I wanna be a Pokémon.
The main pokémon games cast the player as a trainer who must capture and train pokémon to do their bidding in battle against other trainers and wild pokémon. Whilst this is a wonderful fantasy that I know many people would love to be true, there are others out there who would love nothing more than actually being pokémon themselves, albeit without the risk of being captured in an unfeasibly small pokéball by a trainer. It is for those pokéfans, the ones who may suggest that they want to be a Unicorn when they grow up, that the Mystery Dungeon games are most suitable.
To be honest, dreaming about being a Pokémon is not something often entertained by adults, so it will come as no surprise that the Mystery Dungeon games are aimed at the younger audience, with the latest entry offering the most accessibility for the more youthful gamer. Gates To Infinity is a very good entry point for children to the Pokémon universe, especially considering their tolerance of the type of repetitive gameplay that is often found in dungeon crawling games. That being said, older gamers will also find a lot to love providing they can cope with the repetitious nature of the game and the overall twee-factor, especially if they are hardened Pokéfans themselves.
The story that carries Gates To Infinity along is surprisingly deep considering the overall lack of anything that could threaten an overbearing parent. As with all of the Mystery Dungeon games, the player is cast as a Human who has found themselves in the body of a Pokémon within the Pokémon world. It is this “Human trapped in a Pokémon body and thus has a different perspective” that carries things forward as the player tries to work out why they are there and what they have to do. But then there is another angle to the story as the player helps another Pokémon to build a Pokémon Paradise on a random piece of land. The building of a Pokémon Paradise provides an alternative focus to the constant trawling of random dungeons that make up the majority of the game and, even though the player still has to gather the resources needed for their very own little Pokétown, it provides another purpose to moving forward.
Building a Pokémon Paradise is actually quite compelling, and there are plenty of different buildings that can be added, or not depending entirely on the player, to the town. Add training dojos, shops and even fields for harvesting berries, the Pokémon Paradise will evolve into a base of Pokémon operations for the player. There are even a few mini-games included for the player to blow off some steam.
But the majority of their time will be spent in the randomly generated dungeons, whether following the story quests or taking on some of the side quests that come as requests from other Pokémon. The player begins by choosing their starter Pokémon from Axew, Oshawott, Pikachu, Snivy and Tepig and will be able to recruit further Pokémon into their team as the game progresses, with the majority of the Pokémon being fifth generation types. The player then takes on a dungeon with a chosen team of four Pokémon and will come across other Pokémon throughout the dungeon that they will have to fight.
The combat will be familiar to Pokéfans. It is turn-based and the Pokémon have the same moves that can be found in the main games. Whilst this is handy for the Pokéveterans, those who have indeed come to this game fresh-faced may have to spend a little while coming to terms with the elemental rock/paper/scissors style of battle, which is perhaps the only barrier to newcomers that can be found within the game. This aside, the combat flows very smoothly. Pokémon level up without much effort and can evolve when the conditions are met, and the moves also level up and become more powerful.
Besides the repetition of constantly working through very similar looking randomly generated dungeons, and the obvious aiming of Gates To Infinity at the younger audience, the only real fault that I could find with the game was the inability to skip through the text. I can understand that this is ensure that the players, even those of a young reading age, can follow the story, but it is frustrating that it moves along so slowly.
The presentation of the game is beyond reproach, as are the visuals. Being the first Mystery Dungeon game on the 3DS, heavy use of the 3D function is to be expected and is achieved to a very high standard. The game looks gorgeous. From the animations of the individual Pokémon to the dungeons themselves, everything just looks great in 3D. This is all enhanced by defined personalities for each of the Pokémon in the game, and a great soundtrack that ensures the game sounds as good as it looks. The production values are incredibly high in Gates To Infinity and leave me with high hopes for X and Y.
There are a few extras thrown into Gates To Infinity. Magnagates offer further gameplay by creating random dungeons from real-life objects using the camera in an AR fashion. StreetPass will allow players to revive, or be revived by, other players that they pass in the street. There is a local multiplayer option providing everyone has a copy of the game and even paid DLC in already available. This DLC offers new dungeons that are focused to a specific purpose, such as gathering cash or rare items.
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates To Infinity is certainly not a game for everyone. The story has a very child-like gloss to it, and the gameplay matches that with a youthful simplicity. Given the target audience is the younger gamer, it does make sense. But Gates To Infinity looks and plays really well, and doesn’t talk down to the child audience so, with a little bit of forgiveness or an open mind, the older gamer can still find some entertainment here, especially if they are already Pokéfans.
The Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games are a side quest to the full Pokémon titles, and as such have a much more narrow audience. However, Gates To Infinity is the most accessible and entertaining entry in the series and will provide hours of enjoyment for anyone who fancies some charming dungeon crawling as a Pokémon.