Review by Wackyman4857
"A watered-down PMD experience made up for with addicting new features"
Right off the bat, veterans of the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon series will notice not only the lack of the usual quiz you're given at the beginning to determine what Pokemon you will be, but also the incredibly small roster of starter Pokemon to choose from. It's the first indication that this game isn't going to offer you the same experience you're used to seeing in past PMD games.
Gotta recruit 'em all? Sadly not. This entry pulls a Black & White on us by offering us only the Pokemon from the most recent generation, sans a select few (more specifically, 31). Still, at least Black & White offered us the entire roster after the main story. This one doesn't. But aside from the diminished roster, other things you know about the PMD universe have been removed or changed, and usually not for the better. Does this make Gates to Infinity all around a weaker game? I'd say no. To make up for the gameplay elements that have withered up, they are replaced with new ways to experience the game, and these new features, for the most part, work rather well. It's something both newcomers and veterans can all enjoy.
Gates to Infinity is the classic dungeon crawling RPG experience you know it to be, or perhaps are just learning about. You and your team of Pokemon, that cannot exceed above four when entering a dungeon, set off on daily adventures in randomly generated dungeons that have different layouts and items every time you enter them. Usually, your goal is to find the stairs and reach the end of the dungeon. Sometimes, there is a goal you accomplish on a certain floor in the dungeon in order to gain a reward. These are requests. These requests are highly essential to the new feature and focus of Gates to Infinity: Pokemon Paradise. You are given a large plot of land to build upon, building any type of land or facility on it that you see fit. You get the materials needed for these facilities by completing these requests, or by doing activities in Paradise or from the carpenter who helps you build paradise.
Let's get the cons out of the way first. Veterans of this series will notice that this game is much easier than its predecessors. PMD has provided a challenge for me that the regular Pokemon games usually have not. Sadly, that is not the case with this game. I only found myself getting a game over at one point: during the final boss fight. I had not lost during any point of the game. So those looking for a challenge aren't not going to find it here. Also missing is the hunger mechanic, meaning that without the pressure to not overstay your welcome in a dungeon, taking your sweet time healing by skipping turns and grinding instead replaces it, adding to the game's ease. Multitasking requests is now a no-no, as you're now forced to take only one request at a time each day. This is a pretty big disappointment to someone who always felt the need to multitask.
The IQ system has now been replaced with something a tad similar to it: Team Skills. Occasionally on your journeys you'll come across treasure boxes you can have opened in town. Sometimes, these treasure boxes will contain Team Skills, which can do things such as preventing foes from even attacking you, increase your evasiveness in a pinch, and cause your team to become more powerful if someone faints. This already is sounding pretty outrageously overpowered, right? Well, there are more mechanics in the spirit of friendship that make this game all the more easier. You now have the ability to upgrade moves with use. Frequent use of a move (that isn't a support move, such as changing stats or causing status ailments) will upgrade it to being more powerful, have more PP, and even increase accuracy. Powering up a move doesn't just affect the Pokemon using it, but it helps all the Pokemon with that move. So if one Pokemon powers up Bubblebeam, other Pokemon who know Bubblebeam enjoy that power up as well. I used Tackle so many times in the beginning that when an appropriate move came in to replace it, I ACTUALLY CONSIDERED KEEPING TACKLE INSTEAD. It got so powerful from frequent use that I almost felt I could keep it for the rest of the game and have no problems. That's when you KNOW your mechanic is pretty broken. The only bigger red flag would be if it could make Splash a usable move. If that happened I would probably die from shock and be unable to write this review. Aside from upgrading moves, there's also an attack that can be charged if you have at least one teammate with you: a team attack. Aside from slaughtering everyone in the room, it can also cause status ailments for those lucky enough to live, and can fully heal your team. This makes dealing with huge hordes of Pokemon incredibly easy and can deal out most of the damage you do in a boss fight. Yes, this works for bosses too. In case I haven't made my point clear enough: this game is EASY. But easy doesn't always mean bad. Easy is bad for those expecting a challenge. If you're not expecting one or don't feel one is necessary, these points won't affect you.
