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Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX review – rogue remake

Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX – international rescue is go! (The Pokémon Company)
One of the most successful Pokémon spin-offs is given a remake on Nintendo Switch, but was it worth bringing back?
The world of Pokémon is one that has evolved subtly over the years. The first few games favoured a sort of bucolic ideal based on several different areas of the Japanese countryside, and while there were always towns the games’ heart clearly lay elsewhere. But more recently, especially since Detective Pikachu , the games have tended to focus on how pokémon would work in an urban environment – how things would really be if you were walking around with a 10-foot tall rock monster when you went down the shops to pick up some milk.
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon has always taken very much the opposite approach, portraying the world of pokémon when there are no humans around. Rather than just aimlessly wandering about in tall grass, apparently as soon as they’re left alone they set up their own multi-species society, complete with shops, training dojos, a postal service and… rescue teams.
The original Pokémon Mystery Dungeon was released in two versions, in 2005 (2006 by the time it got to the UK), with Red Rescue Team on the Game Boy Advance and Blue Rescue Team on the nascent Nintendo DS. There wasn’t much difference between them though, so this remake combines them both into one. Although despite what you might assume this was never a bespoke Pokémon game, but instead part of strange crossover franchise Mystery Dungeon.

Mystery Dungeon started off in 1993 as a crossover with Dragon Quest on the SNES, and so it and many of its immediate successors where never released in the West. Developed by ChunSoft, it subsequently branched out into standalone releases such as Shiren The Wanderer and crossovers with other franchises such as Final Fantasy and Etrian Odyssey . Except for the latter, they’re all very similar games, in that they’re old school roguelikes – a genre which back in 2005 was almost unknown in the West but is today extremely popular amongst indie developers. Although Mystery Dungeon is much more old school in its approach than the likes of Dead Cells and Darkest Dungeon .
In terms of the core gameplay Pokémon Mystery Dungeon doesn’t change anything fundamental compared to the original game, as you explore top-down dungeons using what is essentially turn-based movement and combat. However, it does greatly water down the difficulty associated with roguelikes and while you can lose all your money and items if you fail a rescue mission there’s, predictably, no permadeath.
The plot involves you being transformed into a pokémon (a little psychological profiling at the start suggests which one most suits you, but you can insist on any from a choice of over a dozen) and then setting up a rescue team with a computer-controlled ally to help out pokémon trapped in dungeons. Since apparently nobody has thought of just bricking them up and putting up a ‘Don’t Enter’ sign.
There’s a certain amount of busywork back in town, picking up quests, buying items, and learning moves, but the rescue missions themselves quickly devolve into a highly repetitive formula. All the dungeons are randomly-generated, which means there are no real set pieces, just lots of dead ends and weird layouts with exits right next to entrances. You trudge through floor after floor looking for whoever you’re rescuing, or escorting a client, while fighting pokémon that have been mysteriously reduced to a feral sate.
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX – why can’t people just stay out of dungeons? (pic: The Pokémon Company)
The combat in the remake is much closer to the mainline Pokémon games than the original was, with the option to use four different moves which can be replaced by new ones you learn along the way. Elemental vulnerabilities are simplified, but are still part of the game, as are things like status changes that can paralyse or burn you. The range of moves, measured by the grid-like movement system, are also important and there’s a selection of collectible items to help improve the odds in your favour.
But while you can learn new moves you never evolve (or at least not without a lot of difficulty) and you don’t really catch pokémon, just recruit them to your team. This is made much easier than in the original, as you build special camps to suit different types of pokémon but that dilutes the excitement of getting a new recruit, especially as you now have up to nine of them snaking around a dungeon at once, which looks ridiculous and is very unwieldly.
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The most interesting thing about the remake is the art style, which uses an unusual hand-drawn effect that’s not only attractive but does a good job of hiding just how simplistic the graphics are underneath. What it can’t do though is make the dungeons look any better and they’re still extremely bland, with no meaningful change since the original DS version.
Perhaps the most damning element of the game is that there’s an ‘Auto’ option that you can turn on to basically let it play itself, with you only having to take over manually for battles. That tells you all you need to know about the game’s depth and complexity, and the fact that the developers realise you might want a respite from the tedium of having to play it yourself.
There are a few other minor points of note (combining moves together at the Link Shop is something that would be fun to see in the mainline games), but really Mystery Dungeon is not a very interesting game, and never was. There are far better roguelikes and far better Pokémon games available on the Switch, and we’d take any of them over this entirely unwarranted remake.



Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX review summary
In Short: A thoroughly uninteresting roguelike that undermines the most compelling elements of both the genre and the Pokémon universe.
Pros: The new art style is nice and this feels more like a real Pokémon game than the original.
Cons: Randomly-generated dungeons and repetitive missions are a bore, as is the turn-based combat and twee script.
Score: 4/10



Formats: Nintendo Switch
Price: £49.99
Publisher: The Pokémon Company
Developer: Spike Chunsoft
Release Date: 6th March 2020
Age Rating: 7

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