Review by KeyBlade999

"To infinity ... and beyond!"

~ Review in Short ~

Gameplay: Standard PMD mechanics, with some new changes that provoke mixed feelings.
Story: Superficially can be likened to previous Mystery Dungeon games, elementally disappointing, but very, very moving.
Graphics: Colorful, vibrant, and the 3D is excellent. However, the game also lags and 3D can be literally painful.
Sound and Music: An excellent variety of new and remixed themes which accentuate the gameplay well.
Play Time: It can take about 50 hours to beat the main storyline, 60 for the whole plot, and 200 for 100% completion. Longer than prior PMD games.
Replayability: The spots of non-linearity and overall entertainment help, but it's not as unique each time around as you think.
Recommendation: Overall, it's a great game for those loving previous Pokemon Mystery Dungeon games and Pokemon in general. However, there is a free demo available through the Nintendo eShop that you may want to get beforehand - it contains most of the elements that will either make or break your purchase. Personally, I wholly recommend it.




~ Review in Long ~

Looking back behind us, we are able to see ourselves with a myriad of Pokemon games. The last few years alone in Generation V have produced over half a dozen video games; most series can not reproduce and multiply this fast. Think Kingdom Hearts, for example, where it often takes one or two years for a game to come out in the series, or the Final Fantasy Versus XIII, which has been in development for six years and counting -- Pokemon can spit out a good game in a mere six months time. However, as we've progressed through the previous few generations of Pokemon, this fast reproduction has led to problems with retaining entertainment and keeping the once-hardcore audience that the series once had. With Generation VI on the horizon, some people can't help but look at the past four or five years and think, "This is it. Pokemon is through."

Despite all the controversial repetition throughout the mainstream "Version" games, one thing has often been constant. The games released as part of a side-series, like PokePark, Pokemon Conquest, and Pokemon Mystery Dungeon have often had their own, well-deserved following, and I am perhaps the biggest follower of all of the Mystery Dungeon series. I got the first game, Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Red Rescue Team several months after launch back in 2006. Since then, I've been addicted, and so have many others.

The eventual announcement of Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity, the fourth iteration of the series, had made me and others ecstatic, to say the least. As information was leaking, though, doubts grew. With barely 25% of the Pokemon, and DLC you pay for, and a lack of a true rescue system that had been traditional in the previous games, among other things, was this game even worth buying? So much had changed in the series in the space between two entries - while we clamored for change in the mainstream games, no one really complained about Mystery Dungeon. It was as close to Pokemon perfection as had been gotten. Maybe not well-selling, but qualitatively unsurpassed.

Nevertheless, I picked up this game - twice, in fact; once in Japanese, once on the U.S. launch. Was it worth it?


GAME HISTORY:
To find the roots of Pokemon, we have to go back many a year. Pokemon began on Nintendo's GameBoy console in 1995 in Japan with the release of Pokemon Red/Green Versions. This began a relation that has yet to be broken between Nintendo, Game Freak, and Creatures Inc. - these three have collaboratively worked on the Pokemon series in the near two decades since then. These two games came to the United States in 1998 as Pokemon Red/Blue Versions and gained immense popularity, spawning an anime series, trading card game, and manga, among other things. An expansion to these games, more close canonically to the anime, was released in 1999: Pokemon Yellow Version. These games are collectively known as Generation I. There were some side-games tossed up in this generation, such as Pokemon Stadium, Pokemon Pinball, and Pokemon Trading Card Game. It wasn't until later, though, these games would attain their own fanbase.

The Pokemon series continued rushing into Generation II, a set of games mostly released on the GameBoy Color. It began at the turn of the millennium in 2000 with what I personally think are some of the best mainstream Pokemon games: Pokemon Gold/Silver Versions, intended as sequels to Pokemon Red/Blue/Green Versions. Of course, an expansion, Pokemon Crystal Version, later came out in 2001. As far as the side-games are concerned, relatively few came out during this generation; it was mostly focused on Pokemon Stadium 2.

Soon comes 2003 and the start of the third generation of Pokemon. It began with Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire Versions, each released on the GameBoy Advance. As usual, an expansion was released in 2005 - Pokemon Emerald Version. In the interim between the two, because of technological incompatibility between the GameBoy Color and GameBoy Advance, the main two Generation I games were remade into Pokemon FireRed/LeafGreen Versions so people would be able to obtain most of the Pokemon, although a legitimate completion would not be allowed until 2010. Meanwhile, during this time, more side-games were released: Pokemon Colosseum (GameCube), Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness (GameCube), Pokemon Ranger (DS), and Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Red/Blue Rescue Teams (GBA/DS) being the most-noted ones. The last of those mentioned also spawned its own series, as you could probably guess from the name of the game you're looking at a review for.

