Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Better Late Than Never Reviews: Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity (3DS) Review

What a long-winded headline! Anyhow, while many Pokemaniacs are deeply engaged with Pokemon X and Pokemon Y, we have a review for another Pokemon game. However, this one released earlier in the year and is not of the same genre. Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity brought the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon spin-off series into three-dimensions. Here is our review.

To the Gates to Infinity and Beyond!

The Pokemon brand is one that isn't just limited to the mainline games, releasing a new generation once every few years or so. No, Pokemon is a brand that has spun off into many sub-series and games, such as Pokemon Snap, Pokemon Stadium, Pokemon Ranger, Pokemon Rumble, PokePark, et al. One such spin-off series is Pokemon Mystery Dungeon, a series that dates back to the Game Boy Advance. The latest addition to this sub-series is Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity for the Nintendo 3DS. It foregoes the 2D sprites of past games with fully polygonal 3D models for characters and backgrounds. Should you bother to explore Gates to Infinity's world?

Pick two Pokemon-- one you play as,
and one that serves as your partner.
Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity's story begins with you, the player, receiving a cry for help within a dream. When you wake up, you find yourself within the Pokemon world, yourself turned into one of a handful of Pokemon choices, such as Pikachu, Axew, and Tepig, for instance. You also select your Pokemon partner, which will join you throughout your adventure. What the actual adventure comes down to is that the Pokemon world is in danger of destruction, and only you have the power to save it. The story is rather enjoyable, with various intriguing plot points. The problem, however, is just how chatty the Pokemon are. This wouldn't be an issue if you could skip dialogue or speed through it somehow. This isn't possible, however, making for occasional long sessions of dialogue that the player needs to sit through. Still, the interactions between Pokemon are really endearing, so I can't really say I didn't enjoy some conversations.

These Pokemon can be Chatty Cathys.
Think of Pokemon Mystery Dungeon as a beginner's take on the Mystery Dungeon genre (i.e. roguelike). You explore dungeons that are randomly generated-- each time you visit a dungeon, the layout is completely different in its design of hallways and chambers. Your goal is to defeat enemy Pokemon as you traverse through each dungeon, finding the stairs that will take you to the next floor until you reach the end. At the end is usually a boss fight or a Pokemon that must be saved or defeated.

Found it! The way to the next floor!
Movement within a dungeon is on a grid. You can move in eight directions, and each time you move one space or perform an action such as using an item, attacking, or using one of your Pokemon's four abilities, every other Pokemon in the dungeon also gets to move once or perform an action.

The spoils of war.
Like the main Pokemon games, each Pokemon and ability has its own type or types, like Fire, Water, Electric, Grass, Rock, and so forth. The rock-paper-scissors approach to Pokemon battles is still present in Pokemon Mystery Dungeon. For example, an Electric move on a Water Pokemon will be super effective, causing major damage, while a Grass move on a Fire Pokemon will hardly make that Pokemon flinch.

Like the mainline games, Pokemon learn new
moves at various different levels.
This is pretty much where the complexity of the game ends. It's very basic combat. It's easy enough to gain levels that you can pretty much plow through any battle or boss fight with little danger. The addition of items that can make enemy attacks miss the player's party more or revives a fallen Pokemon makes the game even easier. I was able to get through most combat situations without even using defensive items. All I needed were healing Oran Berries, as if your or your partner's HP hits 0, you fail the current dungeon.

If you're looking for a challenge,
this game might make you fall asleep, too.
Dungeons themselves aren't too interesting either. They are pretty much the same in structure only with a different aesthetic. By the third or fourth floor of a ten floor dungeon, I started to grow bored of the environment and running through the same room types and long hallways leading to dead end after dead end. Yes, there are some things to liven up dungeons, such as some floors taking away the ability to regenerate HP through movement, but these don't liven things up enough. Extra dungeons unlock after the game is beaten, a 20-hour task, and special dungeons can be created on the fly through using the Nintendo 3DS system's camera to find circular objects within its viewpoint.

No time to take in what little sights there are--
we have a Pokemon world to save!
Pokemon-wise, what is available is only an extremely small sampling of pre-fifth generation Pokemon. Every other Pocket Monster is from the Black and White games. As someone who skipped out on playing heavily through both titles, I didn't recognize a good majority of the Pokemon represented. Still, there are some very nice designs present. Occasionally, you will defeat a Pokemon and they will ask to join your party. You can accept and have them added to your ranks, or you can reject their offer and gain experience from them, just like any ordinary felled foe Pokemon. Thankfully, a Pokemon need not be in your party to gain experience. They will simply need to be in your party to gain all of the levels they acquired while in your reserve of Pokemon pals.

The bottom screen can serve
as a helpful map for you.
Outside of dungeons, there rests Post Town, where many story events take place, as well as Pokemon shops and destinations to break up any dungeon monotony. Outside Post Town is Paradise, a place founded by your partner Pokemon and yourself. In the game, you eventually can have sections of wasteland turned into expansions for Paradise. You can ask a certain fiend turned friend Pokemon to build specific locales in each expansion area, like fields to grow berries, training dojos to learn new moves, and a lot more. This adds to the lengthy replay value of Gates to Infinity.

The graphical upgrade of this 3DS debut of the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon series makes for an appealing title to look at. The Pokemon have a fair amount of detail to them and animate well. Areas are suitably colorful, though there is occasional frame-rate hiccups to be wary of. The 3D effect of the Nintendo 3DS is nothing to gloat about, but it is sometimes nice to have on. The audio in the game is really nice. I remember a fair number of tracks, and have even listened to them outside of the game. That's how much I liked them. Overall, the presentation of Gates to Infinity is an excellent one.

Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity won't excite or engage more experienced players of roguelike titles. It is really an easy game to play through, but Pokemaniacs and those new to the genre will find a lot to love. The story segments overstay their welcome at times, and the dungeons aren't the most interesting to explore, but the positives shine brighter than the negatives. Those searching for a relatively safe addition to the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon series will find that the Gates to Infinity will be open for you.

[SPC Says: 7.0/10]

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