There’s never been a better time to be a Pokémon fan than right now. The Let’s Go Eevee and Pikachu games kicked off a visually bold new direction on the Nintendo Switch in 2018, last year’s Sword and Shield games made for some fantastic ne world-building and their upcoming expansions look like terrific stuff.
Pokémon has always been about more than just the mainline lightning-quick RPGs that sell Nintendo consoles though, with spin-offs a’plenty to be found on the last two decades of Big N hardware. From the N64’s Pokémon Snap through to the delightful Pokken Tournament, Pokémon evolves to meet new markets and genres whenever given the chance to do so. So what does Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Rescue DX bring to the table? A Tyroguelike experience, that’s what. Ha.
At first glance, you wouldn’t say that you’re looking at the DNA of a 15 year old game, but that’s what it is! Based on the 2006 Gameboy Advance titles Pokémon Blue and Red Rescue Team, the game kicks off with a bonkers premise: You, once a human, waking up to find yourself transformed into one of the many pocket monsters who make up the wildlife of the many regions of this world.
Even crazier, you’re soon roped into a world of Pokémon that has its own culture, towns and citizens, plying your trade as a rescue specialist who ventures into dungeons to save helpless Pokémon from other nastier pocket monsters who are roaming about and looking for a fight. To do just that, you’ll be making use of a core gameplay system that has barely changed in 15 years, exploring randomised dungeons and popping off attacks in the lightest of turn-based systems.
The trick here is that positioning plays a key role, as do your choice of team leaders and being intimately familiar with the rock-paper-scissors nature of Pokémon’s many elemental types. Fire beats grass, water beats fire and fairy beats dragon. Y’know, the usual. Knowing is half the battle, and taking a Fire-type Pokémon with you into a cave populated with Steel-type opponents is a prime example of this. You don’t bring a Blastoise to an electric fight unless you’re looking for trouble.
Once inside, every action has a reaction and takes up a turn albeit for some instances where the rulebook is thrown out of the window. Each Pokémon has a quartet of moves to choose from, each attack has a defined range of effectiveness and you’ll still be hitting that mathematical dopamine rush in your head as you level up throughout the course of the lengthy adventure. You’ll be able to recruit certain Pokémon to your team after you’ve rescued them, building a squad who can meet any challenge.
One cool new addition in Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Rescue DX? A handy ability called Move Linking, which allows you to cut tougher Pokémon down to size by tag-teaming attacks together albeit at the cost of your PP and hunger energy levels. Having that power at your disposal and a wide selection of Pokémon to choose from is a key strategy, one that will always lead you to victory if you know when to use it.
This, combined with a need to ensure that you always have the right camp accessory to make some Pokémon permanent members of your squad, naturally makes for a bit of a grind. That was the core appeal of the original game and its once again the driving force behind this remake, but it just feels a tad too hollow in this day and age. It won’t be long before you’re met with a barrier in the form of a dungeon that requires you to be of a higher level, necessitating a back and forth exercise in tedium as you hit the Makuhita gym to earn those all important dings on your stats.
Grinding out this training and boring jobs that send you back to dungeons in glorified Farfetch’d quests, while Makuhita’s gym removes the turn-based mechanics and throws a timed flurry of insanity at you as you work your way through cannon fodder mobs for experience points. It’s just boring after a while. Where Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Rescue DX adds some flavour to its saga, is in the how of its story.
There’s a thick layer of charm here, bonkers twists and characters with personalities that suit their pocket monster breed perfectly. There are lazy Pokémon slacking off, troublemaking hooligans and pedantic sages to chat to. If Pokémon was real and had its own nation, this would be the benchmark for how they would operate in the real world.
It’s also worth mentioning just how fantastic the entire package looks. Compared to the pixels of a bygone era or even Pokémon Sword and Shield’s sooth 3D models, Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Rescue DX makes use of an art style that is absolutely charming. Everything has a hand drawn look, thin lines of ink outlining every character and the world around them having the colour of a warm Sunday afternoon painting session down by the lake.
That makes for an absolutely endearing presentation, but even those leisurely paintbrush strokes can’t hide the cracks within the core gameplay loop that feel so average and tedious.
Last Updated: March 5, 2020