Eventually, 2007 rolls around, as does Generation IV. It begins on the Nintendo DS with Pokemon Diamond/Pearl Versions, the first Pokemon games to dip their toes in trying to get a less strict top-down experience. An expansion to these, Pokemon Platinum Version, came out in 2009. Continuing with the idea of permitting every Pokemon to be captured, Generation II also needed to be remade, and successfully was in 2010 as Pokemon HeartGold/SoulSilver Versions. Of course, numerous side-games came out during this time, namely including Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time/Darkness/Sky (DS), Pokemon Battle Revolution (Wii), PokePark Wii - Pikachu's Great Adventure (Wii), and Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Blazing/Stormy/Light Adventure Squad (WiiWare in Japan).

Generation V, a polarizing generation for Pokemon players, began in 2011 with Pokemon Black/White Versions, a set of games still for the Nintendo DS. There is no planned formal expansion for these games; instead, pseudo-sequels, Pokemon Black/White Versions 2, were released for the DS late in 2012. Some side-games have been released for this generation, including Pokemon Conquest (DS), PokePark 2: Wonders Beyond (Wii), and Pokemon Rumble Blast (3DS). There is also the subject of this review, Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity, the fourth iteration of the Mystery Dungeon series, which was released in late 2012 in Japan and March 2013 in the United States on the Nintendo 3DS.

Generation VI is already planned, with the shortest intergenerational gap in Pokemon - Pokemon X/Y are slotted for a Nintendo 3DS release worldwide in October 2013, making it barely a two-year gap versus the usual four or five. No games based on this have been released at this time.


GAMEPLAY: 8/10.
What is Pokemon Mystery Dungeon?:
Well, to begin, Gates to Infinity plays like the traditional Mystery Dungeon game. The game will effectively alternate between plot-revealing informational cutscenes and events and the Mystery Dungeons themselves. Mystery Dungeons are where you'll spend most of your time in the game. They consist of numerous "floors", often gridded, and filled with enemies. The Mystery Dungeons are very rogue-like - like the Dark Cloud series or the other Mystery Dungeon games, you'll find them to be randomized in layout every time you get through.

If you've never played Dark Cloud, then you can probably analogize it best, albeit somewhat inaccurately, to Final Fantasy Tactics, but with more Pokemon-centric elements, like types, leveling-up, evolution, and so on. Overall, Gates to Infinity comes off as a rogue-like RPG. It adheres to the tradition well, as far as genre goes. However, there are problems deeper down; more on that momentarily.

Mystery Dungeons:
There are a number of Mystery Dungeons in this game you can play. There's not as many as there have been, though. Whereas PMD2: Explorers of Time/Darkness/Sky offered us nearly four dozen dungeons all in the game, Gates to Infinity disappoints a little. It's not like it comes from number, though - you'll get forty-three dungeons at least in this game, and there are dozens more available if you think about it. But it comes in the variety that is where Gates to Infinity disappointed me.

If you've played the other Mystery Dungeon games, you'll probably recall some very challenging dungeons. Zero Isle, for a PMD2 example, could very well restrict you to Level 1, reduce you to the lowest possible stats, force you to bring no items, and you could only go with one Pokemon instead of four, against Pokemon that could be many times stronger than you by the end of the dungeon. Gates to Infinity doesn't exactly reproduce something like that - at least not on the scale of previous games. All of two dungeons I played did anything akin to this, whereas you had several times more in the previous games.

Still, I am not entirely disappointed. The lack of variety is counterbalanced with some new dungeons features. One of the most important is the idea of "Mysteriosity" - a measurable quantity of how mysterious a Mystery Dungeon is. Things, as you would expect, could get very freaky in a Mystery Dungeon, but to what extent? That issue has never been addressed before in the series. In Gates to Infinity, though, you'll find random, crazy ideas - moves suddenly take a lot more power to use, you suddenly don't recover HP, abilities suddenly don't work, you only find one item on the dungeon floor, or, perhaps most astonishing, you somehow teleport to another dungeon for several floors before returning. It truly does keep you on your toes in this game, I'll give it that much, but this idea is not unlocked until relatively late in the game.

The Battle and Power-Up System:
We'll again go back to the previous analogy - imagine a crossover between Pokemon and Final Fantasy Tactics or Dark Cloud and you effectively have it. Another way of putting it, still somewhat inaccurately, is to just think of Pokemon Conquest, if you've ever played that.

For the most part, dungeon floors consist of gridded fields. These gridded fields can be interrupted by natural terrain (such as rocky walls or holes in the ground or lava), which creates something almost like a labyrinth. There, you control up to four Pokemon, although you merely control how the AI controls three of them - you only have unilateral control over one of the Pokemon, the main character. Scattered throughout the floor are a number of Pokemon, far outnumbering you, and they have a tendency to regenerate from nowhere, meaning that there is no beating all of the Pokemon in a floor.

