|Dev: Spike Chunsoft|
|Release: March 24, 2013|
|Screen Resolution: N/A||Mild Cartoon Violence|
by Sean Engemann
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon makes the move to the Nintendo 3DS, the perfect platform to advance the series. The more powerful system allows developer Spike Chunsoft to cram in a ton of features, while the unique 3D perspective showcases the adventure like never before. Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates To Infinity moves many of the elements of its predecessors forward, though some major criticisms are still left unaddressed. Ultimately, we are left with a game that has evolved, just not as much as we’d hoped.
Any veteran of the series could easily recite the game's prologue. From a dreamlike vision, you are beckoned into the Pokémon world to answer cries of distress. After plummeting from the sky, you are awakened by a concerned Pokémon who quickly starts discussing its aspirations of creating a Pokémon Paradise. Content to tag along and play the sidekick, your companion puts on the smooth talking and scores a massive stretch of a barren wasteland with the intent of turning it into a utopia. The location is convenient as it is just across the road from Post Town, the area's bustling village where shops and tourists abound.
You'll be more than content with the amenities the town offers from the start, with a general goods store, an inn for mingling, a place to access downloadable content, a scenic plateau to take in the vista, and a deposit box for storing your coin and items. But don’t think it ends there. As each quest is completed and lengthy sections of the adorable story play out, something new springs up for you to do. New shops will open their doors, such as a gift shop, a chest-breaking shop, a gold bar collector, and a travelling merchant. But Post Town is merely a fraction of what can be achieved in your Paradise.
The empty space you call home starts as nothing more than a couple of piles of straw for sleeping, next to a small fire pit. You'll eventually get a roof over your head and start to clear the surrounding areas for all sorts of facilities. Gardens to grow berries, dojos to train in, booths for lottery tickets, ponds full of sunken treasure, and a ton more. Not only that, but with the right materials and enough coin, these stations can all be upgraded for more lucrative rewards. You'll also have access to a bulletin board for taking on quests, a place to change party members, a place to retrain moves, and another deposit box, all to get set for your next adventure. You'll love returning after each completed quest to see if anything new happens, and to use your newly acquired materials to enhance the Paradise.
However, it is the actual dungeon delving itself where the game runs into issues, and, as the bulk of the gameplay, this could offset any desire you may have to complete the quest. As in past Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games, quests consist of instantly travelling to randomly generated dungeons and exploring each floor to locate the stairs to the next level until you reach the final level. Once there, you must find the missing item, rescue the lost Pokémon, or defeat the boss.
Despite updated visuals, the dungeons themselves are still bland venues, plastered with dull gray rocks and little more to get excited about. The layout of each floor is consistent throughout—several small caverns connected by nonsensical pathways your group must travel single-file. The only refreshing, albeit brief, respite you get from the mundane spelunking is when you travel along the dungeon exteriors with lush florae and simple puzzles to complete.
Hindering your progress are wild and aggressive Pokémon, who attack non-strategically with random moves during every encounter. That is offset, however, by the fact that you are limited in your own strategy. At the beginning of the game you choose a Pokémon from a small list based on the species of Unovo (from Pokémon Black and White), and that becomes the only one you control throughout the main story. The only deviation from your initial choice comes with the game's use of the augmented reality feature. By scanning the real world for round objects, you will unlock new dungeons to explore with a random quartet of Pokémon. The difficulty of the dungeon is determined by the object scanned, with the loot acquired after completion transferred to your main game.