Reviewed by: Bracken Lee-Rudolph
Pokémon is one of Nintendo’s most successful intellectual properties, across numerous video game, film and series franchises. The IP has spawned numerous sequels and spin-offs over the years since the old Nintendo Gameboy, all the way to today’s 3DS range of handhelds. So does Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity live up to the lofty standards of the franchise, or is it just that sequel that everyone will want to forget? Let’s find out!
The story is clearly aimed at younger gamers as it is both very simple and deals with mainly positive themes. In essence, you choose a starter character with the aim to build a safe and friendly community for Pokémon to live in. The story is quite predictable and deals with themes such as friendship, loyalty and community spirit. Although this would be perfectly suited to gamers that are new to gaming and Pokémon in general, the plot is generally predictable and the characters aren’t all that gripping.
The gameplay is that of a turn-based dungeon crawling RPG, where you can acquire a party of up to 4 Pokémon at once and each character has specific moves they can use, as well as a certain limit to how much they can use them. While the gameplay is rather strategic, it does get dull very quickly. This is due to the level design, although procedurally generated, being very repetitive and being able to cut a swathe through your enemies by spamming repetitive moves and using certain consumable items to replenish your power uses. Perhaps the best part of the gameplay is the side missions, which are relatively short and to the point, contrary to the story missions which are drawn out and put you through numerous dungeons and boss battles. It must be noted that the secondary screen is used very nicely as a menu interface and allows you to manage your inventory and monitor statistics while still letting you keep track of the environment.
Graphically, the title doesn’t look bad, but it fails to shine, as many of the title’s dungeons look identical to one another. Additionally, turn-based combat, especially on so small a scale, is a difficult thing to make cinematic and Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity certainly doesn’t do this. However, the Pokémon are all distinctive and accurate to their canonical counterparts, which was good to see.
The audio is completely hit and miss. While attacks and combat sound effects sound convincing and well-fitted, sound effects outside of combat are usually oddly squeaky. This may suit the frivolous nature of the franchise, but it was irritating to listen to, and I found myself turning the 3DS’s volume down regularly. There is also no voice acting, as the title shows communication through text based prompts. This is probably for the better however, as most Pokémon are not entirely capable on fluent conversation. The soundtrack is also quite hit and miss, in fitting with the rest of the audio, and also was a cause for me to turn down the audio more than once.
There is no multiplayer so to speak, but with the StreetPass system, revival items can be gained and shared with other players which can aid you in battle and give you some help when your party is downed. The title is fairly long, and using the 3DS camera, additional dungeons can be discovered and played through with prescribed characters in order to gain valuable loot in your main playthrough. This extends the longevity of the title, as often it is worth it to stop for a while and earn some extra equipment to ensure you don’t struggle too much with the boss battles.
While I found Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity quite dull, it was clearly intended for a younger audience, as shown by the storyline. The gameplay is surprisingly deep, if quite repetitive and a little dull, but if you enjoy turn-based rogue-like RPG gameplay, then this title will keep you entertained.
Graphically, the title falls very much within a safe niche which doesn’t look bad, but doesn’t impress the player very much. The audio is quite hit and miss, as some sound effects are fantastic while others are plain irritating. Lastly, the title has some intriguing extra features which add constructively to the lasting appeal of the title. Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates of Infinity isn’t a bad game, it just adds very little to the franchise and gaming in general.
Lasting Appeal: 7/10