Whilst gamers typically associate the Pokémon series with the adventures that see you embarking on a quest as a kid, catching Pokémon, and filling up your Pokédex as you clear gyms and look to become a Pokémon Master, there are some titles in the series that do things a little differently. Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX, the remake of the original Rescue Team titles from the Nintendo DS and Game Boy Advance, offers an adventure that completely changes the formula up by putting you in the role of the Pokémon themselves as they look to form a Rescue Team that help out fellow Pokémon who are in need. Sounds neat, right? It makes for a pretty enjoyable dungeon-crawling experience too, with the title’s recent release on the Nintendo Switch offering gamers a fresh new take on the Pokémon universe.
Ok, so I might have mentioned that Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX puts you in the role of the Pokémon, but there’s more to it than that – you’re actually a human that has mysteriously been transformed into a Pokémon. The Pokémon that you’re transformed into is determined by a personality test you take at the start of the game, though you’ll be glad to know that you can just manually choose which of the sixteen you want to play as if you prefer. Fortunately, the test already determined that I was Bulbasaur (the best Pokémon ever), so I was fine – there a plenty of fan favourites on offer though, so most players should be able to find the Pokémon that best suits them. Once you’ve selected your Pokémon, you’ll also choose a partner to join you on the adventure.
When the game starts, you’re greeted by your partner Pokémon and then join them to help a poor Caterpie that has got lost in a dungeon following a mysterious earthquake, which is just one of many disasters that has been occurring across the land. After rescuing the Caterpie, you decide to form a Rescue Team with your partner, which gives you a nice little bow to wear and also opens up all-new missions for you to embark on. Of course, you still get to dive into the mystery behind your transformation into a Pokémon and try to find out what’s causing all these strange disasters to occur in the first place, but all is revealed throughout the main story.
It’s a fun little narrative and one that’s hard not to find yourself charmed by, with the cheery and whimsical tone of the tale and the characters that you meet ensuring that Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX remains fun throughout. Pokémon fans in particular will enjoy seeing the personalities of their favourites in more depth, with dialogue options with the creatures no longer restricted to them simply yelling their name but actually sharing conversations with each other in well-written and often quirky interactions. It’s just a lot of fun and it’s easy to find yourself engrossed in the tale.
Once you’ve formed your Rescue Team, you’ll take on missions that are either sent to you via post, initiated via in-game events, or posted on the notice board outside of the post office. The tasks involved in these missions typically consist of finding a specific item, rescuing a lost Pokémon, or defeating a tough baddie across the game’s countless dungeons, with the formula rarely straying away from a satisfying mix of exploration and combat. You’ll get to explore the home hub of Pokémon Square in-between these missions and interact with different Pokémon, purchase items, and keep track of your progress, which adds a friendly break to all of the action.
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX doesn’t play like your traditional Pokémon game, with it instead feeling more like a dungeon-crawler with a strategic twist. You’ll lead your rescue team through randomised tile-based dungeons, each of which has plenty of floors full of items to collect, Poké Coins to earn, and enemies to beat. Every action you take in these dungeons is turn-based, so nothing will happen around you when you are stationary. This means that enemies will only move when you do, so you’ll always have the opportunity to plan ahead and strike at them first when you see them in your path.
Each Pokémon in your party has four different moves to use that can be selected by holding down the left trigger button, although pressing the A button will automatically pick an attack for you that is best suited for the enemy you’re facing off against. This is generally an effective means to battle, though players who prefer to drop the stats of their enemy or inflict status ailments may find themselves wanting to manually select those attacks themselves. Much like the traditional Pokémon games, each attack has a PP assigned to it that means you can only use it a set amount of times in a dungeon before you have to use an item to replenish it – if you don’t have anything, you’ll have to leave the dungeon and rest in order to use it again.
It shows how important item management can be when exploring the dungeons, although it’s not just your PP that you have to worry about. Your Pokémon have a hunger meter and when it fully depletes, they’ll lose health with every action they take. Again, it’s something that can be replenished by using an item, but if you go on a long run through a dungeon and find yourself running out of food, you’ll get into trouble fast. Fortunately, each Pokémon in your party has their own individual hunger meter and it’s only the leader that’ll see it drop when performing actions, so a quick change of the party leader with the plus-button offers an effective means to counter this.
