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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Impressions on the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX Announcement and Demo

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - Beautiful graphics and quality-of-life improvements. But is it worth a buy?

Last week, we had the January 2020 Pokémon Direct. While most of the time was spent on the Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield Expansion Passes, the first two minutes was spent on another announcement: Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX, which is a Nintendo Switch remake of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Red Rescue Team from the Game Boy Advance, and Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Blue Rescue Team from the Nintendo DS. That makes the source material over 14 years old.

I wrote, around when the last Pokémon Mystery Dungeon game was released (late 2015 with Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon for Nintendo 3DS), about all of my Pokémon Mystery Dungeon history and experience. I like the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon spin-offs much more than the mainline RPGs. That means that while those mainline games are disappointing, the Mystery Dungeon titles make the franchise worth it. Though there wasn't one for Generation 7—all there were for spin-offs were stupid made-to-be-mobile titles.

That means I should celebrate Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX's existence, right? Well, before giving thoughts too pre-emptively, I wanted to play the demo. And yes, they released a demo that goes from the very beginning up right before you can enter Mt. Steel...which for those who don't know, is pretty early in. It transfers save data to the full version. Still, from that, I can definitely give you my impressions.

Two things stand out: the graphics style and the quality-of-life improvements.

For the graphics, all you need to do is look at them. While everything was done with lovingly-crafted sprites—some of the best—back in the mid-2000s, now they're all watercolour-y and storybook-y. It's a wonderful art style that oozes developer love.

Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Red Blue Rescue Team DX Game Boy Advance Nintendo Switch graphics art style comparison side-by-side
Along with the art style, things like the assets, camera angles, and the partner's nerves have changed, too.

They're also much more warming than some of the traditional 3D models we've been seeing from the franchise lately, especially in the mainline games. 

In case you're wondering, the soundtrack doesn't do anything unexpected. Basically higher-quality versions of what was in the Game Boy Advance/DS game. It's what we've already heard from, say, Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon when it brings back music from the previous games. And this franchise has EXCELLENT music.

Alright, quality-of-life improvements. Where to start? The game has an easier to read level-up read-out (all in one new, special screen, as opposed to a line-by-line message log read-out of each stat going up). There's no more IQ skills across different groupings to grind Gummis for, and Pokémon AI is good to begin with. Instead, there are Rare Qualities that boost some facet of a Pokémon that you can increase by eating Gummis. You are told move type effectiveness on a Pokémon by a little icon. When buying Technical Machines, a sparkle effect will let you know if the Pokémon in your party can learn the move before you buy it. There's now a teleportation Diglett hole between your house and the Pelipper post office. There are now more menu short-cuts. The physical-special move split exists. Move level-ups from the recent games are a thing in this, too, instead of having to ingest and grind for Ginseng.

Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Rescue Team DX Torchic level up screen
You don't have to dread level-ups anymore!
And yes, my name is Ludkip the Mudkip. The personality test chose the Mudkip and I went with it. Said I was calm.

In a controversial move, so I won't call it an improvement, they got rid of the basic neutral attack. Instead, pressing A against an enemy will pick one of your Pokémon's four moves that the AI considers to be the best one. Previously, you'd use an attack that didn't take any PP (Power Points, or number of times you can use the move). In the first Pokémon Mystery Dungeon game, this move could actually become fairly overpowered. In later ones, it's quite weak. Now this remake does away with it entirely. To compensate, the item mix is akin to Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon where PP-restoring items are plentiful. (Before, you wanted to conserve PP for long dungeon treks.) You can also hold down the L button to activate Auto Mode, which does dungeon navigation for you instead of you moving yourself, though it's unknown if this is designed to be optimal. It won't fight for you (that's what the A button is for), but I'd rather be in control of my own destiny.

It's optional, though. Just don't press the button.

I have two articles in mind that I need to settle the logic of before I give a major endorsement of happiness. One is when they announced Pokémon Alpha Sapphire and Pokémon Omega Ruby, fellow remakes of Generation 3 games, and I wasn't excited about them at all. That's easy to explain. In that very article, I was talking about the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games with much more enthusiasm, even if they had nothing to do with the topic. Excited tangent!

The second article is when I downplayed the Nintendo Switch remake of The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. It has everything that Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX has. A new art style. Many quality-of-life improvements. Upgraded soundtrack (though I don't think the original was good source material). But I said it wasn't worth $60 and to go to the Virtual Console on a prior system and buy The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening there for $6.

Well, Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Red Rescue Team and Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Blue Rescue Team are on the Wii U Virtual Console for $8 and $10, respectively.

I'm not against you saving a lot of money and getting one of those. But I can say that, while they were never sold for this amount, the originals had an excess of value and are easily worth $60 as they were.

Personally, I've decided that nearly a decade and a half passing since I've played through Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Red Rescue Team is enough of a time-distance to re-experience that tale. Plus, we know there's new content. There's Mega Evolution/Awakening status brought from Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon. We see the likes of playable Lucario in the trailer. The game has been re-balanced. The Fairy type is in it.

Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Rescue Team DX Lucario Aura Sphere Remains Island
Remains Island didn't have enemy Poliwag in it, either.
And it wasn't accessible through normal means, which may or may not have something to do with this.

Plus, me getting Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX means I'll be able to rescue your fallen team whether you're playing the original Red Rescue Team or you're playing Rescue Team DX. I'm waiting for your calls for assistance!

Another benefit to buying this is that Chunsoft may be expected to sell a certain amount of copies in order to justify making a brand-new Pokémon Mystery Dungeon title, and that's something worth supporting. Ludwig didn't mention this, but he's apparently in the minority opinion that Pokémon recruitment based on pre-defined missions (or how Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon does it) is a massive quality-of-life improvement over recruiting Pokémon through the equivalent of random drops, and going back on that is a quality-of-life decrease. Most fans seem to disagree.

This game's existence makes Nintendo claiming they have no defined remake policy rather laughable.


  1. Yay, the article is here!

    How do you feel about items being marked on the map? I saw a lot of people critical of that, and others speculating that it might just be there for the demo and not be unlocked from the start in the full game.

    So, should I get this when it launches and play it as my first Pokemon Mystery Dungeon game, or play Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon since I already have a copy?
    I played the demo and enjoyed it. ...I think I also played a demo for Super Mystery Dungeon, but I don't remember much about it at all.

    1. The game settings sort of specifically make it clear that the items/enemies on the map is a dungeon-by-dungeon basis, like weather. The X-Ray Specs (lets you see items and enemies on the map) is still a held item in the game, and it wouldn't be if this was a permanent thing.
      In other words, later maps won't have that.

      Play Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX first. It shouldn't be a big jump going from that to Super Mystery Dungeon, since the former is mechanically based on the latter to a degree.
      Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon is better with previous series knowledge, because it makes repeated homages to prior games.


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