Imagine waking up one day, only to realise you had been turned into a Pokémon, with no recollection of how it happened! What would you do? This is the dilemma you face in Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX, a remake of the titles originally released for Nintendo Game Boy Advance and DS to mark their tenth anniversary.
I have always heard wonderful stories about the Mystery Dungeon games, and it was only this year that I had the pleasure of enjoying one for the very first time, Explorers of Sky on the Nintendo DS. I loved every moment of it, and so I was super enthusiastic about taking on the remake of the original Pokémon Mystery Dungeon titles in the form of Rescue Team DX.
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Rescue Team DX
Developed by Spike Chunsoft Co., Ltd
Published by Nintendo
Released: 6th March 2020
Digital review copy provided by Nintendo UK
The game opens with a Pokémon personality quiz, which determines the type of Pokémon you will become for this journey. The game will ask you a random selection of questions, and recommends that you answer them truthfully. Once you have completed the test, the game will choose one of the sixteen possible Pokémon that you will become, but if you don’t like the choice, you are able to choose one yourself. After that you will be asked to choose a partner Pokémon, which can only be a different type to your own. Once you have made your choices, your Mystery Dungeon adventure can begin!
During your first mission, you will be approached by a Butterfree seeking for your help to save her baby, a Caterpie in a dungeon. Alongside your chosen partner, you will take on the dangers of the mysterious dungeon and save Caterpie. Upon your return to the surface, your partner will recommend forming a rescue team in order to help other Pokémon. For the rest of the game, you will take on jobs to help other Pokémon in need, and endeavour to become the greatest rescue team you can possibly be!
If you’re unfamiliar with the series, the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games are a departure from the typical catch, raise, and battle format from the mainline Pokémon games. Instead, your main objective is to navigate randomly generated environments and reaconch an exit, battling monsters to gain experience and levels, obtain items and Poké (currency) to help you throughout your quest. Each dungeon will have various hazards to overcome, and you will need to carry items with you in order to prevent hunger, health depletion, and status-lowering conditions.
There are a variety of different jobs to take on, from rescuing fainted Pokémon, to finding lost items. These can be obtained from the Pelipper Post Office Bulletin Board, from the mailbox at your base, or directly from other Pokémon, who come to you in need of your services. Completing each mission will net you rewards, such as items and Poké. You can also gain reputation to grow your rescue team rank, which will increase the size of your Toolbox, the number of jobs you can take on at a time, and the number of pre-saved teams to choose from.
Mystery dungeons appear in many different environments across the land, such as mountains, forests and caves, each with a number of floors to navigate. Dungeons can also be affected by weather. Sunny weather, for example, can increase the effectivity of fire type moves of both your team and enemy Pokémon, or summon a sandstorm that will inflict damage upon your team as you navigate through the dungeon. At first, the number of floors to a dungeon will be low, increasing as you progress through the game. If your team faints in a dungeon, you will lose items and Poké that you were carrying and accumulated in the dungeon, so you should always pick the most suitable team and items for each mission.
When you enter each floor of a dungeon, you will see a mini map in the top left corner of the screen, showing the location of enemies, items and mission specific goals. You will not be able to see the path or room they are contained in until you reach those areas, and the location of the floor exit will not be visible until you step in the room that contains it. For each step you and your allies take, the enemy will also take a step. This will allow you to plan your journey through the floor, and whether you wish to avoid enemy Pokémon, or battle them.
Hidden hazards can be uncovered by stepping onto them, which can affect the status of your Pokémon. Equally, there are a few beneficial tiles such as Wonder Tiles, which will restore your stats to their original state, although it does mean that if you have boosted stats, they will also be returned to normal.
You can move through the floors faster by holding down B and moving in a specific direction, including diagonally (you can also speed through in-game dialogue this way). You can even enable Auto Mode, which will allow the CPU you take control of the team leader for you, which may help new or younger players. Auto Mode will end when you encounter an enemy, and enemy encounters will trigger a turn-based gameplay style.
When battling Pokémon, the team leader can choose one of four available attacks. Pressing A will activate the best suited move to use against the target Pokémon, but pressing ZL will bring up a list of all of your moves, followed by the A, B, X or Y button to select the most appropriate one. Some moves are ranged, while others will require you to be adjacent to the enemy Pokémon. Certain moves may change the status of Pokémon, such as putting it to sleep, paralysing or poisoning it, which can shift the advantage of a battle very quickly. Moves have a finite amount of turns before they can no longer be used (PP). Restore PP with Max Ether or a Max Elixir.
Your team will attack automatically, but you will have some degree of control over the moves they can use by deselecting specific moves in Move Settings from the menu. You can also change the behavior of how they move through each dungeon, such as prioritising the collection of items or attacking enemies. I opted to have my allies stay close to me at all times, but playing with these settings within the Tactics Meeting section can potentially be helpful. If you want to take control of a different Pokémon in your team, you have the option of switching the team leader. Defeating an enemy will net you and team members experience points, which will increase your level, strengthen your stats, and allow you to learn stronger moves, just like mainline Pokémon games.
If the leader of the team strikes the finishing blow, the enemy may even ask to join your team! If you select yes, the Pokémon will accompany you for the duration of your stay in the dungeon, but can join you permanently if you have a suitable camp set up to accommodate it (more on that later in the review). Once you have completed the job objective, you may choose to escape the dungeon, or descend deeper until you reach the end of it.
There were times where I felt fairly confident in my ability to complete a dungeon, only to be destroyed by a group of enemy Pokémon, making me wonder if I should have gone back through earlier dungeons to level up my Pokémon more. On top of this, you have to think about the items you have left in your toolbox, and how hungry your team is. You have to really consider if it’s worth going for that item in the far end of the dungeon floor, risking the amount of health and hunger you have remaining, or rush for the exit and cut your adventure short. Because each visit is different, it’s hard to know what to expect, which is both nerve-wracking and exciting.
