The Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series is known for eliciting strong opinions. Its following is somewhat limited, as it takes both a particular tolerance for tedium and a fundamental enjoyment of its combat and exploration systems. But it’s also one that is often accused of bearing a persecution complex. Plenty of games have niche appeal, but many Mystery Dungeon fans feel that the appeal is misunderstood and insulted by the games community at large. Occasionally, at least, they’re right.
Playing Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX makes it fairly easy to understand why so many would treat it with such vitriol, but also why it would engender such attachment and loyalty from its fans. So let’s break down what makes the game so easy to love – or hate.
Love: A Pokémon game that feels different
Sure, there are lots of Pokémon spinoffs, but a lot of them either deliver something that’s a bit too similar (like Let’s Go and Battle Revolution) or too far away (like Pinball and Shuffle). Pokémon Mystery Dungeon is engaging in a completely different way, but hunting for different monsters can still be a fun activity for a fan base built for doing precisely that. The previous games do that, sure, but if we’re to treat Rescue Team DX as a potential entry point (and it really wants to be that), its appeal definitely lies there.
Hate: A Pokémon Mystery Dungeon that doesn’t feel different at all
On the other hand, if you are a series veteran, perhaps you were looking for more of a gameplay shake-up. In a franchise that’s relied upon selling two versions to the same people, it’s already very much tested its fans’ tolerance of repetition, so “play the plot of Rescue Team a third time on a third platform” is something of a weak sell. There are welcome adjustments to elements outside of the dungeon (and even a few that creep their way in), but the game’s careful to keep the core elements the same, and that brings with it the inherent drawback of being largely what you’ve done before.
Love: The art style is well-executed
When building a game for the Switch, developers often have to make very careful aesthetic choices. If you try to make your game look too impressive, performance often suffers, so the most successful Switch releases lean into a strong art style rather than pushing polygons and implementing advanced effects.
The team at Spike Chunsoft took some relatively simple 3D models and a Unity-built recreation of the 2005 game’s environments and implemented a lush, painterly style that triumphs over these limitations. The story it tells is quaint and charming in a way that meshes well with this look, and it’ll age well in a way polygonal games generally don’t.
Hate: The game design is dated
Fundamentally, Rescue Team DX is a game from 15 years ago, and even then, it was a simplified Mystery Dungeon experience designed to make the esoteric franchise more accessible. As such, it’s a game that neither offers new ideas nor delivers as deep and tactical an experience as games like Shiren the Wanderer. If your aim is to be challenged by a game’s concepts or difficulty (as Mystery Dungeon fans often are), the game will do absolutely nothing for you. You’ll quickly advance past a level that could test you, and the Switch update’s adjustments to advanced training make things even easier.
Love: Painless grinding with your favorites
On the other hand, not everyone’s always looking for a game to test their capabilities. Sometimes you want a feeling of constant progress, the easy pleasantness that’s been manipulated to great effect by the mobile and free-to-play scene. Sometimes you want a “podcast game,” something to zone out and play while listening and decompress for a while. In contrast to the main Pokémon series’ post-game activities like EV training and shiny hunting that lean toward this appeal, Pokémon Mystery Dungeon offers this in its core play.
The greatest affinity you’ll have to Rescue Team DX is likely the one you already possess: your attachment to its characters. More than other Pokémon games, it allows you to spend more time with the cute, iconic lower forms, and with evolutions having little effect and shifted to the post-game, you’re free to use a lot of creatures that are otherwise either quickly leveled away or thrown out as not viable. Hey there, Squirtle! Stick around a while!
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX is out now on Nintendo Switch.