The Pokemon Mystery Dungeon series has been championed by its fans, always leaving them wanting more. In the style of a classic Japanese top-down Rogue-like dungeon crawler, it expands upon the mechanics of the mainline Pokemon RPGs, with a whimsical story that can be surprisingly witty and heartfelt. A demo for Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX was released recently, and we took a look to see what the fuss was all about.
Things start out with you waking up in a world of Pokemon, devoid of humans with yourself having turned into one of them. Despite how peaceful everything looks, there have been a spate of earthquakes and other natural disasters, making the wild Pokemon more prone to lash out. After rescuing a nearby Pokemon, you join up with a new friend to become a Rescue Team.
There is not much narrative beyond that in the demo, aside from your character suffering from odd dreams. Nonetheless, everything feels twee, soft, and friendly. The odd smirk-worthy dialogue takes you off guard simply because it is a surprise with everything else coming across as rather simple.
This appears to carry over into gameplay at first, but it is far from the truth. You explore randomly generated dungeons while completing missions you have accepted, exploring each floor while making sure your “Belly” meter does not get too low.
Things initially seem pretty easy. Your starting Pokemon get more powerful and diverse moves than the original, and the Makuhita Dojo serves a new function (at least in the demo). Rather than accessing extra dungeons for a team to complete, you exchange tickets for real-life time-limited dungeons for one Pokemon to blitz through- gaining a lot of EXP. You are auto-revived in them as well.
With the mainline game’s issues with a lack of challenge and over-leveling, concerns about difficulty quickly mounted. The aforementioned dojo even had tutorials for items, after you had already cleared two dungeons. The game has auto-moving modes to explore or find the exit (stopping when you see an enemy). Instead of choosing a move, you can even tap A to use the “best” move for the situation.
However, this changed after looking at the game’s terms via the glossary, and comparing it with the original. Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX‘s demo shows a lot of potential to keep its challenging resource management, planning, and survival-focus.
While there are some changes that do make things debatably fairer (you can freely change which Pokemon you control from the start, and you can see enemies and items on the mini-map much like the X-Ray Specs used to), some changes make things tougher to compensate.
While you could endure an empty stomach for quite a while to maximize the use of your food in the original, you now take a far larger chunk of damage per-action when hungry. You also no longer have any regular attacks- meaning the number of times you can use a move becomes as important as its range, type, effects, and so forth.
Along with the addition of moves, types, and abilities from later mainline games (but still keeping the first three generations of Pokemon), some bosses will be able to utilize special weather that heals them. Combined with thrown items with infinite range, some enemies moving through walls, and how you can lose almost half your HP per-attack despite being over-leveled, and you may need to level-up when you can to succeed.
Many tough elements of the original game return as well. You have a limited inventory, combined with the shop being randomized every time you return to town. As such, choosing what to bring and when to use it becomes a test- especially when treasure chests need to be carried out of a dungeon to be opened.
In addition, you can take multiple non-story missions at once. So you can clear all missions in the same dungeon in one trip, encouraging you to push deeper (and more greedily). Though hanging around on a floor for too long will cause you to be blown out of the dungeon, preventing farming.
Moves can also get more powerful the more you use them- effectively leveling-up just like the characters themselves, and for any ally Pokemon who then uses that same move. As such, weaker moves can still have a purpose based on their properties. Do you go for power or range? A wide coverage of Types, or stack up on one Type in case you run out of PP?
While you can freely re-learn forgotten moves, moves can also be “Linked.” This allows them to be used one after the other on the same turn (in exchange for some spent Belly meter). You almost have more to think about and strategize in battle than the mainline Pokemon games.
Graphically the game is rather simple. While this could be considered a tribute to the Game Boy Advance and early DS graphics, you can easily argue that it is either charming (especially with the storybook-style filter), or the $60 price-tag being steep for what is on display.
While the town looks more natural and less square than it once did, dungeons have square rooms and straight corridors. Very little is done to hide this, especially when the camera hangs high-above to hide any lack of detail or animation. Even so, nothing on display is egregious.
Aside from a few retro sound effects from the original game, the music sounds as though modern soundfonts have been used on the original arrangement. This is far from a complaint, and it is sure to be a delight to those who played the original.
Though, none of the music in the demo really stands out if you are not a fan. Exploring unknown forests and caves are suitably moody, and the town is relaxing and peppy. Much like the sound effects for moves and more, it it fits perfectly well.
This demo for Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX was rescued by the knowledge of how the original game did things, and the in-game glossary hinting something greater. While it can come across as very easy, there is a lot of potential for a surprising challenge wrapped in a sugar-coating.
Fans of the original speak of late-game challenges with a combination of excitement and apprehension, where levels mean nothing and surviving the dungeon is more important than the battles. Here is hoping the mystery keeps all the suspense of the original.
Special thanks to “Caelio” on the Niche Gamer Discord server.