The Pokémon franchise has always been a hot seller for Nintendo across all of their consoles. Every time a new game is made with Pokémon in the title, tons of Poke-maniacs run to stores in hopes of another chance to catch them all. And while many times the quality of the games has lived up to the hype built up for them, there are a few instances where even a franchise like Pokémon can fall short. Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity is one of those titles where the game does not live up to the established legacy of the Pokémon name. Pokémon fans out there should be prepared; this game has a lot going wrong for anyone who loves the Pokémon franchise.
One of the first things anyone should know is that Mystery Dungeon is not like any traditional Pokémon game, despite many features drawing parallels to the beloved cannon games. The Mystery Dungeon series is instead a spin-off that focuses on making players take the role of a Pokémon rather than a trainer. In Gates to Infinity, players are magically turned into a Pokémon of their choice and are thrown into a world where Pokémon populate the towns and landscape. The big draw for the Mystery Dungeon series is the many areas, or dungeons, that players can explore and combat many varieties of species of Pokémon. There is a main story following the chronicles of the Mystery Dungeons and the effects they have on Pokémon that live in the area, but it is very shallow and lacks any real depth that will keep many interested in the plot.
Things really start to go downhill when one jumps head first into the gameplay that Gates to Infinity offers. Players control their Pokémon of choice from the beginning of the game and move around in towns and dungeons, battling rival Pokémon and collecting items and equipment along the way. While the ability to roam around is smooth and done in real time, everything comes to a screeching halt once Pokémon enter combat. Similar to combat from past Pokémon games in the series, as well as some elements from Pokémon Rumble, the combat is done in turns of attacks between each Pokémon on screen. While this may seem good on paper, in action during gameplay it completely falls apart. The makers of the game seem to have been caught in a bind when making the mechanics of the combat, where in one spot it has the feel of real time action, while in another it is slowed to a crawl with turn based attacks. This game would have benefited very much had the decision to use the combat from a game like Pokémon Rumble was used, where the action is fast and constantly moving, instead of flip-flopping between both play styles. There is some strategy that is involved when choosing the best party to enter a specific dungeon populated with certain types of Pokémon, but this all becomes mute in some scenarios that almost make no sense in relation to the Pokémon franchise. On some occasions, you may find yourself using an attack that should be super-effective on a type of Pokémon, like using an electric attack on a water-type, but instead are told that the attack is ineffective without any explanation.
Roaming through the many dungeons in the game can at times be a little frustrating. The map of the dungeon is displayed on the bottom screen, along with other info and options, while all of the action takes place on the top. From the start the map is darkened out, but as you explore more of the dungeon, areas are lit up and shown on the map including stairs, recovery point, and even items. Yet the exploration aspect of the game is ruined by not only the bad AI of rival Pokémon and ally Pokémon, but also because of the simple nature of the dungeon’s design. Most dungeons will have different skins on them to give a sense of a new environment, but the core design structure of them will give a sense of familiarity very quickly. While the dungeons themselves are randomly generated each time you enter, what ensues is a drawn out repetitive process of attacking and exploring that is not fun to play.
The one good quality of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Gates to Infinity is the soundtrack. Much of the audio has a very Pokemon-like vibe to it, with music that matches the environments that one may explore. Towns have music tracks that set a very bright and active mood, while the dungeons have tracks that give a very mysterious emotion when exploring. Dialogue throughout the game is done in the traditional RPG like scrolling text to deliver the game’s story and info. While not a huge detriment, the game would have definitely benefited from having the battle cries and sounds of Pokémon from past games, they would have been a good compliment to the games decent soundtrack.
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Gates to Infinity is not a spectacular Pokémon game. A lot of aspects that could have been major positives and great features are instead lackluster and not good. There are some Street Pass and Multiplayer features that can add on some more playtime, including DLC dungeons to explore and local co-op, but this in no way makes up for all of the frustrating issues that plague Gates to Infinity. While the die-hard Pokémon faithful may be willing to overlook and bear with some of the problems, many other gamers will not find much here to love and instead will be disappointed with a game that doesn’t try hard enough to live up to the Pokémon name.
This review was based on a retail copy of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity for the Nintendo 3DS.