The game abides fairly strictly on usual Pokemon mechanics when it comes to the battles. They may not be strictly one-on-one, but basically you can attack a Pokemon if your moves will actually reach it. Each move and Pokemon is attributed a certain "type" - like an element of sorts. Fire beats Grass, which beats Water, which beats Fire, and so on - there are actually 17 types, leading to 289 potential match-ups if you assume just single-type rules. (Pokemon can be dual-typed, like Sewaddle is Bug/Grass, or Pignite is Fire/Fighting.) It can be a very complicated system to deal with if you're just dealing with one-on-one match-ups, which you're not - you have up to three AI allies, and who knows how many enemies.

Players of the mainstream Generation V games (Pokemon Black/White Versions and their sequels) will probably remember a balancing mechanic when it comes to EXP. distribution - the stronger you were, the less EXP. you get, right? Makes sense, doesn't it? This mechanic is completely absent in Gates to Infinity, though. It doesn't matter if my Pokemon is Level 1 or Level 100 - if I beat a certain Pokemon, I will get only so-much EXP. EXP. is earned upon the defeat of Pokemon, and that's how you strengthen your Pokemon - get EXP., level up, and your stats will increase. You may become more powerful, or more resilient, or even learn new techniques. Sometimes, Pokemon are able to even evolve.

Evolution in Pokemon is effectively faster than it is for normal organic beings such as ourselves - while it can take millions of years for us to evolve, if you manage to amass enough EXP., a Pokemon could do it in a mere minute. This form has altered stats such that the Pokemon is often stronger. It may also change its type identity, ability, and be able to learn new techniques. This is obviously a useful thing for anyone. Even your enemies can evolve in a dungeon, adding to the mysterious danger. The main problem with the system used to be, though, that you couldn't evolve until you beat the game. No problem! Except for the important Pokemon who need their identities to remain constant for plot purposes, any Pokemon is permitted to evolve in the midst of a dungeon.

New and Altered Mechanics:
Gates to Infinity has added a number of things to the Pokemon formula beyond the 3D graphics - many things. Some of these have already been mentioned, like in-dungeon evolution and "Mysteriosity". There are others, like DLC, we'll take greater focus on later.

One of the changes includes gridless floors. These floors are actually more of a disappointment than you'd think. These floors take place outside of a dungeon - like on a ledge of a cliff somewhere instead of within the cliff, or a clearing in a forest - and contain relatively few enemies. I never saw more than two or three Pokemon, to be quite honest, versus the veritable dozens of a true dungeon floor. The battle mechanics alter to the usual stuff when you come in contact with an enemy Pokemon. Anyways, with the openness of a gridless floor, you'd think some attention would be appropriated to including some puzzles. In fact, there are some minor puzzles included, but that's basically localized to all of the first ten hours of the game with only three real instances I can recall. Beyond that, they're there for the sake of being there - no puzzles, just a way of sweeping you along. I was sorely disappointed when they revealed the potential to me quite early on, then swept that rug out from under me; I honestly expected better in this regard.

Let's continue our train of raised eyebrows with the Hunger mechanics. Veterans of the previous Mystery Dungeon games probably recall this - it was effectively a timer. If you didn't eat, you'd lose health and eventually pass out, like in real life. This really added to the tenseness of a dungeon - I mean, you want to grind, earn EXP., and search out all of the items, don't you? It's only natural when in an environment that couldn't have been plundered before by other adventurers - but, then again, you also have to live to be able to reap your rewards. This mechanic is dreadfully absent for most of the game, with only a scant three dungeons having this. Think about that - previous Mystery Dungeon games could incorporate it into four dozen or more dungeons, providing an element of challenge. Gates to Infinity, though, a game with much potential, squanders that. But not by simply removing it - rather, waving it almost in our face, saying "Hey, look what we could have done for your forty bucks!".

There is also a large focus in this game on trust and interdependence between Pokemon, both mechanically and with the plot. One instance of this comes through the "Team Attack". As you and your allies fight through the dungeon, your minds almost become one, and you can almost act as a cohesive unit instead of individuals. We've probably all had that feeling before in sports or other activities - you don't need to say or be told what to do; you just know. This idea comes in play here, but it's not as glorious as you might imagine. Basically, you and your allies will attack everyone in the room. This should technically be accompanied by a relatively slight boost in damage, as one would expect. Instead, this happens - most enemies will instantly be defeated and you'll be aided further with "special effects" based on your character's type. For example, if you're Electric-type, then you paralyze the remaining enemies, if such remain; if you're Grass-type, you absorb 100 HP for your own gain. (Trust me, that's a lot when the most you usually see in this game is 200 by the end, and this is available quite early.) Basically, this comes so often to the point as to make dungeons easy.

