This is something I wasn’t expecting to be writing today. During today’s Pokemon Direct, Nintendo announced a remake of the first pair of Pokemon Mystery Dungeon games, combining them into a single game with a release date of March 6. Not only was this a complete surprise, but they also put out a demo today, and you can even carry your save data from it into the full game. As someone who’s never played a Mystery Dungeon game, this seemed like a great opportunity to see what they’re all about.
When you begin, you are given a series of questions and asked to answer honestly. These range from things like how would you react to hearing a scream on the other side of a door to whether or not you think you’re cool. After answering the questions as best I could, the game selected Bulbasaur as my playable character. But I ain’t no Bulbasaur, so when asked if that was okay, I said no and manually selected Squirtle. I briefly considered being a Torchic, but had to go with my original favorite starter. Thankfully, you’re asked to select a partner character, so I’ve got a Torchic buddy.
As the game opens, Torchic wakes me up and asks if I’m okay. My character is surprised to learn that he isn’t a human, but has apparently turned into a Pokemon. That’s pretty weird. But there’s not much time to dwell on that as a Butterfree appears and says her baby Caterpie has fallen into a fissure and needs to be rescued. Because Torchic and I are just so nice, we head out to see what we can do.
Now we get to the bulk of what this game is. The Mystery Dungeon games (which include games outside of the Pokemon franchise) are a series of pure Rogue-likes, of which I have absolutely no experience with. I’ve played games that have borrowed elements from that genre (Rogue-lite, is that what we say these days?) but never anything that was exactly that formula. It took a little bit to really get what I was supposed to be doing, but once it clicked, it’s actually all pretty simple.
Basically, your character is in a randomly generated dungeon. Because of it being random, the actual layouts aren’t very interesting, just a bunch of narrow hallways that connect into rooms. The main gimmick of this style of game though, is that nothing moves if you aren’t moving. You move on a grid, and each space that you move, enemies will also move a space. If you attack, that’s the same as going one space, so enemies can then attack as well or move one space, and then wait for you to perform your next move. It’s kind of cool as it leads to tactical thinking, like a turn-based game, but it feels closer to something that’s happening in real time. The other big thing from Rogue-likes, and the thing that Rogue-lites primarily borrow, is that when you lose, you lose all your money and items, so you have to be very careful.
Well, I assume you have to be very careful, as at least in the early going, this game is extremely easy. With Torchic helping out, almost every enemy we encountered died after getting hit just a couple times. You heal automatically as you move without fighting, although you do need to occasionally eat or else your health could start ticking away.
Outside the dungeon is a full, standard RPG town. It’s got a bank to deposit your money before adventuring, item storage, shops, and a post office. After saving that Caterpie, you and Torchic decide to become a rescue team, and now you can take rescue jobs from a bulletin board at the post office. I have to stop and wonder why there’s so much trouble in this world that there are multiple volunteer rescue teams, but whatever, it’s a video game.
There seem to be two types of jobs, the ones that you get at that bulletin board and ones that are mailed to you that are more important to the story. In the demo, you do a second one of those, asking you to rescue a couple Magnamites who found themselves stuck together. You also get four bulletin board jobs. What’s nice is, if you have multiple jobs in the same dungeon, you can clear them out all at once. I assume as the game gets harder, you’ll have to decide if you have the resources to keep going after finishing a job, but in the demo, it was very easy to clear three that had the same location in a single go.
Aside from the simple but fun gameplay, Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX also looks quite nice. It has this soft, kind of painted look to it that really helps the game stand out. It might technically look less complicated than Pokemon Sword and Shield, but the style gives a much stronger impression than that game, and I’d like to see other Pokemon games give something like this a try,
Overall, I really enjoyed my time with the demo. The actual game is coming out at kind of a bad time though, mere days after Final Fantasy VII Remake and a couple weeks before Doom Eternal and Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Because of this, I’m probably not going to pick it up right away. But if there’s a fairly significant dry spell later this year, this seems like a good game to pick up and fill that time.