Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity Review
Even though it has absolutely nothing to do with Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity, the new roguelike dungeon crawler featuring Japan's finest imaginary creatures, I'm going to tell you anyway: Finally, after years of work, I've managed to catch one each of all 649 species of Pokemon. Stored on my Pokemon Black 2 in-game PC, my collection represents hours upon hours upon hours of playing the acclaimed series, and it is a huge accomplishment, in my mind anyway, to have finally finished the collection. Why did I tell you all that? I wanted to qualify myself as a Pokemon superfan to temper what I have to say next: Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity just isn't all that great a game. Sigh.
Much like other games in the Mystery Dungeon series, the aim of Gates of Infinity is to march around multilevel dungeons, battling other Pokemon, gaining levels and completing quests that are all nearly identical to one another. The gameplay is turn-based, though well disguised; each move you make is set on a grid and counts as a turn. Enemies follow the same rules for moving and attacking, so while it may seem you are moving freely through an area, you are really playing a quicker-paced roguelike retro RPG. It is a novel way to bring younger gamers into the classic RPG fold, and if it is your thing, you'll find plenty of dungeons to explore, both in and out of the main story.
Ah, the story; here is where the first misstep comes into play. Like the other games, the main character, you, is mysteriously transformed into a Pokemon of your choosing at the outset. You recruit a partner (my team was Pikachu and Oshawatt) and set out to explore the world. From there, the story only serves as a backdrop to endless dungeon crawling and leveling up. Not only is the story vapid and sub-elementary, it is also completely unnecessary to the game itself. I could give it a pass except for the fact that there is SO MUCH TEXT. Unskippable text. So while you hold the B button to wade through the world's longest explanation of something you probably figured out an hour ago, your patience with the game will probably wane, as mine did. Here's an example I made up (though it is similar to an early story event in-game, I just didn't want you to think I was quoting exactly) to illustrate the game's UNSKIPPABLE dialogue.
(On their way into Post Town, the Pokemon pair are obviously pickpocketed for an item they just went to retrieve from a dungeon.)Pokemon 1: We just met a Scraggy who bumped into us on our way into town.
Pokemon 2: Yes, that Scraggy was pretty awesome.
Pokemon 1: I wonder why the Scraggy bumped into us.
Pokemon 2: Yes, that was weird when the Scraggy bumped into us a moment ago.
Pokemon 1: The jewels in my pouch - they are gone!
Pokemon 2: The jewels are gone? Are you sure?
Pokemon 1: Yes, I am sure!
Pokemon 2: Well, what happened to them?
Pokemon 1: I don't know what happened to them.
Pokemon 3: Where are the jewels you went to get for me?
Pokemon 1: I don't know. The jewels are missing from my pouch.
Pokemon 2: Yes, the jewels are missing from his pouch.
Pokemon 3: The jewels are missing from your pouch? What happened to them?
Pokemon 1: I don't know. But they are missing from my pouch.
Gah! I wonder if the Scraggy took their jewels? Spoiler alert: He did. This is how each and every conversation in the game goes, and as infuriatingly monotonous as it is to read here, imagine reading it in a game you desperately wanted to gain control of again. And just a friendly reminder - the dialogue is, once again, unskippable. Dear Surgeon General of the Untied States - Could you please place a warning on Gates of Infinity's package? It would need to read, "Caution: Playing this game for its story content and dialogue may cause rapid and irreversible brain damage." Thanks.
With such a weak story and painful dialogue, surely the gameplay must make up for it, right? Eh... Not really. Even the most hardcore of Pokemon fans will probably get bored with this pretty quickly. As I said before, there are lots of goals to meet in this game, but meeting them requires the exact same thing every time. Need to rescue a trapped Pokemon? Go to a dungeon and find the staircases until you finish. Need to get those damn jewels back? Go to a dungeon and find the staircases until you finish. Need to gain a few levels before a lame boss fight? Go to a dungeon and find the staircases until you finish. Game progression and gaining levels is an agonizingly slow process, so you'll end up watching your play timer going ever higher as you have less and less fun.
The one cool feature in Gates to Infinity is the Magnagate dungeon generator. Using the 3DS camera, players can find circular objects in the real world, which the game transforms into unique dungeons. Your toilet seat is a dungeon. The click wheel on an ancient iPod is a dungeon. The top of a soda can is a dungeon. This means you can basically play this game forever and never run out of new dungeons to conquer, but I can't imagine too many will make it to the end of the main story, let alone continue playing after that.
Coming from someone who loves Pokemon and has enjoyed plenty of dungeon crawlers in the past, Gates to Infinity is just plain boring. You end up doing the same thing over and over for upwards of a hundred hours, with the only breaks coming with some seriously obnoxious dialogue and a story that isn't an abomination, but is instantly forgettable. With so many better RPGs, like Fire Emblem: Awakening and Etrian Odyssey IV, currently piling up in the 3DS library, it is hard to imagine more than a few niche players even giving this game a second look. Oh, and, umm... I think some jewels might be missing from my pouch. Could you help me out with my missing jewels? The ones missing from my pouch?
Final Rating: 60%. Even the most diehard Pokemon fans will be bored...