Another altered mechanic comes in with the idea of "Team Skills". These are like team-wide abilities, which are taking the replace of the IQ Skill now. (The IQ Skill was an ability unlocked by raising a certain stat in previous Mystery Dungeon games. Only certain Pokemon would get certain skills, and the best ones took a lot of effort to attain.) The Team Skills are definitely not as hard to get - in fact, you'll probably get the majority of them by pure accident. Whereas IQ Skills could be gotten through effective grinding of the IQ stat, and therefore the worth of an ability was tied directly to the difficulty of the portion of the game where it is unlocked, Team Skills are found by simply opening chests. These skills are not limited, either, to only have "X" in a certain dungeon. You can find some of the best Team Skills early on in the game if you look diligently enough. That's not necessarily a bad thing - most of the Team Skills are not useful to such an extreme as to break the difficulty curve, but merely affect your stats or just overall make it easier for you. If anything, if you want to keep a balance of difficulty, you can always switch off the Team Skill.

Yet another new concept is that of the move level. In literally every Pokemon game released to date, the statistics for moves were static. Thunder was always 150 Power, always 90% accurate, and always had 5 PP when not boosted. (PP is basically how many uses a move has left - it stands for Power Points.) However, this time, Gates to Infinity takes the logic of "practice makes perfect" - as you successfully use a move more and more, it will level up. It can level up 21 times through seven distinct levels total. With each level up, it will increase slightly in power, slightly in accuracy, and slightly in PP. This system is also progressive. It is slightly flawed in that it isn't hard to get to the third distinct level soon after unlocking it, sure; overall, though, you won't easily get the move's level maxed. I've yet to manage that, and I've played through over 60 hours now. The system is a little flawed to begin with, and the changes between the levels are barely noticeable, so it does help to balance difficulty a little.

The next concept we'll discuss is the "V-Wave". The V-Wave is a wind that blows through the game after a certain point. This wind is able to help certain Pokemon types in certain ways. For example, on a day that the V-Wave is of the Fighting-type, Fighting-type Pokemon may get more EXP., may deal more damage, or may get shop discounts among other things. This system is interesting as it changes daily at random (like any weather phenomenon), but you can control it if you have the money. The controlling results in a game of roulette - while you can try it for free, you'll almost certain to lose. Then again, if you have 7,777 units of money, which is quite near the maximum you can hold at once (9,999), you can certainly change the type. There are intermediate values, obviously, but this encourages a lack of abuse. You can't always have the advantage, but if you feel you need it desperately, and have the money, you're able to do it.

A final new concept - minigames! Pokemon has never been a series to lend itself to such relative frivolity, only really dipping its toes in the water with the concept quite recently with Pokemon Black/White Versions (DS; 2011) and the Entralink. There are only two real types of minigames. One is a relative standard for DS and 3DS titles, at least in the old days - a shuffleboard-like game where you slide pucks from the Touch Screen to the hole on the top screen. An overused concept, I'll admit, but it is also quite addictive. The other minigame makes full use of the 3DS's gyroscope, in that you use it to guide a Pokemon down a tunnel to some treasure chests - this minigame is a little unintuitive with its controls, but it is readily analogized to holding the Pokemon. Both minigames are interesting concepts to look into, and can even yield rewards in the game, like items that cause Pokemon evolution, which are exclusive to minigames.

Magnagate Dungeons:
As time has passed through the 3DS's lifetime, games first made use of the augmented-reality function. The first few did poorly, then there was a brief interim, after which games made increasing use of it and increasingly better use of it. I honestly can't say the same for Gates to Infinity, though.

The main purpose of this augmented-reality function is not really even to augment reality. You simply focus the outer cameras on a circular object in the real world (often a simple circle found on your computer), get a somewhat decent 3D experience, and then you head into a dungeon. This is how one finds a "Magnagate Dungeon" - a dungeon in which you have no control over who you enter as. There is no real control over which dungeon you get, either, at least when searching for new ones - it's pretty much all left to chance, even though it's supposed to be based upon the size of the object and its color.

Still, Magnagate Dungeons are not all bad. They function much like Mystery Dungeons, but there are whole swathes of them, and no real way of saying that you've gotten them all. Some are excruciatingly difficult, pitting you against much stronger Pokemon and putting you at a type disadvantage. These dungeons can be quite fun, though, because your in-game progress is immaterial - you can't just grind your way through these, nor are you able to have grinded too much before for them. Your party and level is preset. It's a nice teaching for adapting to new situations and disadvantages as well. Overall, I enjoyed this.

"Only 144 Pokemon!? Screw this!":
A common cry was heard as information slowly leaked out about this game from pre-release info and players of the Japanese version - that there were only 144 Pokemon, and that this was bad. Firstly, the 144 Pokemon is not entirely true - some of the DLC actually gives a few extra Pokemon. (I've only actually seen one insofar, though, but the potential exists.) Secondly, how can this be all bad? I understand that one of the main aspects of the Pokemon series is to "catch 'em all" - it's the series's slogan, after all.

