It may have not been the remake that Pokémon fans were hungering for (that being Diamond and Pearl) but Rescue Team DX still made for a pleasing reveal during this year's Pokémon Direct. The title is a remake of Red Rescue Team and Blue Rescue Team, which launched on the Game Boy Advance and the Nintendo DS respectively, and featured a fresh watercolour style and several creatures from later generations. The Mystery Dungeon series has built a whole fan base of its own since, but do these earliest entries warrant a revisit?
Things start off with you being probed with questions asking what you would do in an alien invasion or how often do you yawn, and this determines which Pokémon you are. This personality test is completely optional though and you can select yourself and your partner from either one the starters from the first three generations, or one of few oddball choices such as Cubone and Meowth. Some added Gen 4 representation would have been appreciated as an update to DX but we're sure that there are very few who would struggle to find a satisfactory team here.
In Rescue Team DX you play as a human trapped in the body of Pokémon - your memories are blank and it's unclear how you ended up in this curious predicament. After being awoken by your partner you answer the panicked cries of a Butterfree and embark on your first noble quest to save its baby, Caterpie, which has slipped into a giant crater. Inspired by your selfless efforts you then decide to form a rescue team to help other Pokémon in need and push on in search of the secrets that lurk behind your mysterious backstory.
The narrative within this reworked version remains untouched and it's as charming and as emotionally charged as when we first visited it nearly 14 years ago. We loved how it fleshed out the personalities of many of the titular creatures and showed how they lived as a community in a world where they aren't forced to battle for the amusement of trainers.
Unlike the mainline entries, Rescue Team DX is a roguelike dungeon crawler, but it does manage to mix in just a sprinkle of the turn-based action that fans have come to love. Dungeons are completely randomised and filled with collectibles and other opposing Pokémon who will look to chisel down your health and put a stop to your efforts. Managing your vitals is essential here as your leading Pokémon's hunger will increase upon each step and you'll want to stop your team members from fainting or gaining nasty status conditions.
Opposing Pokémon can opt to join you if you battle valiantly enough and there's a chance of winning over downed Pokémon too if you bring them the right supplies. Pokémon are specific to certain dungeons that you'll visit and you'll need to make sure you have the right camp from Wigglytuff's store (in the town square) for them to join you. Building up an army of Poké-pals helped to scratch the itch we have to catch 'em all and it was where many of our additional play hours stemmed from as DX pulls together the Pokémon rosters from both Red and Blue Rescue Team.
Our biggest gripe with Rescue Team DX is just how shallow it can feel in some areas. Most notably, it features a combat system that would feel right at home in a mobile game and you can cut out exploration all together with the autopilot system. Combat in dungeons takes place on a grid with both an attack and movement taking up one turn each. Just like the main series, there are both offensive and stat-altering moves you can choose between in a turn-based fashion, as well as type match-ups that you'll need to consider. Things feel like they come to a standstill though as you sit and watch your Pokémon trade blows and you have very little input other than positioning yourself and choosing the right move.
Outside the main story, you can also accept more succinct quests at the Pelipper Post Office or from your home mailbox. Within the bustling town square, there's the Makuhita Dojo where you can partake in a gauntlet of challenges to bulk up your team's strength. Many of the optional rescue quests here disappointingly boiled down to finding a troubled Pokémon and beaming them to safety or gathering a particular requested item. They did, however, help to provide a secondary objective when snatching up the few Pokémon we first missed. We didn't find our time in the Makuhita Dojo that entertaining, however, as to sharpen our skills we simply had to knock out as many Pokémon as we could within a time limit.
Moving from the DS to the Nintendo Switch, the art direction has had a complete overhaul with the pixelated visuals replaced by a dreamy watercolour aesthetic. The art style was something that instantly sucked us in when it debuted and it's something we were constantly impressed by. One minor gripe that we had, however, is that we wish the dungeons offered more visual variety other than a simple palette shift, although we understand this limitation may be a result of their randomised nature.
Rescue Team DX is a gorgeous reimagining of the games that started it all for one of Pokémon's most beloved spinoffs. We found the improved watercolour style to be absorbing and its narrative helped to personify the creatures and made for a number of heartwarming moments. We did find combat shallow and simplistic though, and some optional tasks beyond the main story proved to be repetitive. Still, this is a competent outing for a series that has sadly not seen a great deal of love in the last half-decade.
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