It is nearly impossible to accurately express the absolute behemoth that Pokemon has become, much less what it was in the mid-2000s when the entire world seemed to be dominated by electric rats and plucky youngsters.
Pokemania ran pretty wild and, as a result, various cute little animal friends wound up in some interesting places. Two such places were the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS with Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Red Rescue Team and Blue Rescue Team, respectively. These games found some success and a passionate fan base, as with all things Pokemon, and now, 15 years later, have returned in Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX.
Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX is the Switch remake of those original Pokemon Mystery Dungeon games rolled up together with some new bits thrown in for good measure. The art style has been completely revamped to this new, super friendly storybook style that is really very lovely. On top of that, the game now boasts an auto-explore feature that should take away some of the drudgery of marching through the titular mystery dungeons, and some quality of life improvements like an autosave and mega evolutions, to bring the game up to parity with the larger franchise.
If you’re a returning fan and all of that sounds good, then you’re good to go, get out there and rescue some critters. New players, however, should be warned that this is certainly not your standard Pokemon game. Pokemon Mystery Dungeon is definitely not a game about a wide-eyed youth finding their way in a world of competition and animal fighting. This is a game about sweet, adorable pocket monsters getting into scraps and coming to each other’s rescue.
The whole thing kicks off with a bizarre personality test designed to suss out just what the player’s inner pokemon is. Personally, I don’t put a lot of stock in it; it thought I was a bulbasaur, an insult that cuts me to the very bone. Afterward, the player takes the role of a person who has transformed into that very creature (Or a different one if you think that something like a machop is a more befitting pocket monster). The game largely revolves around this misplaced poke and their accomplice as they form a rescue company to help needy locals and investigate just why a person is now a pokemon.
The way all of this resolves is normally the same way. There’s some pokemon lost in the depths of a dangerous and mysterious dungeon, and it’s up to you and your growing team of bandana-wearing rescuers to beat some wild monster’s senseless and retrieve this woe-begotten beastie. What that boils down to is traversing a series of randomly generated floors fighting less eloquent pokemon and trying to find your erstwhile quarry.
This is, interestingly, a fairly pure distillation of the original Rogue, a game that is mimicked with varying degrees of success years after its release. The problem with all of this, however, is that Rogue not only randomized nearly everything about itself, including what certain coloured potions might do but also played fairly quickly. Runs of Rogue often resulted in failure pretty quickly, but a run on a mystery dungeon is easy and tedious. So tedious, in fact, that Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX will, with the press of a button, automate the exploration, stopping should your poke posse run into any danger. While this seems like a good fix for slow gameplay, it’s also just automating a huge portion of the game. One of the big improvements to an old game is the ability to not play most of it.
The combat itself isn’t much to write home about either. Your party will meet some aggressive ‘mons down in the depths. Then you basically take turns smacking each other until one you can’t continue with this mad slap fight. The whole thing is exceedingly simple to the point of monotony. You can select different attacks and there are various effects, but one button press will usually get the job done and the effects can be mitigated by stepping on certain environment tiles. Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX isn’t a bad game. The graphics and music are lovely and all of the characters and the story are heartwarming in a very deep way. The game is a great filler game or introduction for younger players, but there just isn’t anything really substantial for anything more than that.