Marking its ninth release in the spin-off series, Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity for the Nintendo 3DS begins with such promise; gorgeous 3D settings, vast dungeons and cute, lovable characters. But it’s this tremendous style which gives way to its lack of substance.
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity starts in a similar way to its predecessors – you’re sent down to the Pokémon world to save them from a great evil, but you must have a quick costume change along the way by turning into a Pokémon yourself. Yet unlike its past entries, Gates to Infinity allows the player to choose their starter – Snivy, Oshawott, Tepig, Pikachu and Axew – and gives much more freedom from the get-go. By choosing a partner from the remaining four, a new journey can begin to save their world from impending doom.
The main storyline opens up in a place named Post Town, where fights break out needlessly between Pokémon due to thievery, mistrust and evil-doers in the community. Your designated partner, however, sees it as an opportunity to turn over a new leaf and create a peaceful paradise for Pokémon. In a series of game tutorials, you start to build Paradise with your partner, with your first task to produce a house. But as a request from a fellow Pokémon, you must venture into the darkness and descend into a mystery dungeon to gather materials.
Those new to the series will enjoy exploring the first few dungeons immensely, collecting new Pokémon to add to your ever-growing team through requests, but series regulars may find the lack of dungeon variation disappointing and, at times, cumbersome. Exploring the dungeons to their full potential gives you little other than extra and rather unnecessary loot, and the layouts – for the most part – remain unchanged. However, the game’s saving grace is its wonderful graphics and art style, enhanced beautifully by the 3D, turning its regular 2D sprites into all-animated and loveable 3D versions. Pokémon moves such as Gust turn into mini moving whirlwinds, Razor Leaf cuts straight to the bone and String Shot strikes halfway across the room, allowing the enemy to slink casually to its prey.
The title also allows a unique feature with the 3DS camera, which is great for younger players. Using the camera, you can capture a portal, or ‘magnagate’, by finding circular objects around the house or nearby. These magnagates allow you to step into another dungeon, giving the game a boost in variation. Add to this the wireless mode to team up with other players, and the main storyline begins to pale in comparison.
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity promises an extraordinary dungeon-crawling experience like no other in the series, but its distinct lack of dungeon variation, coupled with the monotonous requests and a storyline that screams for more drama, leaves you feeling sucker-punched.