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Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity review

AT A GLANCE
  • Charming storyline
  • Pleasant visuals and soundtrack
  • Lots of quest to do, if you can tolerate the gameplay
  • Starts off very slowly
  • Dungeon crawling is monotonous
  • Incompetent partner AI

Despite their RPG underpinnings, roguelikes and Pokémon don’t exactly make the best of bedfellows. But that didn’t seem to stop Nintendo and Chunsoft from pairing the two up once more for Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity, the latest installment of the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series (and the first developed for the 3DS). On the surface, Gates to Infinity actually appears to make some strides for the franchise, taking advantage of the console’s added horsepower to offer improved visuals and new features like StreetPass functionality and downloadable content. However, the game is still held back by the same grueling gameplay found in earlier titles, and that's something only the most ardent Pokémon fans will enjoy.

Like previous Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games, Gates to Infinity begins with your avatar inexplicably transforming into a Pokémon. After hearing a telepathic plea for help, you’re whisked away to the Pokémon world, where you meet your first Pokémon partner, whose ambition is to create a paradise for other monsters. With the mysterious plea still lingering in the back of your mind, the two of you team up and set out to explore the land.

"The game is still held back by the same grueling gameplay found in earlier titles..."

From there, you’ll meet other Pokémon and become embroiled in the fate of the world, but the story doesn’t get much deeper than its initial conceit. That’s not entirely a bad thing, though. The narrative clearly skews toward a younger audience, with its themes of friendship and working together to overcome hardships, but it is still charming in its own way, forming the major driving force behind the adventure. The presentation is also quite nice, with colorful 3D visuals and a catchy soundtrack framing your journey through the Pokémon world.

It’s just a shame the underlying gameplay doesn’t match these pleasantries. Unlike a traditional Pokémon title, Gates to Infinity tasks you with exploring “mystery dungeons,” randomized caverns whose layouts change each time you set foot in them. It’s an interesting concept on paper, but in practice it proves to be ill-suited to the Pokémon series, particularly the story that Gates to Infinity tries to weave. Exploring nondescript caverns hardly feels adventurous, especially when they serve as a means to advance the narrative, and they quickly become the most rote aspect of the game.

It doesn’t help that you’ll be crawling through these dungeons for the bulk of your journey, which makes the experience all the more monotonous. The gameplay revolves around taking on jobs from the Request Board, which typically involve rescuing a certain Pokémon (by locating them in one of the game’s randomized dungeons) or recovering a specific item. After completing a job and earning your reward, you’ll be taken back to the hub area, where you’ll repeat the process ad nauseam until you hit the next narrative spurt. This should be familiar to anyone who has played any of the previous Pokémon Mystery Dungeon titles, so fans of the series will already know what to expect when they step into Gates to Infinity, but everyone else will be put off by the severe lack of challenge and variety in the gameplay.

"...it is still charming in its own way..."

You’ll also be battling other wild Pokémon throughout your expeditions, just as you would in a traditional Pokémon game, but even this has been reduced to its most rudimentary elements. Combat still plays out in turn-based fashion, with type alignments forming the primary challenge of each encounter, but you only have control over a single Pokémon; the rest of your party members act of their own volition. This wouldn’t be a problem if they didn’t also lack any basic sense of self-preservation. However, they’ll frequently go out of their way to attack an enemy, even if they’re at a distinct type disadvantage, and should they get separated from your group in the midst of a battle, they’ll continue wandering the dungeon on their own until you either reconvene or they’re knocked out by a foe. Should this happen, you'll be left shorthanded for the remainder of that quest. You can tweak their settings slightly from the game’s menu, but even then you’ll still run into occasional problems with the partner AI, making it a constant annoyance.

Pokémon fans, especially those who have played any of the previous Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games, may eke some enjoyment out of Gates to Infinity’s charming storyline. Everyone else, though, would be better served choosing one of the console’s other role-playing offerings. There are moments of fun to be had with the game, particularly when the narrative hits its stride, but with little variety in the quests you’ll be taking on, and no real depth to the combat, the experience grows old very quickly, making it a difficult recommendation.

More Info

Release date: Mar 24 2013 - 3DS (US)
May 17 2013 - 3DS (UK)
Available Platforms: 3DS
Genre: Role Playing
Published by: Nintendo
ESRB Rating:
Everyone: Mild Cartoon Violence

10 comments

  • C.King - March 24, 2013 2:20 p.m.

    i think the red rescue team was enough for me it was a cool idea and i especially loves the personality test which included non starters, i don't really like using the starters or legendaries they feel to me as a lack of personality since they eventually come into the possession of every player not so much as chosen but rather within the path all follow. i remember the first time i played red rescue team and i got cubone from the personality test it was cool playing with a pokemon i havn't much experience with and rather than me picking it, it was picked for me. i only played the demo of this installment of the series but it felt super funky to me how they just made me choose a pokemon and all the choices were starters. come on! give me an under dog! a pokemon i can make new discoveries of
  • Frieza - March 22, 2013 8:05 p.m.

    Why the heck is Gamesradar so tough on the Mystery Dungeon series? Explorers of Sky has to be one of my top 5 favorite games of all time, and I also loved the first games too. I actually put Explorers of Sky over all the main games. I could go on all post about how much I loved Sky, but that's a little off topic. I'm not entirely sure if I want to pick his game up. While I'm a fan of the series, I am not a fan of Gen 5 pokemon, and his game focuses mainly on them. But I doubt the game is as bad as GR says it is.
  • damjaps - March 22, 2013 9:09 p.m.

    Of course it isn't as bad, they gave explorers of sky the same score.
  • Tjwoods18 - March 22, 2013 9:59 p.m.

    It is hard to accept new pokemon if you grew up during the 1st generation. No different variation of pikachu can ever compare to the original one.
  • Three Seconds - March 22, 2013 3:49 p.m.

    I have already put about seven hours into the demo, and enjoyed every repetitive second of it! The way this review is written makes me feel like the writer didn't even finish the main story, as he did not cover any of the shop upgrading aspects, the legendary pokemon hunts, or the multiplayer, or even the Magnagate dungeons! I generally agree with Gamesradar's opinions on games, but the freelancer did not do this game justice. Bah, it doesn't matter, I'm just another fool on the Internet.
  • damjaps - March 22, 2013 1:54 p.m.

    Considering explorers of sky got the same score on this site, I think this game will actually be a 9/10.
  • Tjwoods18 - March 22, 2013 10:39 a.m.

    Had a strong feeling it would end up this way.
  • shawksta - March 22, 2013 2:05 p.m.

    Just so you know There's nothing wrong with this game specifically if you know the series Gamesradar gave the other games mediocre scores too, with 3 full stars being the highest. If your not already friendly with the series, its gonna be hard to actually get into it.
  • Tjwoods18 - March 22, 2013 10:06 p.m.

    What I find wrong with the entire mystery dungeon series is that it always coincides with some bad pokemon causing a ruckus. You turn into a pokemon, partner up with other pokemon, find the said bad pokemon, destroy them in a battle, and turn back into a human. Now while the regular pokemon games food a similar repitition, they offer more variety in gameplay.
  • shawksta - March 22, 2013 11:33 p.m.

    To be fair, one of the things i loved about the series is that even after game you can still do lots of stuff and try to collect almost All of them. Sadly, this game doesnt do that, limited to only a few each gen,though ill give them a pass as their first 3D model turn, if there's a sequel, i expect better

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