The rescue system has also been reduced to being utterly useless if you have no friends who own this game. Passwords have been removed, and now the only way to be rescued is via Wireless or Streetpass. So if you die and hope to be rescued, you better have a friend with the game or just go for a walk in the park praying to the gaming gods some kid you pass has this game and gets your request. This is a huge step backwards that I personally found the hardest to get over. Instead of making this rescue system more accessible, they did the exact opposite. Why not online features? Maybe an option to send out a rescue request to an Online Request Board that other players can find to save you? Could this not be done, or did it never cross anyone's mind? It's just a major disappointment.
Enough of what could have been. What's there that engages players new and old? First of all, the biggest thing about Gates of Infinity that makes it so addicting, Pokemon Paradise. Building up this bustling little community is just too much fun. This is the only time in the entire series where I was sad that the story elements got in the way of me doing requests. I needed those requests so I could build my Sunken Treasure attraction! What's that?! The world is ending?! WHO CARES! I need to push a Starmie into a lake so it can get me treasure! PRIORITIES, PEOPLE! The only flaw of Paradise I see is how long it takes to even build on facility. You are given at most two of one kind of material, and then one of another, per request, and as said previously you can only do one a day. This means that for facilities that require three of one material, you'll need to get two, then do a request the next day for the same material, then repeat. Hopefully you'll accidentally get supplies you need for your next job, or even the current one, in this process. It's just a little irritating at times that building even one facility can take you way longer than it should, especially in later parts of the game. As I also said before materials can be won at some facilities in Paradise as well or from just progressing in Paradise. So if you're lucky enough, you can get the extra materials you need without wasting a day. This slow process of gaining materials is just another reason why not being able to multitask requests is annoying.
Now, here's another nifty feature: the Magnagate. It's...neat. Worth using more than once? Eh. First of all, you're probably wondering: does this work well? Uh...Kinda? I've heard people can use it easily, but it just confused me and was rather hard. First of all, I lined up my 3DS camera up with the top of my trash can. I centered it between the middle ring and saw no results. Eventually, after moving it around and adjusting my lighting a lot, I got it to work. However, it wasn't the circular part of the trashcan it detected, it was...the trash. The trash that didn't even look circular in the slightest. It taught me, though, that the large circle encompassing your camera is not the space you fit the entire circle in. A smaller circle within the ring was detected. I really wish there was a video tutorial about how to use this feature. It shouldn't even be difficult to pick up at all. Now, we enter the dungeon itself. A random adventure with your teammates, right? Wrong. Instead, you are essentially given two rental Pokemon and are shoved off into a ten floor dungeon. Now, in the main Pokemon games, the concept of rental Pokemon is used well and is a neat way to test your general Pokemon strategy. In PMD...It doesn't feel quite as interesting or rewarding. It just feels unintuitive. In short, Magnagates are nothing special and I didn't utilize the feature much, if at all.
There is another feature to note: Companion Mode. After you play the game some, you get the option to leave the adventures of your main hero and his sidekick to take the role of one of your teammates, and take job requests or buy items in their absent. This mode outlives its use eventually, and even when it did have use I avoided it, because it's very exploitable. When a teammate is not in a dungeon, they will still gain experience. So while the hero's friends are adventuring taking requests, your heroes gain the experience they get, and make their adventures all the more easier. I do like that this experience sharing keeps your favorite teammates from outliving their use when abandoning them for a main mission, but it makes it very easy to become accidentally overpowered. Also, say you're in a dungeon, and reach a halfway point. You have no Reviver Seeds and really want one. No problem! Switch to Companion Mode, buy one from the store, put it in storage and viola! Instant life saver! This mode certainly made it possible to build Paradise when the story was going on, but I still avoided it, not wanting to take advantage of how easy it is to exploit and break an already broken game.
Despite all the overpowered moves you get, there is something else that either makes you invincible or gives you a hard time: the V-Waves. Here's how it works: each day the weather will agree with a certain type of Pokemon. Say it's a Flying V-Wave that day. Flying Pokemon receive wonderful bonuses such as powered up attacks and sometimes not requiring PP to use moves, among other things such as gaining more EXP. Sounds like a pretty rotten day to be a Grass-type, huh? It's something you need to keep in mind and use to your advantage, as V-Waves do have a very noticeable effect on enemies and yourself. So, if you're a Pokemon who will be at a disadvantage from the day's V-Wave, are you screwed? Nope. Instead, you get to spin the
sorry, had to be done. If you play the game you'll understand. Anyway, you get a chance to spin the V-Wheel and change the V-Wave of the day. There's a 1/5 chance for being able to do this, and these odds are increased by spending a large amount of money. So if you're rich and want a good V-Wave, spend away. Obviously, you only get one chance a day, so make your spin count. The V-Waves were an interesting twist to the gameplay and I personally liked it. I never once won the V-Wheel though, but I didn't spend money or use it that often, so it's to be expected.
Now, time to tread on thin ice: the aftergame. I find the aftergame in this game more compelling to keep playing. This is coming from a guy who usually hates free play aftergames when he finishes a game. Let me say, without giving them away, they add some new features in the aftergame that makes the game a lot more challenging, interesting and engaging to play. Still, this is something that TRULY bugs me. Why were these features added after the game and not during it? They could've made the main game a lot more fun and challenging. I can see how some would not work, but I can see some working perfectly and making things interesting. It really bothers me that there is so much missed potential with these features. Either way, I get enjoyment out of them, and that's what matters. Of course, the other reason to keep playing is building up my beautiful Paradise.
Also, a few quick little gameplay elements to add: open areas. Sometimes, instead of traditional floors, you'll get an open area you can explore before moving on to the next area. Here you can run into Pokemon and battle them in the same style you usually do. Not anything noteworthy. They're visual eye candy, but nothing beyond that. Also, evolution is available from the beginning of the game. Only your heroes are unable to evolve for the main story. In early dungeons, enemy Pokemon evolve and become super mini-bosses just by defeating one of your teammates. This threat dies in later stages of the game, but add a doable challenge to the game, which I obviously didn't come across that often.
Lastly, this game has paid DLC. Ugh. I expected plenty a Nintendo game to resort to DLC, but not Pokemon. I thought it was the pure one. Anyway, never touched a DLC, so can't comment on them. Yes, I know Poke Forest is free, but I didn't feel the need to download it.
In short, the game still has the core gameplay mechanics you've come to expect in a PMD game, while removing some features you may have enjoyed and adding features that are usually hit or miss. But those that do hit will hit incredibly strong, and almost distract you from the watered-down feel of the gameplay and the overall easier experience.
I was very surprised to see in some critic reviews that this story was considered dull and weak. I live and breathe the stories of PMD. They're one of the most important elements of this series for me. This game had one of the most engaging and interesting stories of the series to date.
For those not familiar with the standard plot of PMD, it's like this: You're a human who one day has a bizarre dream of a sort of vision urging you to save the Pokemon world from imminent doom. You're sent into the world with no memory of your past life, and all you remember is your name and that you're a human. You come across a Pokemon with a few big dreams and that Pokemon believes your story that you are a human. Having no place to go and having bonded on an adventure with this Pokemon, you become partners with this Pokemon in achieving whatever goal your partner has, while you yourself begin to learn your role in saving the Pokemon world.
In this game, you fall from the sky at a huge height and are found unconscious by your partner in a forest (what, haven't you ever survived a huge fall from the sky before? Wimp). After you two get acquainted and journey to a nearby desert, your partner buys the unappealing land, hoping to transform it into a paradise where all Pokemon can be happy. You agree to help your partner achieve this dream. But why does this partner even want to create a paradise? Well, everything isn't sunshine and happiness in the Pokemon world, and friendship is rarely magic. Pokemon have gotten more aggressive and are rude and deceitful with one another, leading Pokemon to be distant with each other. You and your partner hope to create a world where Pokemon can form true bonds of friendship with one another.
The characters and the story throughout this game are incredibly well developed. Where as in some games some main missions you went on didn't seem to have any relevance to the story, these missions all have relevance and always lead into another plot point. Everything flows pretty nicely, except for one or two rare occasions. If you've played previous PMD games you know the usual structure of the main game missions. I won't spoil anything for anyone, but this game basically follows the same pattern and formula as the others, while still feeling fresh.
I have to admit that this game does the same thing as Black/White did, where they constantly shove their same moral down your throat every ten seconds, juuuust to make sure you didn't forget. It does get a tad annoying at times. Of course the dialogue can be a bit of a hit and miss with its childlike manner, but like with the new features, the sequences of dialogue that hit really hit. Also, being unable to speed through text is also a peeve. It's nothing new, but it still gets to me, especially in this game, where there seems to be more slow scrolling text than before. It gets pretty annoying to use the Assembly service when you have to go through the same long stream of text again and again just to switch out your party members. It's seriously irritating. Also, some of the twists are...pretty silly. Of course, you'll have to see for yourself. It's just a nitpick. The twists are good twists, but they just feel a tad silly.
You will notice that you cannot choose dialogue options as most silent protagonists do. Actually, this time, your hero isn't a silent protagonist. Actually, even calling ANY PMD a silent protagonist would be stretching it. Your hero usually talks to him/herself in their thoughts and speak using the classic art of movement and the classic have-the-person-youre-talking-to-repeat-what-you-just-said trick, though this time there are times when your hero speaks aloud himself, without you choosing the dialogue. Honestly, I minded at first, but I realized that the dialogue options of PMD were never that special anyway, so they weren't missed.
In short, The story is engaging and the characters are perhaps the most memorable and interesting in the entire series. Easily one of my favorites. (There are more things I like about this story, but going into those points would be spoilers).
This is the first time in probably...forever since I've gone into a video game I saw a level and just had to go "Wow." The first time you enter an open area you're treated to gorgeous level design that will truly make you appreciate that you're playing on an advanced system from the last game. The levels are designed, for the most part, very well and are a treat to look at.
The 2D sprites have now been replaced with 3D models that have been used in previous Pokemon games. I find these models to be decent at the very best. Just watching my Snivy partner doing that traditional victory pose...It just didn't look that great. Some models are nice, but the rest are just alright. Not to sound like a 2D stickler or anything. I do have to say, however, that the 3D models add depth to the areas you explore in both the dungeons and the hub and even in the cutscenes. It all looks great, and that atmosphere alone allows me to forgive the decent quality of the 3D models.
The soundtrack is great. Some of these tracks you'll recognize from past PMD games. They've been remixed, and they make everything just sound and feel more epic than the last games. The original tracks are also very nice and set the atmosphere very nice. All in all, more of the great Pokemon soundtracks we all love.
Right now I'm clocked in at around 35 hours of gameplay. This includes the time spent in the aftergame. I would most certainly play this game again, but I have to say just continuing the aftergame seems more appealing to me now. Which is a rare occurrence for me. In other words, the game does have some lastability to it.
For those expecting challenging gameplay, you sadly won't find any of it here, at least until the aftergame. However, those looking for an introduction to the series, want to enjoy the classic PMD experience they love (despite missing some of it), or just want to engage in a satisfying and rewarding city-building mechanic, Gates to Infinity will provide all that and more. I'd say try the demo first, of course. The demo doesn't provide all the features of the game that I love, but it is a nice little taste. If you like what you see or aren't sure if it's worth it, keep in mind that the game gets much better as you get deeper into it, and I hope you keep that in mind when considering your purchase, or even your rental. I normally hate to use the term trust me, it gets better when describing something, but I think Gates to Infinity is a prime example of this and you should give it the benefit of the doubt. I like this game and see myself playing it again and again.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 04/03/13
Game Release: Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity (US, 03/24/13)
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