Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates To Infinity Review
Older Pokémon fans have it pretty rough. It’s hard enough trying to convince the franchise’s critics of its boundless depth and potential at the best of times. Then just when we think we’re getting close to selling people on the fact that it does cater to mature gamers as well as children, along comes Gates To Infinity – a game so painfully simple and drenched in infant-level moral lessons that we’re left to chow down on our own words. And they are not delicious.
While Gates To Infinity is still a decent entry in the sub-series for the youngest of Pokémaniacs, anyone in their teens or above should be able to point out why this is the weakest one yet. Nintendo probably calls it ‘accessibility’ but in truth, it’s just been simplified to the point of removing key mechanics and focusing too hard on aspects of the game that really don’t matter – this is a franchise that has never had a story more complicated than the first verse of the original TV theme song, after all.
So gone is the hunger mechanic, effectively meaning you can just hole up in a dead end and safely wait for most enemies to come to you. HP recovers so quickly now and without the worry of growing hungry as you wait and heal up, there’s just little to no danger. Hunger returns in some later dungeons, but it’s not enough – it’s a crucial part of the game and it suffers without it.
The push towards narrative is also detrimental to the experience and for several reasons. Everything is totally overexplained and with no option to skip or speed up text, it can take ages between dungeons just to hear what everyone is babbling on about. Putting story first also undermines one of the game’s major selling points – randomly generated dungeons – and when you’re forced to run six or seven brand new areas in a row without the ability to return to older ones or do your own thing, it ironically feels more like a grind than it does when you’re just rinsing the same dungeon over and over in search of rare treasures or Pokémon to befriend.
It’s a real shame that so much attention is taken away from the Pokémon village that you create and grow by doing Request Board missions too, because this aspect of the game is arguably better than ever. Reward materials can be used to prepare new land and build all kinds of useful shops and facilities wherever you like, leveling them up and visiting them regularly to improve both your team and the ever-growing Pokémon Paradise. Evolving your base as well as your Pokémon is a brilliant mechanic – if only the game allowed the player more freedom to do so without constantly bombarding them with protracted and often dull story quests instead.
Companion mode goes some way toward mitigating these issues, allowing you to take control of any of your other recruits and just perform Requests, as does the option to use the 3DS camera to dynamically create original dungeons from any round object in the real world. But in both cases, you’ll still need to press on with the tedious story missions in order to unlock new abilities and materials, so neither proves a real substitute for just having a decent structure in the first place.
Endure the ham-fisted life lessons and overly long dialogue interludes and eventually, Gates To Infinity opens up to be a solid dungeon crawler. But you shouldn’t have to wait until the end game for it to be almost on a par with earlier entries in the series. Youngsters will no doubt enjoy it but for the time being, we’ll save the Pokémon evangelism until X and Y come out…