After playing through Explorers of Sky, I am happy with some of the game’s quality of life improvements for battles in Rescue Team DX, such as projectile based attacks shot over allies instead of damaging them, and team members can suggest using an item in your Toolbox to heal themselves or other Pokémon, helping you maintain your items better, and stop you from using up precious Revival Seeds.
The storyline focuses on a world plagued by natural disasters, which some believe to be connected to a legend in which a human was cursed and turned into a Pokémon. The adventure will encourage you to seek out the truth of this legend from a wise fortune-teller, who will confirm that you were indeed a human, and that the stories are true. An eavesdropper then informs the rest of the town that a Pokémon who used to be human, is tied to the natural disasters taking place across the land, and they decide that they need to get rid of you, causing you and your partner Pokémon to go on the run as fugitives, seeking evidence of your innocence and to prevent the world from enduring a cataclysmic event!
While the dungeon exploration side of the game is the main focus of Rescue Team DX, there’s plenty to enjoy between missions. Between these story based objectives, there are things you can do to help grow your rescue team and prepare yourself for the challenges ahead. You can travel between your base camp to other Pokémon camps to the west, and east to Pokémon Square, where you will find a range of shops and services to assist you. Further east is the Pelipper Post Office, which allows you to take on new missions, or rescue friends, both locally and online. I only had to be rescued twice in my playthrough, and I used the Pelipper Post Office to create a password to send to a friend, so he could play through the same dungeon to the point where I fainted, in order to save me.
While I was down, I used the same service to go online and help other players in need by choosing a rescue mission from dungeons I had already explored. Upon saving them, I received rewards and ranked up my own rescue team. It felt great knowing that I was helping other players just like my friend was helping me. Once my friend was done rescuing my butt, I entered a password and resumed my adventure from where I had fainted, this time with a fully revived team and all of my items intact.
Pokémon Square services include a shop run by Kecleon brothers that sell items and TM’s, a storage service run by Kangaskhan, and Felicity Bank that lets you store your hard-earned Poké. Other services include the Makuhita Dojo, a place to obtain huge amounts of experience, and increase the levels of Pokémon which require Dojo tickets found in dungeons or given as rewards for completing missions. It also lets you practice techniques (Tricks of the trade), serving as a great tutorial for beginners, which can even net you some rewards!
The Gulpin Link Shop allows you to link moves together, which lets you use multiple moves at once! Linking moves aren’t mandatory, but can create powerful effects and give you an edge in battles. The shop also lets your Pokémon remember older moves, if you replaced one previously. Linked moves can be separated from here too if you so wish.
As you progress through the game, a new shop will open in Pokémon Square called Wigglytuff’s Camp Corner, which provides rescue team camps for Pokémon encountered in dungeons who wish to join your cause. Each camp caters to a specific kind of Pokémon, such as those that dwell in water, or live in forests. The more camps you set up, the wider the selection of Pokémon you will have to dispatch, helping you put together the perfect rescue team! Wigglytuff will give you three camps for free, but beyond that, will charge you Poké to set up further camps. You can also obtain items called Wigglytuff Orbs, which lets you purchase an appropriate Camp for a Pokémon you encounter in a dungeon, but you’ll have to ensure you have enough Poké on you to cover the cost.
Rescue team camps can be found to the left of your home. There, you can view the camp list to see which Pokémon can be recruited to join you on your missions. At each camp, you can eat Gummi, use items to increase the strength of Pokémon, change nicknames and say goodbye to Pokémon you no longer wish to work with.
Once you unlock Camps, you will be able to set up your team before you depart on missions, such as changing members of the team, giving them items, and managing your inventory and money straight from the menu. I found this highly convenient, because it saved me trips to Pokémon Square, letting me get straight into the action. Another convenience is the ability to fast-travel between the Pelipper Post Office and your home base via a Diglett tunnel, which opens up a little later into the game, and can save a lot of time.
The interactions between Pokémon are charming. Each character has their own personality, and sometimes it’s just worth exploring Pokémon Square to speak to them to see what they have to say, sometimes I would get some useful tips or information relating to the story. If I was ever stuck on where to go next, speaking to my partner Pokémon would guide me to the area I wanted to be, ensuring I wouldn’t get lost.
Visually, the game is quite beautiful, vibrant and bursting with colour, reminiscent of a children’s book. Rescue Team DX has a catchy soundtrack, orchestral for the most part, with some electronic elements and chiptune peppered throughout. The opening theme is heroic and something I found myself humming throughout the day when I wasn’t playing it. Other stand-out tracks for me include Mt. Thunder, and the game’s final dungeon.
My overall impression of the game is mostly positive, but I felt it was made to cater to more casual audiences, and was more forgiving than previous titles. For example, pointing out where items were located within a dungeon removed the element of surprise, and in some cases highlighted some of the tougher sections of a dungeon would be, such as Monster House rooms. While some may consider avoiding a barrage of Pokémon and their attacks to be a good thing, for me it removed some of the challenge within the base game that I had experienced with Explorers of Sky on DS. However, if you complete the story, players can embrace a greater challenge in the post-game.
I also noticed some framerate drops in TV mode with weather changes and when facing legendary Pokémon, and when trying to open menus. While this was a small annoyance, it wasn’t bad enough to reflect in my scoring. However I do hope there will be an update in the future to improve these issues.
Overall, I was very happy with Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX. The game was faithfully recreated in its story, gameplay, music and art with some great quality of life improvements throughout for a much smoother and enjoyable experience. I cross my fingers for additional free content updates in the future to increase the game’s longevity.