Story and Gameplay
The story of Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX starts with a simple question: what if you were a Pokemon? Almost everyone who played the games or watched the anime as a kid has asked themselves that question. What Pokemon would you be? What would you do as a Pokemon?
In Pokemon Mystery Dungeon, you wake up one day and discovered you have become a Pokemon, and your goal is to find out why. Simple, but it did not need to be anything more. This is not Kingdom Hearts, this is not Assassin’s Creed, this is a Pokemon spinoff game. A game built on being cute and stocked full of content does not need the more dense story in gaming.
The story does have some serious emotional beats along the way (most of which would require spoilers) and is rather good at giving players a reason to keep pushing forward. The other rescue teams push the player to want to be the very best, and the extra content continues the story to deliver some satisfying endings.
Early in the game, the story can come off as slightly intrusive, with the dungeons being extremely short then followed by four or five more cutscenes before the player could hit the next dungeon. Once players get to a certain point in the story, the cutscenes get just a touch longer, but become rarer and even out very well with the much longer dungeons.
The player will spend the bulk of their time outside of the cutscenes and playing the game in the game’s many dungeons.
Mystery Dungeon DX is unlike mainline Pokemon games, which are turn based RPG games built on collecting and training Pokemon. In Mystery Dungeon, the player is put in procedurally generated dungeons levels in dungeons based on various archetypes, with the objective of making it to the top or bottom the dungeon. In the way of getting this done is other Pokemon who would like nothing more then to stop the player and his team through a grid based strategy battle system.
The system still utilizes turns, but not like the main line games. The player can choose to use their turns to walk one space, use a move, or use an item. Once the player has taken their turn, every other Pokemon gets their turn, alternating between opposing Pokemon and partner Pokemon. Players do not have direct influence over the choices of partner Pokemon, but can use linking and tactics before the encounter to help give them direction when it is their turn.
The player can utilize the moves of their character and their partner Pokemon to defeat Pokemon in their way, using type advantages and move types to their advantage. In the original games, the player was provided with a limitless, basic attack that did not use any PP or have any type advantage. In Mystery Dungeon DX, the player is limited to their four attacks in their moveset, which means players have to limit their combat encounters or keep the Elixirs and Ethers well stocked.
This new offensive system works to force players to be more strategic and wise in combat situations, but does work against them with their partner Pokemon. Partner Pokemon will follow the player and battle alongside the player, positioning themselves in the best possible position to avoid attacks and deal damage. Sometimes, however, the partner Pokemon will focus their attention (and PP) on opposing Pokemon that the player is not trying to engage, whether intentional or unintentionally. Partner Pokemon will burn their PP on these Pokemon, causing them to run out of moves early on in dungeons, making boss fights and long dungeons a larger hurdle then necessary.
After defeating the opposing Pokemon, there is the chance that they will want to join the players rescue team. If the player can keep that Pokemon from being defeated and survive the dungeon, the Pokemon will join the player’s team permanently and live at one of the players camps. Camps are bought through one of the store in the Hub world and specific Pokemon can only stay at certain camps. These Pokemon can be trained and join the player on their future adventures.
As is the case with most rogue-like games, items are scattered randomly throughout the dungeon. Some of these items are basic recovery items: apples fill hunger, berries heal status effects or fill health. Along with these recovery items, players will also find orbs and scarves on the ground. Orbs are used in dungeons for a wide plethora of effects: weather change, more opposing Pokemon, summoning a shop in store, almost anything a player could want. Scarves are the only equipment in Mystery Dungeon and help raise stats, but are mostly used for selling.
There is a third type of item that players can find, and those are throwing objects. These objects are best used by partner Pokemon with little to no ranged moves to help deal damage to opponents. Most of these objects deal very little physical damage, but some objects, like blast seeds, deal explosive damage and help clear rooms of strong Pokemon. These items are best used by Partner Pokemon to help them preserve PP.
By defeating Pokemon, the player and all of his partner Pokemon gain experience points and get stronger through leveling. This is not limited to the Pokemon in the team however, and extends to all of the Pokemon the player has befriended in the past and has in their camps. This is the equivalent of Pokemon in the main line series getting EXP even when they are in the PC and is a symptom of Pokemon’s much larger issue with game balance in their new titles.
These mechanics work together fairly well, and create a situation that requires quite a bit of strategy and thought, especially later in the game with the longer dungeons. Every decision matters, every item is vital to the success of the player, and things can go wrong in just one turn.