There are not many franchises that can claim to have as massive of a side-game library as Pokemon does.from racers to puzzlers and perhaps most famously even dungeon crawlers which the subject of this review today. I was a huge fan of the original Pokemon Mystery Dungeon Blue/Red Rescue Team games and so seeing the fact that they were being remade with a beautiful new aesthetic and changes to make the game smoother overall I was excited to say the least. Did it live up to my expectations? let’s find out!
For those of you who don’t know the original Mystery Dungeon story it’s a bit more involved than your typical Pokemon affair. You play as a human who has mysteriously been transformed into a Pokemon determined by a personality quiz that you fill out at the start of the game. From there you meet your partner Pokemon and together you create a rescue team that aims to help all the other creatures of the world that are in peril. This is mostly by travelling through so called ‘Mystery Dungeons’ which are tile-based randomly generated maps that you must navigate through, find the stairs and reach the next floor until you get to the end of each dungeon. During this story certain revelations will be made about you as a character, what is happening to cause so many natural disasters in the world and what your role in it all is. I remember the story being a lot more for my younger mind as I thought it was rather deep however looking over it from a wiser perspective I can see that the story is simply a quaint and happy-go-lucky story about friendship and overcoming struggles which admittedly is told rather well and I enjoyed greatly. I do believe that the sequels to the original game have better stories overall but I still enjoy my interactions with my partner Pokemon and all the different characters you meet. The remake of course doesn’t add any new story elements so there isn’t anything to talk about there.
The presentation of this entry is of course the biggest difference from the original games. Rather than having lovely retro pixel art the game has gone for a watercolour-type pastel look for the whole game which looks absolutely gorgeous on the Switch. Personally I’m more of a fan of pixel art in general but I have to say that I still loved how the game looked and it very much kept the spirit of the original art style and I could tell frame by frame exactly what was being represented. Boss battles especially look much better in this game so I can really appreciate that. The soundtrack too was completely remastered and I was signing and dancing around to old tracks that I immediately recognised and if that isn’t a good sign about how a game’s music is then I don’t know what is. In fact the new soundtrack may very well be one of the best things about the game, I enjoyed it just that much!
The gameplay remains almost entirely the same from the original Red/Blue rescue team with just a few tweaks and additions. You’re still travelling around randomly generated dungeons, fighting pokemon and keeping your belly filled up however there are a few new things to spice things up, First is that moves and certain Pokemon from the future generations have been added which was a huge surprise to me. Secondly they have added the ability to become ‘awakened’ by eating a certain item which can cause some Pokemon to mega evolve but beware as enemies also have the ability to do this if they KO something. Third is the revamped gummy and IQ system which is replaced by the ‘traits’ system which essentially gives each team member a unique ability that they share with everyone and can range from allowing you to break through walls to having to eat less. This system helps slim down and simplify the grind of the previous IQ system although it does mean you can’t become nearly as powerful on your own as you could originally. Finally the game also introduces new items and areas such as the mystery houses in dungeons and the wand system from the later entries. All of these additions are nice to have and help to make the game feel different the originals however if you weren’t a fan of the original Mystery Dungeon games then there isn’t much here that will persuade you to think differently as it’s pretty much just the same game with things slightly more simplified and new bells and whistles added.
However I think one of the biggest flaws of the game comes from exactly how the difficulty is handled. You see from the start of the game to the end of the main quest (though there is so much post-game content that’s pretty much only half the actual game) you have the ability to see every Pokemon and item on the map which is such an important piece of information that it makes a lot of the game trivial. This however is counteracted by the fact that dungeons start to quickly outlevel your original duo and as such can make you feel horrendously underpowered and way out of your league unless you go out of your way to grind up exp in various places. This would be fine normally however the game lacks the ability to tell you exactly what level each dungeon is at so you won’t really know you need to train up and prepare yourself until it’s too late and you’ve lost all your items. I also hugely dislike a lot of the post-game dungeons that can be as insane as 99 floors which makes them feel long, tedious and overall just incredibly boring. I am aware they are designed to be gauntlets that truly test your skills however some of these places are integral to story progression and as such completely kill my enthusiasm to actually complete the game. This game’s problem with difficulty is it’s choice to make something an endurance test rather than it being actually challenging which is a step in the wrong direction in my books.
After all of that however I still can confidently say that I enjoyed my time with this remake. It may not do anything too drastic but the updated look and the always fun dungeon crawling make for an enjoyable experience that I was glad to revisit again. I won’t be doing any more of the post-game content any time soon that’s for certain but if you were a fan of the originals or are just interested in a different take on the Pokemon universe then I wholeheartedly recommend checking out this game. Now I suppose I better start rescuing teams online, who knew helping people could be so much fun!