But look at it from a different standpoint. In playing Pokemon Black/White Versions 2, you could easily accumulate 1,000+ hours of gathering Pokemon for the Pokedex of 649 Pokemon if you include the time spent playing sixteen-plus other Pokemon games. In PMD2: Explorers of Sky, I eventually did recruit most of the Pokemon (just shy of 493, the standard then in Generation IV) with an Activity Log record on my 3DS showing well over 300 hours. In Gates to Infinity, you only have one fourth of the actual Pokemon.

But it's not all bad. Is 144 not more palatable than 649? Would it not be less mundane; because, after all, you'll just be grinding through dungeons for that one Pokemon eventually, and then the next, and the next - 144 ends that pain more easily. And a third standpoint is this - remember Generation I, Pokemon Red, Blue, Yellow, and Green Versions? They only had 151 Pokemon at the time across the four of them, and people thought that to be sufficient back then - why should the standard for satisfaction change just because the possibilities are larger? I'm quite fine with only 144 Pokemon - it's easier to deal with both mentally and time-wise - and, anyways, new Pokemon may come through DLC. But...

Downloadable Content (DLC):
Pokemon is not the type of game to delve into downloading content for the game. Nintendo as a whole usually doesn't do that - New Super Mario Bros. 2 being the only real instance of non-patching I can recall. Now, there are always decent contexts for DLC - maybe the developers find some untied plot loop six months later, or maybe there's an expansion pack available, or maybe new characters, or something. DLC as a concept is no problem for us - it's becoming increasingly common.

Its implementation into Gates to Infinity is a whole other concept entirely. All of the DLC as of now consists of approximately ten additional dungeons. Now, think about this - previous Mystery Dungeon games had you spend forty bucks or whatever on the game, then meet arbitrary in-game tasks to proceed to another dungeon or unlock another. That's the usual system. We were quite satisfied with it.

This dungeon DLC was actually available on launch day in Japan for Gates to Infinity.

No, Nintendo, Game Freak, Chunsoft, and the others were not okay with the simple forty dollars you spend. Instead, they simply decide to hold back content and force you to pay more and more for numerous things. Firstly, let's simply look at the fact that you're losing out on at least 20% of the gameplay if you don't buy the dungeons. Secondly, think about Pokemon - not only are some Pokemon only available as-of-now through the DLC, but there are some that are insurmountably easier to get through it because you otherwise have to hope that random-number generators are working in your favor, which is rare.

This content is held back willingly and without excuse - it was available when the game launched in November 2012, and therefore could have been in the main game itself. Instead, you get charged two bucks for ten dungeons, amounting to $20.00, which turns the cost of the game up to a 3DS-rare $60.00. It's overly mercantilistic and pointless to do so. And think about those of us who don't have Internet - yes, we exist, and I'm one of them. If I didn't have a sketchy-at-best Wi-Fi hotspot at my school, I never would be able to get my DLC nor even contribute to GameFAQs.

The only saving grace in this matter is that the DLC is offered freely for about five weeks after the game's launch. That's the only silver lining - as a whole, the DLC is poorly executed waste of time, for it could have definitely been implemented in the game itself, and with less cost to the player. It's absolutely shameful.

Multiplayer Aspects:
There are a few aspects to this game that involve multiplayer, a new thing for the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon series. There is a generic one that is entertaining nonetheless. See, in Gates to Infinity, one of the main things you'll be doing is clearing missions. Clearing missions can increase a team ranking for you, leading to increased privileges. Some of these missions can be played alongside another human player, so, to sum it up, you can sometimes play together. You both will need Gates to Infinity, though, so it's not like you'll play with others all that much, but it can be better than leaving it up to the luck of the AI.

The other multiplayer aspect would be the rescue system... sort of. Traditionally in the Mystery Dungeon series, you would be able to get rescued when you got defeated in a dungeon in several ways - two of which involved sending a password (by giving the password or console-to-console linking), one of which involved putting the request online and hoping someone was able to rescue you. Gates to Infinity does neither - and its replacement is pointless.

You get rescued by StreetPass. Basically, you need to put a certain item in a certain place in the game and, if you StreetPass someone that needs rescuing, you'll end up giving them the item, saving them. That is totally against what the whole series was even about - rescuing. I mean, it was in the title of the first games, Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Red/Blue Rescue Team! Now, look at it this way - how many StreetPasses do you get on a daily basis? Not a lot, I imagine, unless you live in a metropolis of some sort, right? I live in a moderately large town and go to a moderately large school. I could theoretically StreetPass with around 700 people daily if they all had and brought 3DS consoles to school. On a good day, I get two StreetPasses - most days, I get none. Extend this logic to the requirement of the other person needing Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity and you can almost guarantee that you'll never get rescued unless you yourself buy two copies of the game and two consoles. In short, I am sadly disappointed.

