Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity is the latest installment of the popular Pokemon dungeon crawler series. For the first time, the game makes its 3D debut on the 3DS as players explore dungeons, and put together and train teams of Pokemon explorers to plunder the many mystery dungeons that populate the world of Pokemon.
For newcomers to the series, the story is simple: your dreams are interrupted one night by a shining light and a strange voice that pleads for you to save the world of Pokemon. This mysterious voice is accompanied by a vision of a Pokemon, Munna, as she is calling for help while being chased down by a dragon type Pokemon, Hydreigon. The game then allows you to choose which Pokemon you’d like to play as before you are thrust into the world of Pokemon. You have the option to play as five different Pokemon: the fire, grass, and water starters from Pokemon Black and White (Tepig, Snivy, and Oshawott respectively), fan favorite Pikachu, and the powerful dragon Pokemon, Axew. It is slightly disappointing that the game no longer chooses a Pokemon for you based upon the results of a personality quiz you take like in previous games, but it’s easy to forgive.
Shortly after you reach the world of Pokemon, you meet up with another Pokemon who will become your partner. You can choose who your partner will be from the remaining four Pokemon available. As you help each other make your way to Post Town, a rest stop situated near the crossroads for adventuring Pokemon, you learn he wishes to purchase a beat up plot of land to explore and transform into a Pokemon paradise. You decide to join him as you explore dungeons, help Pokemon, and build a paradise while searching for clues that may help you save the world of Pokemon.
Graphically, the game is easily the best looking Pokemon game yet. The 3D environments are bright and colorful, and nicely modeled. The Pokemon themselves are also nicely rendered in 3D, and it makes the world and characters that you see that much more inviting. The 3D effect from the 3DS is about what you have come to expect from most titles, it adds depth to the game environment but nothing stands out as jaw dropping. It’s easier on the eyes than most games, so those who wish to enjoy the 3D will be able to experience it for longer before any discomfort is felt.
Gameplay is remarkably similar to past entries in the series. Players take on missions from other Pokemon, whether it is finding a lost Pokemon or item, defeating a boss enemy, or reaching a certain level within a dungeon. All missions take place within the underground mystery dungeons and complex labyrinths that constantly change their layout and items contained within. Upon completion, the player is rewarded with items and gold. Since the dungeons are computer generated, you get a brand new dungeon layout every time you enter, but as a downside, the layouts lack the creativity of a personally designed dungeon.
The dungeon crawling gameplay itself is simple. You take a team of up to four Pokemon with you as you explore floor after floor of the dungeon and attempt to collect loot to complete your mission objective. In RPG tradition, enemies that you encounter and defeat will drop items and experience, and the more battle experience you gain, the stronger your team will get and the further they can explore. Pokemon evolve just as they do in the main series, and attacks can even be upgraded up to three times by repeatedly using them. Doing so increases their strength and the amount of times you can use them. You have a chance to befriend Pokemon after you defeat them, and finding your perfect Pokemon team is fun and addictive as it has always been.
From the bottom screen on the 3DS, you can view a map of the dungeon floor you are on, as well as the status of all your team members. Customizing your team member’s moves and fighting tactics is a breeze, and newcomers are eased into the customization through quick and painless tutorial pop up windows when information becomes relevant. While the game doesn’t really utilize the touch screen often, the controls are comfortable and easy to remember.
As you complete more missions, you can use the materials and gold you collect to cultivate the land in your paradise and build various facilities. You can create training dojos, berry harvesting farms, and various shops in your paradise which you can utilize to make your trips to the dungeons that much easier. Facilities can be upgraded, so it is easy to get distracted from the main story as you build and shape your very own paradise.
Apart from the main story, the game supports downloadable content and already has a handful of bonus dungeons you can purchase for the game. In addition to this, ManaGate Mode allows you to search for hidden dungeons with your 3DS’ camera. When found, you can explore the dungeon with a specially provided Pokemon team to find rare treasure and items for use in the main story. These extras will definitely keep you coming back for more dungeon raiding goodness.
Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity has a lot going for it. With beautiful 3D visuals that immerse you in a world where you get to live out the fantasy of becoming a Pokemon, simple controls that new comers and hardcore fans can easily pick up, as well as the addition of bonus dungeons to download and discover make this a game you will be coming back to again long after the story is finished. While the randomly generated dungeon layouts may lack the creativity of personally designed ones, it isn’t that large of a fault. Besides a few hick ups with long cut scenes due to slow text speed (there is no setting to change this), this is a completely enjoyable game that fans of Pokemon shouldn’t miss.