It’s More Fun To Stay At Home
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon makes the move to the Nintendo 3DS, the perfect platform to advance the series. The more powerful system allows developer Spike Chunsoft to cram in a ton of features, while the unique 3D perspective showcases the adventure like never before. Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates To Infinity moves many of the elements of its predecessors forward, though some major criticisms are still left unaddressed. Ultimately, we are left with a game that has evolved, just not as much as we’d hoped.
Any veteran of the series could easily recite the game’s prologue. From a dreamlike vision, you are beckoned into the Pokémon world to answer cries of distress. After plummeting from the sky, you are awakened by a concerned Pokémon who quickly starts discussing its aspirations of creating a Pokémon Paradise. Content to tag along and play the sidekick, your companion puts on the smooth talking and scores a massive stretch of a barren wasteland with the intent of turning it into a utopia. The location is convenient as it is just across the road from Post Town, the area’s bustling village where shops and tourists abound.
You’ll be more than content with the amenities the town offers from the start, with a general goods store, an inn for mingling, a place to access downloadable content, a scenic plateau to take in the vista, and a deposit box for storing your coin and items. But don’t think it ends there. As each quest is completed and lengthy sections of the adorable story play out, something new springs up for you to do. New shops will open their doors, such as a gift shop, a chest-breaking shop, a gold bar collector, and a travelling merchant. But Post Town is merely a fraction of what can be achieved in your Paradise.
The empty space you call home starts as nothing more than a couple of piles of straw for sleeping, next to a small fire pit. You’ll eventually get a roof over your head and start to clear the surrounding areas for all sorts of facilities. Gardens to grow berries, dojos to train in, booths for lottery tickets, ponds full of sunken treasure, and a ton more. Not only that, but with the right materials and enough coin, these stations can all be upgraded for more lucrative rewards. You’ll also have access to a bulletin board for taking on quests, a place to change party members, a place to retrain moves, and another deposit box, all to get set for your next adventure. You’ll love returning after each completed quest to see if anything new happens, and to use your newly acquired materials to enhance the Paradise.
However, it is the actual dungeon delving itself where the game runs into issues, and, as the bulk of the gameplay, this could offset any desire you may have to complete the quest. As in past Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games, quests consist of instantly travelling to randomly generated dungeons and exploring each floor to locate the stairs to the next level until you reach the final level. Once there, you must find the missing item, rescue the lost Pokémon, or defeat the boss.
Despite updated visuals, the dungeons themselves are still bland venues, plastered with dull gray rocks and little more to get excited about. The layout of each floor is consistent throughout—several small caverns connected by nonsensical pathways your group must travel single-file. The only refreshing, albeit brief, respite you get from the mundane spelunking is when you travel along the dungeon exteriors with lush florae and simple puzzles to complete.
Hindering your progress are wild and aggressive Pokémon, who attack non-strategically with random moves during every encounter. That is offset, however, by the fact that you are limited in your own strategy. At the beginning of the game you choose a Pokémon from a small list based on the species of Unovo (from Pokémon Black and White), and that becomes the only one you control throughout the main story. The only deviation from your initial choice comes with the game’s use of the augmented reality feature. By scanning the real world for round objects, you will unlock new dungeons to explore with a random quartet of Pokémon. The difficulty of the dungeon is determined by the object scanned, with the loot acquired after completion transferred to your main game.
Your trusty partner, along with the hundreds of other Pokémon you befriend and enlist, will be controlled by the computer, and rather poorly at that. You can give them limited tactics such as following you, exploring on their own, and not using moves, but you have no direct control over them in combat. Since most encounters are a menial chore, quick executions are fine, but when surrounded by a large number of enemies or against a challenging boss, you’ll sweat over the limited control you have over the outcome, especially since the death penalty is harsh. Should you faint in battle, you have two options: Either hope you have a nearby friend who also has the game and can use a Reviver Seed via the StreetPass to pick you back up, or restart the entire dungeon with some items and coin plucked from your backpack. To keep yourself healthy and give your team the upper hand, you should fill your bag with seeds, berries, orbs, and other useful items. But the space is limited and items do not stack, so choosing the proper loadout before embarking on a quest is key.
One of the few enjoyments on your dungeon exploits is the lively tunes that accompany you through the dank passages. Most of the jingles are quite perky, and though short, they’ll have you humming or whistling along as you dispatch the wild Pokémon in your way. Back in town the music is even livelier, and paired with the beautiful scenery, it’s always a warm welcome after trudging through the caverns.
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates To Infinity left me with mixed feelings. On one hand, the new features, wonderful visuals and sound, and engaging activities are far ahead of the previous games of the series. But on the other hand, exploring the mystery dungeons, where most of your time is spent, is still a tedious affair, and despite 3D visuals, it’s a recycled trek that needs a serious overhaul. If you enjoyed the past titles, then Gates To Infinity is definitely one you shouldn’t pass up. If the limited combat controls are something you can tolerate, then the constant additions and upgrades available upon returning to the Paradise are an addictive pastime. My suggestion is to download the sizeable free demo from the 3DS eShop. It takes you through the beginning and really lets you get your feet wet. If you’re still intrigued afterwards, you can purchase the full game and continue right from where you left off in the demo.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.7 Graphics
The Pokémon look great in 3D. Everything above ground is nicely colored and whimsical. But the dungeons are drab, drab, drab. 4.0 Control
Navigating menus and exploring the region is an easy affair. Not being able to control the entire team is very disappointing. 4.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The melodies are short but endearing and memorable. The sound effects are a little dated however. 3.4 Play Value
There are so many fun improvements and interactive places outside the dungeons. It’s when you enter those caverns that things get dreary. 3.8 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend|
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid||2.5 – 2.9 = Average||3.5 – 3.9 = Good||4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy|
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor||3.0 – 3.4 = Fair||4.0 – 4.4 = Great||5.0 = The Best|