My Overall Opinion:
I know that's a lot of information to stomach. But basically my opinion falls like this. The main aspects of the game that would deter someone are really the DLC and the lack of a true rescue system. Some of the new mechanics, like the "Team Skills" and "Team Attacks", are mathematically flawed and make the game far too easy. But the majority of the game is well-balanced and entertaining. Gates to Infinity continues to adhere to the traditional aspects of this rogue-like/RPG series that made it so fun to start with. While there are some things I definitely would alter about this, all in all, it's pretty good to play.


STORY: 9.5/10.
Early Plot:
Gates to Infinity begins like many other Pokemon Mystery Dungeon games. In the human world, you have a dream one evening, a dream unlike your numerous others. In a rainbow-hued haze, you hear a Pokemon cry for help as you are assaulted by a vision of this Pokemon being chased vigorously by another that looks like a Pokemon. The Pokemon being pursued claims that you are the only hope for the world of Pokemon.

After having chosen the form you will take in the world of Pokemon, you fall far, far from the human world into a forest. Oddly uninjured, you'll land in front of a Pokemon, your partner. This Pokemon is heading to a town nearby to start a Paradise for all Pokemon. The world has grown metaphorically dark and dim lately - few Pokemon trust one another, and everyone is on edge. Meanwhile, you are still hunting for the Pokemon that called for help. Knowing no one else in this world, you decide to help your partner go to the land for the future Paradise, past the difficulty, rocky mountain ahead.

This begins a long journey the likes of which you could never predict. It is a story filled with love and hatred, trust and betrayal, friends and enemies, life and death... All in all, Gates to Infinity provides the usual high-quality storyline I look and yearn for in a video game. It is one that is admittedly akin, but at the same time far from, the storylines of previous Mystery Dungeon games. This storyline will truly pull at your heartstrings in a manner like few other games possibly could.

Plot Elements:
I won't go into any real spoilers on the plot, but I will note a few things about it. Generally, yes, the plot is going to be filled with twists and turns and definitely emotions. Like other Mystery Dungeon games, it is hard to not get emotionally attached - yes, the you in the real world - to the Pokemon you meet. That alone makes the story seem all the more serious on a personal scale, and it pulls your mood around in numerous ways.

Of course, after all of this praise on the plot, you are probably wondering why I didn't give it some kind of perfect score. There are several relatively-negligible things that must also be mentioned. Traditionally in Pokemon Mystery Dungeon, you are given a sort of personality quiz that chooses which Pokemon you start as based on your answers to a series of questions, then matching it up with the canonical personality of a Pokemon. Like, for example, Pikachu was often tied with being brave. This helps to make the Pokemon feel more like "you", and develop more emotional attachments. However, this aspect is not in the game, which disappointed me a little.

Another tradition of the Mystery Dungeon has been interactive plots. It's not like Chrono Trigger or Mass Effect where you can determine your ending from a certain set of actions - that's not what I'm saying. I mean in the usual games, you find yourself faced with a lot of choices as to how to act, even though it all eventually leads in the same direction. You can choose what to say and what to do to see others' reactions. I recall a special incidence in this particular game regarding the controversial addition of certain Pokemon into the team - plenty wanted this Pokemon, yet, for the sake playing a prank, I wanted to say "No." I wasn't allowed this option - given it, yes, but not allowed to pull through with it, without a real reason as to why - the game basically just said "You should allow them in." However, in other Mystery Dungeon games, you could do this just to see everyone's reaction and have a good laugh or two. That's perhaps what I miss most from this game - you actually watch more than you choose when it comes to the plot.


GRAPHICS: 8.5/10.
Chromatics:
When it comes to the colors themselves, you'll find an excellent variety in this game. Pokemon are drawn quite well and, finally, they now accurately look like their 3D counterparts from other games that used 3D models, like Pokemon XD, Pokemon Battle Revolution, and the PokePark series, among others. They are quite vibrantly detailed.

The moves are also finally growing towards the less generic schemata. Whereas you normally would find stark similarity between moves like Quick Attack, Slam, and Tackle, or Thundershock, Thunderbolt, and Thunder, each move will now have distinct differences. For example, your Pokemon will move a lot more forward to do a Quick Attack, or tackle more bodily in a Slam attack. The "Thunder-" chain mentioned previously has the bolts increase in thickness, brightness, and "craziness" (more branches from the main bolt, usually).

The environments are also beautifully detailed. The opening movie alone would be enough to sell you on graphical quality. Clouds, for example, no longer have the generic puffball shape a toddler could draw, but the more accurate "wispiness", if you catch my drift. The sky always has that effect where it darkens on the edge of your vision, like in real life. The stars twinkling in the night sky on a cloudless evening, the sparkling of light glinting off of glass... It's honestly enough to bring a tear to my eye. Contrast and brightness are not even an issue in this game, ever. So, for all its perfection, there still remain some problems making this shy from perfection.

