And the writing is rather basic and a step back from what you would find in Pokémon Sword or Pokémon Shield and it is clear that this is catered to a younger crowd. You’d notice this by simply playing the game, which is meant to introduce that younger generation to new a new genre through familiar faces, but at the same time, the transition is not as smooth as it could be.
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team is a decent remake but not one I think was necessary. While the remake improves things, I didn’t like about the original, it still ends up being an average video game that deserved better. If you’re at all interested in playing a roguelike Pokémon game, this is certainly a good place to start due to its accessibility. Younger children will get the most out Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX since it’s clearly made for them but as someone who has played the original, the brief wave of nostalgia was a nice feeling, if only for a while.
[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.]