Imagine waking up one day and realising that you’re no longer a human. But instead a Pokémon. A Pokémon destined to become a legendary rescue team member. Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX, the remake of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Blue Rescue Team and Red Rescue Team on the Nintendo DS, puts players directly into the body of a Pokémon.
Players will start off by taking a personality test, where you’ll be asked a series of questions such as, “can you sincerely thank someone when you feel grateful?” or “There is an alien invasion, what will you do?”. The questions are randomised as I started the game more than once to find myself being asked a different set of questions. Once you’ve answered the questions, you’ll be given a psychiatric evaluation of the type of person that you are. Which will, in turn, determine the Pokémon you become. Once this has been selected, because the game does offer you to return to the questions if you’re not happy with the result, you’ll then be allowed to select your partner Pokémon. Both the list of Pokémon selected for you as the player after answering your personality questions and the selection of partner Pokémon is one of a dozen Pokémon pre-selected from the hundreds of Pokémon available. Some of the pocket monsters on the list include the original gen 1 starters Bulbasaur, Squirtle, Charmander and Pikachu. As well as starters and iconic Pokémon from more modern titles and the anime, such as Chikorita, Mudkip, Eevee and Meowth. Once your teams selected, you’re ready to become a rescue ranger.
Players will begin in the hub world. A section of the game that includes your home and a town filled with shops and vendors. A bank to hold your Poké cash whilst exploring the “dangerous” dungeons. An item holding vendor to store your items so that you don’t lose it if you’re knocked out during battle. And a shop that allows you to purchase campsites. Campsites house wild Pokémon that you’ll meet and get to recruit during your many dungeon explorations. But more on that later. The town is also equipped with its own Dojo: a place for Pokémon to train and increase their levels. Sadly, you’ll need Dojo tickets to enter the Dojo and train, however, after a few dungeon explorations, you’ll acquire them quite fast.
The majority of the game will be spent exploring dungeons. These are randomly generated dungeons with multiple levels to explore. The aim and goal is simple. Enter a dungeon with a three-man Pokémon team to either rescue a trapped Pokémon or defeat one that’s causing havoc for the rest of the Pokémon world. Don’t expect a dark, dingy and damp place though. Dungeons in Mystery Dungeon are in fact colourful maze-like areas that house traps, wild Pokémon, and tons of items to find and escape with. You and your Pokémon will be subjected to exploring tunnel corridors that lead into square rooms to battle it out with wild Pokémon, search for random items or locate the staircase to the next level.
The more time you spend exploring the more energy you’ll utilise and the hungrier your lead Pokémon will become. If your hunger bar drops to zero, you’ll start losing HP for every additional step you take. Sadly, this is about all a dungeon has to offer and about an hour of playing through the game, players will soon discover how monotonous dungeons can be. With only one or rather two incentives to keep going back in. One, to recruit and team up with a number of other Pokémon that live in the dungeons. And two, to progress further in the story.
The battle system is fairly simple in the game. A turn-based system that has the player controlling one of their Pokémon party members while the rest of the team attacks automatically. The player’s Pokémon will have a selection of one of four moves learnt which they’ll have to either select or just hit the A button to allow your Pokémon character to select the best possible move for the round. Once you’ve attacked, your teammates will follow up with an attack of their own and then the enemy will be given a chance to do the same.
Thankfully there’s a neat feature called Link moves. This allows players to link two moves together which will allow you to perform two moves right after each other. Be warned though that link moves also utilise not only the PP of a Pokémon, which is the number of times that moves can be used in a dungeon, but also uses up the Pokémon’s energy and in turn makes them hungry. Battles are sadly just as monotonous as exploring the dungeons although they do create intriguing chess-like gameplay style. Players have to be facing the enemy in order to attack and also have to keep in mind that projectile attacks are highly beneficial granting a rather advantageous distance and strategy against enemy melee attacks.
Boss battles aren’t too great either since they follow the same ruleset. However, since a lot of the bosses don’t really move, you’ll be able to surround them and if you’ve recruited a full eight-man Pokémon team, the battle will be over before you can say Gotta Catch ’em all. Thankfully a really useful added function in the remake is an auto-mode. This allows players to have their battle teams run through the dungeons on their own without the player interacting with the controls, only stopping when they encounter an enemy which is when the player takes control once again. This speeds up the monotonous dungeon-crawling tenfold.
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Prior to entering dungeons, players will be granted the selection of a three-man exploration team. However, upon entering a dungeon you’ll be able to recruit wild Pokémon to either join your team permanently (if you possess that Pokémon’s campsite) or just for the remainder of the dungeon expedition. Either way, these Pokémon will battle alongside you within that dungeon through each level, creating quite a formidable battle team. This team is limited to eight Pokémon at a time though, but with a dungeon that has corridors that only allow for one Pokémon at a time, an eight-man team is more than enough. So how do campsites fall into this picture though? Well campsites are in fact the homes of where these wild Pokémon will remain when not exploring dungeons.
As players proceed through the game you’ll earn Poké cash which you’ll spend on various items, including TMs (technical machines used to teach Pokémon moves), different types of berries that heal your Pokémon and of course campsites. If you possess the correct campsite, as there are campsites for different groups of Pokémon, the wild Pokémon that joined up with you in the dungeon will now be available to explore with for the rest of the game. Keep in mind though that although you’ll recruit many Pokémon within these campsites to join you in expeditions, you’ll only be allowed to always set off with three-man Pokémon teams. Which at first seems hardly worth it, however, if your team faints inside of a dungeon, you’ll be able to assemble a second team to go in after them and rescue them. This creates an incentive for players to create multiple rescue teams not only to take on the various dungeons but also to rescue actual teams lost to the dungeons. And yes, you’re able to also rescue real players over the internet who’ve asked for help rescuing their teams lost within the dungeons.
All in all, Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX is a colourful and aesthetically pleasing game to look at and admire. It’s adorable to put it bluntly, with the game looking as if it had just come out of an art gallery rather than my television. Combined with gorgeous rendered Pokémon characters, this game is like candy to younger Pokémon fans. Sadly, in every other way, it just falls too short. There are intriguing and entertaining dialogue scenes here and there, but they are far and few in between the grinding that is the dungeons. The added features such as Mega Evolution and an auto-mode…THANK THE DEVELOPERS FOR THE AUTO-MODE…really assist the player in getting through the slow and boring bits of the game. However, I can honestly say, if you’re not a Pokémon fan and dislike dungeon crawlers, you can go ahead and give this a hard pass.