Animations:
Superficially speaking, you may find the movements of the Pokemon seem unique. Being a 3D game, we finally get some decent animations over the static sprites of prior games. There is still a problem with this. As time goes on, if you pay attention, you'll find that the animations of Pokemon are more generic than meets the eye. Think about it - if you've ever seen the anime, wouldn't it seem logical for Pikachu to walk more on all fours? (If not, think about a cat and the structure of their back legs, and why they don't walk bipedally.)

Sometimes, sure, the realism you want comes out. If you get Pokemon to move fast enough, some will resort to their traditional methods of traveling (fast). Additionally, there isn't a real animation to accommodate speech - the Pokemon just stands there in the field and you have the read the text box and portrait of the Pokemon, in most cases, to get a glance at their emotional state. They often just stand there, stiffly - and not just in the field with that particular case, but when looking at them in the dungeon as you wait to make a move.

The 3D Graphics:
First, let's not get mistaken on this detail. The 3D is absolutely amazing, if but at times. The rushing of a flying Pokemon at the screen is just exhilarating; at times, the 3D is as good as to almost place flying Pokemon in the space between you and the 3DS. For once, we have a game that does achieve the pop-out book effect and do it well. While it has no functional applications as games like Super Mario 3D Land did, that shouldn't deter you from keeping on the 3D. But there may be something else that should.

I recall one night playing the game. I had been playing rigorously for the past eight or so hours, not using the 3D because most of what was there was filler, and I wanted to be comfortable, but that would probably trigger the "double-vision" effect. Of course, whenever a major scene came up, I forsake comfort for quality, for the 3D was great. A brief flash - a brief flash of sparkling light - and, like that, I felt a sharp pain in my eye. This pain did not go away for a fair time, and this is the only time it's ever happened in any of my games. With such a sudden and isolated cause, I can only presume that this is a sort of glitch within the game that effectively makes detail so sharp and bright, or the 3D so intense, or a combination of both, that my eye "overloaded" on the details. I wouldn't forsake the 3D because of this lone occurrence, but I will note that if you get the game, you may not want to use the 3D towards the end. Just a fair warning to you.

What About Framerate?:
With regard to the framerate, it usually holds up pretty well earlier on in the game, when the processors would be under less stress - small dungeons, less Pokemon, less to worry about, right? Places like towns and stuff are little problem with the framerate unless your 3DS is damaged somehow in that regard, so it should be fine.

Starting about halfway through the game, though, you'll begin to notice that the game will begin to lag in dungeons, especially as you get into larger, more occupied dungeons. I especially can recount instances near the end of the game where I would run into a Monster House - basically, about a dozen Pokemon appear on-screen - and the game would lag such that I would mess up my own controls and move improperly. This is because I'm use to the lagless previous Mystery Dungeon games and pretty much have an exact process I use to handle such situations. Eventually, I would just resort to using an item that would stop all of the enemies on the dungeon floor from moving and that stopped it, keeping me relatively safe and not looking to the AI like a mad Pokemon.


SOUND EFFECTS AND MUSIC: 10/10.
Quality:
The very quality - the clarity - of the auditory aspects of this game is amazing. There are a number of themes that do accentuate their respective environments and situations quite well, with a number of themes that are remixed from old, favorite themes. The only real problem I have with this game, regarding sound anyways, is the relative quietness of the volume. When I enjoy the music and sound as much as I do in this game, I like it loud - I pretty much was stuck on some headphones most of the time as a result.

Realism?:
Like with the animations associated with certain attacks, the moves were also often associated with generic sound effects. Simple thuds and smacks would do, maybe, in the GameBoy era. As time has gone on, the realism of the effects, regarding moves at least, has increased. I do enjoy the realism of them here. The crackling electricity of a Thunderbolt, the wind whistling through a Pokemon's wings as it rushes by, the crackling of a flame in a forest camp... It helps to keep it all nice and not too generic. Sure, it's going to feel generic eventually - but do know that they will also be a lot better than what you've probably gotten from Pokemon in the past.

Accentuation:
I keep going on about how the music really, really accentuates the game. I cannot give words worthy enough to describe it, though - you'd honestly have to listen to some yourself. Still, I recall one particular instance. Plot-wise, it seemed like all hope was lost, and that your efforts were to be in vain. Suddenly, as a metaphorical glimmer of hope passed by, and you once again had the chance you needed, the music went into a slow, ominous (but that kind of ominous that make you feel good, if you get me) near-vocalization. I also vividly recall the icy, wintry areas of the game and the music associated with them - music that almost felt like it was twinkling, light-but-fast high-pitched tones. It's all just amazing.


