Review: Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity for 3DS

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Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity

Title: Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity
Price: $34.99
System(s): 3DS
Release Date: March 24, 2013
Publisher (Developer): Nintendo (Spike Chunsoft)
ESRB Rating: “Everyone” for Mild Cartoon Violence

I’m a big fan of Spike Chunsoft’s rogue-likes. I think Shiren the Wanderer is a masterpiece and savored earlier DS installments in the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon series. Yet, for some reason, I can’t muster the same enthusiasm for Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity on the 3DS. I’m enjoying the game and loving all the potential replay value packed into it, there’s a part of me that just wants to finish the story and be done with it.

Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity

Every pokemon needs a Pokemon Paradise.

Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity setup is similar to previous installments. The hero or heroine is again a human who has been transformed into a pokemon for some mysterious reason. In this case, it’s to save the Pokemon World, as the Human and Pokemon Worlds are separate. Gone is the personality test that would determine your avatar’s form, replaced with a choice of a Pikachu, Oshwott, Tepig, Snivy or Axew. After choosing a character, one of the remaining candidates then becomes your pokemon partner.

The hero, in my case a Snivy named Jenn, falls into the Pokemon World and is awoken by Oshwott. Oshwott is unphased by learning Jenn is a human transformed into a pokemon. He’s more concerned about reaching an empty plot of land in time to buy it from Quagsire so he can start building his own Pokemon Paradise. Jenn helps him get there in time and, since she has no idea what to do next, agrees to help him form his paradise. The two eventually build up upon their land until its a small town and start making and recruiting more pokemon friends to create their own rescue team, all while trying to bring hope back to the region and save pokemon in need.

Prepare for an accessible, yet tedious, rogue-like dungeon crawler.

Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to InfinityPokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity is best described as a rogue-like with some mild simulation elements. The majority of the game is spent delving into dungeons with a party of 2-4 pokemon, either attempting to reach the end of the dungeon or find a specific pokemon or item. In side-quests where a pokemon or item is found, the reward is typically money and a few materials, which can be used to fund and build upgrades to Pokemon Paradise. It’s a case where dungeon crawling is not only necessary to advance the story, but to expand the players’ base so more pokemon can be recruited and add more facilities to unlock new ways to train, more shops and mini-games. Going through most labyrinths isn’t terribly dangerous, as most don’t factory in hunger, which makes HP drop if pokemon aren’t regularly fed, and a pokemon’s health will gradually refill in most instances as they walk.

Unfortunately, dungeon-crawling is a tedious affair in Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity. I chalk it up to this installment having more tunnels than rooms in dungeons, as well as a decreased difficulty level. The labyrinths are filled with pokemon to potentially recruit, occasional locked rooms, tons of items and even shops, but they’re also packed with tunnels. I prefer the more open spaces, as it makes the game feel more strategic, but instead I was usually just directing Snivy to attack an opponent directly in front of her while my party waited behind her in the tunnel, doing nothing. Though dungeons can have different color schemes, and sometimes even outdoor areas to explore, they’re essentially all the same. It gets boring. I found I could really only tolerate about five excursions per sitting, because I had to go and do something else. The experience is adequate, tolerable and even occasionally fun, but only in moderation.

Which is a shame, because it’s a necessary evil to advance a rather fun story and build a rather robust town. I admit, I was surprised by the twist in Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity and I found the character interactions adorable, if a bit cheesy. That, combined with the multiple land choices and potential shops, were what really made me keep trudging through the game hour after hour.

My disappointment in the lackluster dungeon crawling grew once I realized Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity‘s replay value. Unfortunately, it all involves going through those labyrinths again. The Magnagate option from the main menu allows players to create random dungeons by taking photos of circular objects. The DLC offer opportunities to feature themed dungeons with specific challenges or rewards. The multiplayer offers a Companion Mode where you can either play as any pokemon other than your avatar in a dungeon or connect with up to three friends over local wireless to tackle dungeons together.

Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity

I’ll delve into this dungeon with you… in short bursts.

It isn’t that I’m not enjoying Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity. I do like the game and I’m planning on going back to explore some Magnagates and explore the dungeons as pokemon other than Snivy. It’s just that it doesn’t seem to have that same magic and challenge of the previous games. Instead of being excited about entering a dungeon and exploring each floor, I’m wondering if it’s time to get out yet. I find it’s best experienced in brief bursts. If I play for 15 or 30 minutes, then move on to something else, I enjoy Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity a lot more than I did when trying to plod through one story dungeon after another.

I think part of my problem is, I felt forced to play Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity at an intensified pace to write this review. I feel I’ll enjoy it a lot more now that I have beaten it, written about it and can go ahead and do what I like in the game, whenever I like. So long as you approach this rogue-like with the same mentality, I think you’ll enjoy it.

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