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  • Max Weintraub

Pokemon Mystery Dungeon Remake: Nostalgia, Concern, and Mechanical Revisions

Last night, I played through the demo of Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX on my Nintendo Switch, an upcoming remake of Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Red Rescue Team and Blue Rescue Team, which were released on the GameBoy Advance and Nintendo DS respectively. These games, particularly Red Rescue Team, were a pretty massive part of my childhood, and the recent announcement of a remake have dredged up old memories from a very happy part of my childhood.

I don't remember exactly how old I was when I first played Pokemon Mystery Dungeon, but I know for a fact it was very early in my life as a gamer. I was probably just seven years old. I don't have a very strong memory of my childhood, but for some reason, these moments I remember vividly.

I remember quick-saving in the Great Canyon, and re-opening the game to make sure that it saved successfully (which would erase the save, as quick-saves are a one-time thing to prevent players from continuously loading their save files at the end of a dungeon), only to find that my moderate amount of progress towards the end of the area had been lost. I remember where I was when I finished certain dungeons or defeated certain bosses, and I remember being ecstatic to tell whatever indifferent adult figure was willing to pretend to be interested.

Most of all, however, I remember the strategy guide I owned. If you've spent any second on any other page of my site, you're probably well aware that I love working with numbers and data. My favorite part of this strategy guide was the graphs noting which Pokemon appeared on which floor of the dungeon, and the range of levels that they could spawn at. Row by row, floor by floor, every change, marked on the graph. Honestly, I'd attach a picture if I could find one. Part of me wants to say that my love of graphs and spreadsheets came from here, but it definitely goes farther back than that. This probably just reinforced it. I think this might be the first time I'll experience proper nostalgia playing a remake from my childhood, and while that excites me, it comes with some concerns.


As I played Mystery Dungeon DX, as I'll be calling it for short, I noticed many differences, both blatant and subtle. While of course, there's a fresh new coat of paint with completely new visuals, remastered music, and quality of life improvements, what stuck out most to me was the balance changes, and more importantly, complete revisions of the mechanics present in the original.

There's been a trend of Pokemon games getting easier over time, particularly since Pokemon X and Y onward. It feels like each generation of games, it gets easier, and the complaints grow ever louder, especially with the recent release of Pokemon Sword and Shield being surrounded in a multitude of controversies.

Personally, I haven't been a fan of the main series of Pokemon games getting easier over time, and I find some of the balance changes in Pokemon Mystery Dungeon DX somewhat concerning as a sign of what the final release may end up containing. Previously, the player could press the "A" button to perform a sort of smack, dealing little damage, but consuming no PP, a resource required to perform more powerful moves. Mystery Dungeon DX has completely removed this smack, seemingly for better and for worse.

Now, when pressing "A", the Pokemon being controlled will perform the most effective of their four moves on an opponent, with the smack being gone entirely. The game has been completely re-balanced around these changes in pretty much every department, thank goodness. Despite that, there's a worry that the changes that this may entail may cause Mystery Dungeon DX to lose the magic that the original versions seemed to contain. The previous two Pokemon Mystery Dungeon games before this one have been a little lackluster to say the least, so I don't feel entirely confident that Mystery Dungeon DX will deliver the experience I'm hoping for, but I'll probably end up buying it either way. Nostalgia sells.


Removing the smack doesn't have much bearing on the difficulty of the game, but other gameplay changes seemed to indicate that this title will be much easier than before. The Makuhita Dojo, a previous feature, has been revamped to maximize EXP gains, and in just two runs of it, I found myself at Level 15 where previously, I would have been Level 9. This, compounded with the fact that I can press "L" to automatically explore as effectively as possible, and press "A" to automatically attack as effectively as possible, makes me worry that this remake may end up being far easier than the source material.

That being said, Pokemon Mystery Dungeon's first few installments have a pretty notoriously difficult endgame. There are multiple examples of 99 floor dungeons where the player is limited to one Pokemon, which is then reset to level 1, and is prevented from bringing any items with them. The post-credits content takes up a vast majority of the hours spent playing, if explored fully, so I have faith that the difficulty of the endgame will remain relatively intact. This title will probably offer a decent challenge for more experienced players, but there's still no guarantee.


All that aside, there is a new mechanic that I have a pretty conflicted opinion on. As you use a move, it can level up, increasing the power, accuracy, and maximum PP of that move for all Pokemon. I think that I like this idea a lot, but I'm not entirely sold yet. I have a feeling that this may end up rewarding players who have a tendency to bash their heads against a challenge without switching up their strategies much. That may sound a little bit like an unearned reward for stubborn players, but there are points in the main story where doing literally anything else is impossible.

So yeah, I'm certainly interested to see how this new mechanic impacts the player experience as a whole, but I do have to ask, what the heck is going on with the UI here? If you take a look above at the blurry stretched image of a move, you'll see a pair of icons to the left of it. What seems to be the roman numeral for 1, and a blue meter, which represents the EXP until that move levels up.

Y'know what happens when the meter fills up? The roman numeral changes to II, letting you know it's at level 2? Nope, the meter just fills up again, this time with green instead of blue.

...alright, so why? Numbers would do a perfectly fine job. The demo didn't give me enough time to really see the extent of this mechanic, but from what I played, what seemed to be a squished roman numeral up top served absolutely no purpose in delivering information to me, and caused the actually useful meter to take up less space.

I'll probably figure out how it works once the game fully releases (or maybe it's something super obvious and I'm just an idiot), but I at least wanted to address the presence of this weird little symbol.

Max Weintraub


#critique #design #nintendo #nostalgia #pokemon

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