A mystery, remade. An unchanged storyline. And, at the centre of it all, one Pokémon who’s never going to give up. Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX is light on the nostalgia and heavy on the changes. But not all is lost. There’s a spark hidden deep within the content; it just takes some time to find.
Rewind almost 15 years and you’ll discover two Pokémon Mystery Dungeon titles surfacing on the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS. Red Rescue Team and Blue Rescue Team were the first Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games developed by Chunsoft (now Spike Chunsoft) to be released outside of the mainline Pokémon titles. By 2007, the spin-off had accumulated more than 5 million sales and were greatly considered a success by critics and fans alike. In fact, for some fans, Red and Blue Rescue Team were the first Pokémon title they had ever played. Perhaps that’s why nostalgia is so important.
Fast-forward to present day, Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX brings together all the features and exclusive Pokémon in both Red and Blue Rescue Team versions in a brand new and entirely unique painterly art style. Not only is it the first remake of a Pokémon Mystery Dungeon title, but Rescue Team DX is the first remake of a Pokémon game outside of the mainline series. With over 400 Pokémon confirmed, some quality of life changes and such a unique art style, Rescue Team DX has all the makings of a sure-fire hit.
If you’re unfamiliar with the storyline, Rescue Team DX follows you and your chosen Pokémon partner on a 25 to 30-hour tale to save the world from complete destruction. The reason for such a catastrophe is largely down to you. Many years ago, a Pokémon was left to fend for its life once their human trainer selfishly saved themselves. To right the wrongs of the past, a human would be turned into a Pokémon, but in doing so would cause the end of the world. So, with a choice of up to 16 Pokémon (chosen by a personality quiz, as in the original), you and your partner must build a rescue team and explore dungeons across the land in a bid to help save all the Pokémon in the world.
From the get-go, Rescue Team DX has several quality of life changes. After a quick tutorial in Tiny Woods, we’ve encountered auto save – an incredibly nifty feature – and adjusted to the painterly art style. It’s different to any other art style from past Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games, but, in its own way, can be quite beautiful and is easy to get on board with.
If you’ve played the eShop demo, you’ll understand the controls can be quite clunky, either in handheld or docked modes. When moving either diagonally or in a straight line, Pokémon animations look unnatural, as if the walking speed is too quick for manual play. Dashing is also an issue when playing manually as it’s far too quick for the eye to catch. Great for speed runners though.
On the other hand, using the new auto mode eliminates those wayward controls by tapping the ‘L’ button. Simply use the AI to navigate your team around the dungeon at speed, locating items and quest goals as a priority before heading to the stairs. It’s a great feature for youngsters, particularly if they’re in a bind, but given how accessible auto mode is throughout the game (it can be turned on or off at any point), it takes away the entire foundation that Mystery Dungeon was built upon. The idea that the player should explore a dungeon and find their own path is part of the challenge. Once you leave it in the hands of the AI, the challenge becomes redundant, enabling the game to basically play itself. But hey, it is an optional feature, so if you want to watch a ‘Let’s Play’ with minimum physical input, be our guest.
Even battle items are in the hands of the AI by default, only by deactivating the option in the settings menu does it allow the player to choose when to give a weakened or paralyzed Pokémon an Oran or Cheri Berry. Otherwise, the AI will prompt players to either give an item to the party member or decline it. Nothing more than a questionable and bizarre hand-holding feature.
There are many changes afoot elsewhere too. In the original games, players were able to use ‘basic’ attacks such as lunges, body slams and jumps to tackle enemy Pokémon. In Rescue Team DX, basic attacks have been removed with players now relying solely on the PP of their selected moveset. And while dungeon exploration largely remains the same (randomised layout, dropped items, traps, belly hunger and monster houses all remain), the four-party recruitment system has been swapped in favour of an eight-party. Now, you can recruit up to six more Pokémon in the dungeons after defeating them in combat. Fantastic for recruiting Pokémon, unfortunate for representing challenge.
A sore spot for veterans, Friend Areas in the original titles have been drastically altered. No longer can you enter the areas and watch your recruited team members run around. Now, Pokémon camps (which can be purchased with in-game currency in the Wigglytuff Store) are relegated to pixelated screens, like how a Pokémon box functions in the mainline series. Players can now do one of four things; feed them a gummy to boost randomized individual stats, display them as a favourite team member, make them stronger by using items such as carbon, zinc, etc, and release them back into the wild. Given how much potential Friend Areas could have in Rescue Team DX, it’s a shame Spike Chunsoft have completely squandered this opportunity. A quality of life change that’s detrimental to the heart and soul of this game.
More minute changes appear in Pokémon Square, the main hub of Rescue Team DX. The Kecleon Shop holds random items and TMs which are switched on a daily (in-game only) basis. Players now have access to hugely powerful moves like Earthquake, Fire Blast and Hyper Beam in the first hour of play. And, if you train in the Makuhita Dojo, you’ll get access to a gold ribbon which can be sold for 2,500 Poké dollars – almost the equivalent price of one Earthquake TM. At this point, Rescue Team DX is relinquishing all the original challenge, making it one of the easiest Pokémon Mystery Dungeon titles you’ll ever play. And while I’d like to say boss challenges such as The Meanies and Zapdos turn it up a notch, they barely put up a fight, lasting approximately two minutes with a four-party team only.
But not all is lost. There are some moments in Rescue Team DX that contain sparks of its former glory. The storyline remains unchanged, with all the great post-game content available. In addition, you’ll discover items and money can now be managed on screen before dungeon departure, and Pokémon abilities offer quicker access to recruitment, among other things. Link moves also remain at the Gulpin store, the Bank with Persian and Storage with Kangaskhan, so there are no qualms there. Online features, such as rescuing fellow teammates or internet strangers, can be accessed via the Pelipper Post Office. Working the same as regular dungeon missions, these can be added to your job list on the fly, with rewards stored automatically for you after quest completion. And last but by no means least, you now have the ability to recruit shiny Pokémon for your team. There are many moments of joy within Rescue Team DX, you’ve just got to ‘weedle’ them out (yes, I did just go there).
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX is, rather unfortunately, far removed from the game it once was. The quality of life additions, changes to Friend Areas, and a distinct lack of challenge until post-game have stripped out what the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon community most loved. It’s a shame Rescue Team DX doesn’t live up to its original gameplay, especially when the storyline deserves so much more. Newcomers may love it; veterans may fear disappointment. Toss an apple to a Pokémon veteran, they’ll hunger for more.
A review copy of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX was provided to My Nintendo News by Nintendo UK.