Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team GX is a gorgeous update to the original Pokemon Mystery Dungeon games, but doesn't shake away any of that series' critical flaws. Earlier this month, the Pokemon Company released Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team GX, a new Nintendo Switch remake of Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Blue Rescue Team and Red Rescue Team. The original Pokemon Mystery Dungeon games gave players a chance to actually "become" a Pokemon, as the game's main plotline revolved around a human mysteriously transformed into a Pokemon, the species of which was determined by a personality quiz. The player and his Rescue Team make regular expeditions into randomly generated dungeons, completing jobs like rescuing Pokemon, retrieving Pokemon, or escorting guest Pokemon to a friend.
While not quite as gorgeous as Nintendo's remake of The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, there's no denying that Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team GX is an aesthetically pleasing experience. The graphics use a kind of filter effect to make it look like you're watching a storybook come to life, especially in cut scenes and in the Pokemon Village. The soundtrack is equally stunning, and instantly takes its place as one of the best Pokemon soundtracks of all time. But the gameplay itself doesn't stray too far from the original Mystery Dungeon formula, which means players will be stuck repeating the same few quests over and over and over again as they level up their Pokemon and slowly progress through the game's main storyline.
Some of the grindiness of the game is offset by boosted auto-play function, which a player can turn on to quickly advance through levels. Battles are still turn-based (which can be a nightmare when fighting multiple foes), but a lot of levels turn into "idle game" style experiences thanks to the auto-play function. You can just tap a button, and then watch your Pokemon grab items and find the next set of stairs, intervening only when a hostile Pokemon approaches.
There are a few upgrades to Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team GX, such as the use of Mega Evolution and Primal Reversion, and a new autosave feature. If defeated in a dungeon, players can also either send in a second Rescue Team to "rescue" them so as not to lose items, or request a save from other players online. These are mostly quality of life improvements, and remove the most frustrating aspects of the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon games.
One of the weirder parts of Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team GX is that most of the game's "high level" features can't be unlocked until after playing through the game's main storyline. Players can't recruit Legendary and Mythical Pokemon, or evolve their Pokemon until after they complete the main storyline. While Pokemon games have always had some form of post-game content, it feels off that players can't make much progress advancing their personal Rescue Team until after they've completed the task that caused them to be transformed into a Pokemon.
Under normal circumstances, it would be hard to recommend a game like Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team GX to anyone who doesn't have a lot of time to kill. After all, the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon series was the perfect sort of game to help kids pass 30 minutes on a school bus. But, these aren't normal times and a lot of people have recently found themselves stuck indoors with a bunch of extra time on their hands. If you've burned out on Pokemon Sword and Shield and are looking for a not-too-challenging experience to help get through self-isolation and social distancing, Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team GX might be the sort of game you need. It plays on nostalgia of the past and the general adorableness of the Pokemon franchise, and it's not the worst way to spend a boring afternoon.
Rating: 3 out of 5