The original Mystery Dungeon Blue and Red were handheld titles, thus were not very impressive in either the graphical or sound design department. The UI was very plain, with every action taken being a choice on a list found in a plain blue textbox. The art design made many of the dungeons feel very similar and failed to distinguish between dungeons of similar types. The characters, although very unique and distinguishable from one and another, were very basic and not very appealing to look at.
Mystery Dungeon DX on the other hand is absolutely gorgeous. The hand drawn art style is absolutely stunning, and it is almost always on display. The menus are much more appealing, with the textboxes being placed on beautiful, hand painted backgrounds (by pressing the minus button, the menus clear so players can admire the paintings) highlighting the characters or the settings. The art style lends itself to making the dungeons distinct, engaging, and enjoyable to explore and spend extended amounts of time in.
The hub world, where players can go to find the shops, bank, storage, and the dojo, is breathtaking, with the cliff outside of Pelipper’s Post Office and Whiscash’s Pond being highlights. However, the camps, which were a highlight to explore and spend time in in the original, have been replaced with glorified menus. Although these menus are easier to navigate and faster to get in and out of due to their being no loading screens to bring them up, the ability to see the unique camps in the new hand drawn style is a missed opportunity.
The UI has been cleaned up significantly, with most interactions that would take players through a menu being streamlined and mapped to a button/series of buttons. The ugly blue textboxes necessary for in game interactions have been replaced with much nicer textboxes that are more colorful and easy to navigate. The dungeon select screen is much better at communicating much more information, like where strong enemies are located, how many missions you have present in which dungeon, and where to go to further the active story arc.
The characters all pop on the handcrafted world and setting, with their bright colors and expressive faces helping bring more life to an extremely lively game. The 3D character models are extremely detailed, with every whisker, hair, leaf, and scale given extra attention, and Pokemon like Xatu with elaborate designs and colors were obviously given the time needed to make them look fantastic. The bigger Pokemon, especially the legendary Pokemon, are designed to look huge yet fit in the world, and the smaller Pokemon look tiny yet detailed.
The animations are a mixed bag, with some animations being extremely well done and crafted with love, and other animations being extremely silly looking and detaching players from the experience. The characters involved in the story almost all have great animations, with very expressive motions and movements to help convey what the character is feeling.
The attack animations are very limited in variety. Every Pokemon has one or two different ones, but the projectiles and sprites that come out from those attacks are quality and help distinguish which move is coming out in the sometimes crowded dungeons.
Movement is where the animations start to go from great to passable and even bad at some points. Most characters move pretty well, with the four legged Pokemon having the best walking and running animations, but other Pokemon have sometimes hilarious and outright bad movement animations. Ekans is seen often in cutscenes, where his hilariously awful movement animation is upfront and clear for the player to see. When a partner Pokemon gets pushed, they do this awkward spin-walk animation that is extremely out of place and clunky looking.
The animation returns to quality, however, in the game’s cutscenes, which happen a ton. Every boss battle starts with a gorgeous bit of animation as the boss approaches the battlefield and prepares for battle. Most of the games story is told through cutscenes that happen either in front of the rescue team’s base or in the main square of the Hub world. In these animations, the Pokemon are extremely well animated to show their emotions and intentions. The partner Pokemon especially shine here, being unquestionably the best animated characters in the entire game.
For the soundtrack, the development team chose to rerecord and remaster the soundtrack from the original games. The original soundtrack was a great collection of songs that really got the player in the mood to either explore or fight, depending on the circumstance. The remaster takes that great foundation laid by the original and perfects it. The tracks are fun, funky, and encourage adventure and get players excited to get whatever job needs to get done finished. Thunderwave Cave is a very early highlight with a beat that will certainly get the head nodding and the theme for the final boss fight is certain to get players fired up for the fight ahead.
Overall, the presentation is near flawless, serving the atmosphere and themes of the game very well. The hand drawn backgrounds are gorgeous to look at, and make for a beautiful background on any computer screen (the backgrounds make one wish that Nintendo would allow for themes on the Nintendo Switch and the camp menu background could be one of those themes). The music is extremely fun and has earned it’s spot on any upbeat gaming playlist.