Whilst there are workarounds with your hunger, your HP is a totally different matter. Whilst it’s possible to heal yourself or revive any knocked-out Pokémon in your party, having your full team wiped out comes with the punishment of losing any items or Poké Coins that you’re carrying – brutal, right? Players are able to deposit their Poké Coins into the bank and place items in storage in Pokémon Square in-between missions, so there are safeguarding measures in place to ensure you can keep your most precious belongings safe. Anything you would have found on that dungeon-run that defeated you, though? They’re gone for good. And I though dying in Dark Souls was bad…
As you progress and defeat enemies, your Pokémon will level up and gain an increase in stats. There’s not a whole lot of depth to the levelling up system and you don’t get to experience things like evolution during the main story, but it’s still satisfying to see your capabilities increase with every level. One thing that I particularly appreciated in Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX was the fact that your attacks level up after you’ve used them a specific amount of times, which doesn’t only make them more powerful but also increases their PP too. It ensures that the abilities that you use the most are maximising their potential, with the game effectively improving your Pokémon to suit the player’s playstyle. It’s good stuff.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Pokémon game if you couldn’t get all new creatures to battle alongside you, right? Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX doesn’t see you filling up a traditional Pokédex and you certainly won’t be launching any Pokéballs at your fellow Pokémon in order to try capturing them, but you will get the opportunity to recruit some of those that you defeat to fight alongside you. There are multiple factors that determine whether or not a Pokémon can actually be recruited, with things like defeating them as the leader of the party, the use of specific items, or even having space in your party playing a role in the recruitment process. However, it’s the Pokémon Camps that are most important, with each Pokémon requiring that a specific camp is unlocked in order to recruit them to your Rescue Team.
Unlocking the camps is an easy enough process, with the player able to do it in-between missions in Pokémon Square or even in the middle of a dungeon provided that they have a Wigglytuff Orb. However, they cost Poké Coins to unlock, so if you do find yourself low on cash in the middle of a dungeon you may have to skip out on recruiting the Pokémon that you’ve found. It shows that sometimes it’s worth carrying that extra bit of cash around with you, even if you are running the risk of losing it if your party is wiped out.
It’s a neat little system though and it ensures that recruiting Pokémon does take a bit of effort. It did feel a little bit random at times as to whether or not a Pokémon could be recruited, but as long as you’ve got a bit of patience you’ll be fine. There was one issue I did have with the recruitment system though: the fact that recruited Pokémon will then follow you through the dungeon until you leave. It looks SO jarring to have a group of up to eight Pokémon marching together through these tightly confined dungeons and it could make simply navigating or taking on enemies feel like a chore… I don’t understand why they couldn’t just teleport away like the Pokémon that you rescue on missions. It’s a minor issue really, but it still bugged me.
So there’s quite a lot to Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX’s gameplay and I had plenty of fun crawling through dungeons, recruiting new Pokémon, and seeing the story unfold. However, whilst it’s an enjoyable experience, there’s no doubting that Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX can get repetitive. A lot of the missions that you’ll take on simply feel like fetch-quests, whilst the battling can get a little samey as you progress further too. There’s a heck of a lot of content to get through in the game, but with it lacking any real variety it’s easy to grow a little tired of doing some of the same things over and over. There are some additional features that can spice things up a bit such as the Dojo where you can train your Pokémon and the special Link Attacks that allow you to unleash combos upon your enemies, but they don’t change up the gameplay all that much and are more like neat little additions as opposed to big game-changers.
Despite this, I still found myself addicted to Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX. Sure, I was doing a lot of the same things over and over again, but the process of battling and recruiting different Pokémon did enough to ensure that I never grew bored of the game. There’s a neat little auto-play function in place to help you traverse through dungeons carefree that gives you back control when battles kick in too, which can help streamline some of the game’s more repetitive aspects and allow you to focus on the action. Admittedly, it does show that Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX can be a bit of a simple game, but it’s a convenient feature for gamers who just want a quick blast through a dungeon here and there.
I can’t end this review without mentioning Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX’s visuals, which are some of the most wonderful I’ve seen in any video game. It adopts a stunning watercolour-like aesthetic, which makes the environments and the characters feel like they’ve been lifted straight out of a children’s book – honestly, it looks fantastic in-game. The vibrant world kept a smile on my face throughout and just emphasised how charming and jolly the Pokémon world really is.
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX’s blend of enjoyable dungeon-crawling, addictive Pokémon recruiting, and gorgeous visuals certainly help it stand out as another fun endeavour in the Pokémon series – even if it is guilty of feeling a little bit repetitive in places. Does it stop the game from being enjoyable to play? Not at all, but it might make the game feel a little tiresome for some gamers who aren’t so invested in the world of Pokémon.
Personally, I had a whole lot of fun with the game and still find myself returning for more dungeon runs post-completion. There’s a heck of a lot to do in the game (you won’t even access evolution until after the main story), with the potential for hundreds of hours to be spent in Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX’s charming world.
Developer: Spike Chunsoft
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch