For me personally, Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX is an exemplar of why game developers and publishers need to release free demos of their games for download. I had never touched a Pokemon Mystery Dungeon game before this one. I always thought they looked cute but never interesting enough to bother spending money on and playing. When I saw that the demo for this remake was free to try, though, I thought, “Why not? Can’t beat free.” Within about ten minutes, I was hooked. I still waited a couple of months to buy the full game (I had one of my VERY rare moments of financial responsibility), but once that tax refund check hit, you better believe I used what little I got back to pick up a copy (along with Doom Eternal).
The basic premise is that you’re a human turned into a Pokemon through plot device magic, and you team up with a BFF Pokemon (in my case, Jeff Dahmer the Charmander and Lil Homie the Squirtle, respectively) to form a rescue team to go help save Pokemon in danger from the natural disasters occurring all over the land. I named my team PokeBros. From there, you go through procedurally generated dungeons, battle random Pokemon, pick up items, and try to find the stairs to the next level of the dungeon as you search for whatever Pokemon it is you’re tasked with saving. Sometimes when you defeat an enemy Pokemon, it can develop acute Stockholm Syndrome and feel some kinship with you after you beat the shit out of it. This Pokemon will then ask to join your party. For the rest of the dungeon, it will serve as an ally NPC. When you clear the dungeon (assuming it hasn’t been defeated by an enemy), the ally NPC Pokemon will ask to join your rescue team. If you have a camp it can stay in (each camp only allows certain Pokemon, so build as many camps as you can as quickly as you can), you can invite it to join your rescue team. If you don’t have a camp for it or decline to invite it, you’ll get some money as a reward for giving it a great adventure (and beating the shit out of it). If you invite it to join your team, it can fill one of the three playable slots in your rescue team. Keep in mind, though, that you can only have up to five ally NPC Pokemon with you at a time. This was disappointing to me as I found my sixth abused Sandshrew that asked to join but couldn’t and forced me to abandon my dreams of building a grand Sandshrew army.
The game of which this is a remake was a 2D Game Boy Advance game, and while the remake keeps the 2D gameplay, the environments and characters themselves have been redone in a 3D style that has an EXTREMELY visually pleasing hand-drawn aesthetic. Honestly, the visuals are probably my favorite part of the game. The gameplay is great, the characters are cute, and I obviously love building as large a reserve of rescue team members as I can, but the graphics are just so beautiful and well-done that it’s hard not to be stunned. It’s reminiscent of Muramasa on Wii and Vita with the art direction. That’s not to say that it necessarily looks exactly like Muramasa, but the obvious care and artistic flair with which the visual style was crafted definitely reminded me a lot of it. As far as game features, though, it’s mostly a pretty standard dungeon crawler, but there is one that I want to mention specifically – the rescue system. Not rescuing NPCs – that’s the whole point of the game – but when your team gets knocked out. If all three members of your team faint in a dungeon, you have two options – respawn and lose all of your money, progress, and items; or put in a rescue request. If you choose the latter option and have the ability to play online, you can put up a request (with a seven-day expiration) and hope that another real player online will see your request, take the job, and rescue your team. From there, you can continue your journey through the dungeon where you were defeated without losing any items or money. If you don’t have the ability to play online but do have more than three Pokemon that you’ve recruited, you can put together a second three-man team and go rescue yourself. This is definitely the faster way, but I personally preferred having someone rescue me and using my other Pokemon to rescue other people who’ve put up requests in the meantime. It’s not efficient, but it was more fun to me personally. It was a really nice touch, and while it’s not true multiplayer, it’s a cool way to get player interactivity into the game.
Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX may have been my first experience with the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon spin-off series, but I highly doubt it will be my last one. I had an absolute blast playing it, and I’ll definitely be going back to do some of the post-game content. It’s addicting and chill all at the same time, and it’s just so damn CUTE. The art direction really steals the show, and while that in no way should diminish one’s appreciation for the fantastic soundtrack in the game, it’s not often that I see games as oozing with artistic style as this one. This is definitely a game to keep on your radar, folks. If nothing else, download the demo (it’s free; what do you have to lose?) and see if it scratches that itch for you the way that it did for me.