PLAY TIME: 9/10.
If you've played previous Pokemon Mystery Dungeon games, you'll probably come into this, unused to the relative length of the game. Most of the time, I can beat other games in the series in about two days, amounting to about fifteen hours of gameplay in the main storyline. Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity took me a much longer while to beat. When playing it, I was forsaking sleep, for I was addicted to it. To beat the main storyline alone, it took me over 50 hours of gameplay. That would be about ten days on my normal gaming schedule - easily five times or so longer than the previous Mystery Dungeon games.

And that's just the main storyline. The post-credits storyline takes a bit longer. I've yet to beat it beyond a trial-and-error basis on the Japanese version, but, given scalar factors, I would estimate it'll take an additional 5 to 10 hours to beat the remainder of the storyline - there's not a lot of loose ends to tie up, after all. Once you tie that in with the remainder of the dungeons you unlock in the interim, maxing your team rank, and about everything else you could imagine, you will probably have 150 hours in the main game alone, barring the one true sidequest.

The one true sidequest, as any player of Pokemon can attest to, is catching 'em all! Gates to Infinity only has about 25% of the Pokemon you normally would have to grab, and it's all in one cartridge, not scattered across numerous ones like the mainstream games. This does make it a bit easier, so taking out the remainder of the Pokemon you didn't recruit in the storyline portions of the game shouldn't take excessive long - going blindly, I'd estimate another 50 hours, but it mostly depends on your resourcefulness, willingness to cause evolution, and pure, blind luck.


REPLAYABILITY: 9.5/10.
Playing through a Japanese version of the game beforehand really gave me some perspective on this. The game has a fair chunk of non-linearity at times. It's mostly implied stuff, like "When you are ready..." implies you can do stuff until you're ready, but it's there. Randomness is also a common element in a rogue-like game such as the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon series, Gates to Infinity especially.

Aspects such as the "Mysteriosity" of a dungeon, the randomly-generated missions, and random floor layouts all continue to make each gaming experience unique. Tie this with entertaining gameplay and a moving story that you'll want to experience again and again and you have yourself a game worth repeating. Gates to Infinity does have a slight problem with these aspects though. Mostly, during the main story, you'll find yourself engaged in long series of dungeons which are capable of preventing any semblance of non-linearity for, plot-wise, there is no choice but to continue moving forward.

The randomness issue with missions comes in that they are also relatively generic - "find this", "beat me", or "rescue me" are the three main types of missions you'll find. Think about that for a minute - when you have to engage in dozens of missions before the end, you'll soon find you're sort of going through the motions. The game does keep it varied with the usual randomness aspects of the dungeons, and the difficulty is always keep on par with keeping the game fun instead of breezing through things. Still, you probably get the idea, right?


THE END. Overall score: 9.25/10.
Overall Opinion and Recommendation:
Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity is a great game. It truly does stand head and shoulders above its competition, and it is a game that had me ecstatically and joyfully addicted like its predecessors did, so much so as to keep me pulling all-nighters in playing it. I'll admit, it is a relatively unusual game for the Mystery Dungeon series - the aspects of multiplayer are new, and some things are done right and wrong on both the old and the new.

And yet, I still recommend it. It would definitely be a great game for someone who is a fan of the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon series, or just Pokemon and rogue-likes in general. I do feel it worth noting that there is a demo you can download for free from the Nintendo eShop regarding this game; you can find most of the "take or break" details in there. And, of course, if you're still skeptical, there are always rentals!

Pros and Cons in Summation:
Gameplay:
+ Addictive as ever!
+ Randomness is always nice and adds a unique quality to playthroughs.
+ New mechanics add to randomness and keep you on your toes.
+ 144 Pokemon is more palatable than 649.
+ Multiplayer is a fun way to play some of those missions.
+ There is a whole myriad of dungeons available to you if you know how to look.
- DLC is poorly executed in delivery.
- A lack of a true rescue system inconveniences those in all but metropolises, maybe.

Story:
+ You are drawn into it and feel connected with those you ally with.
+ The story is absolutely moving.
- A lack of interactive dialogue disappoints.
- Same goes for a lack of the personality quiz.

Graphics:
+ Accurate 3D models, finally!
+ Beautiful and vibrant and varied.
+ Contrast and brightness are rarely problematic.
+ 3D often has that "pop-out" effect.
- That one painful instance with the 3D...
- Lags in larger areas.
- Generic animations.

Sound and Music:
+ Varied and excellent!
+ Remixes old favorites!
+ Clarity is apparent.
+ Accentuating themes compliment gameplay and story.
- It seems little quieter than in most games.

Play Time:
+ Lasts long enough to be enjoyed, but not mundane by the end.
+ Comprehensive playthroughs don't as readily put you into mundane playing...
- ... but that's if you're lucky enough.

Replayability:
+ Randomness and non-linearity helps.
+ Addictive, entertaining gameplay.
+ A story you want to experience again and again.
- Not as non-linear and random as previous Mystery Dungeon games.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 04/02/13

Game Release: Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity (US, 03/24/13)


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