This originated as a script for a YouTube video I ended up not making. The structure was inspired by ExoParadigmGamer's reviews; incidentally, you can blame him for my Klonoa obsession.
Hello, everybody! My internet name is Nitro Indigo, and today I’ll be reviewing Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity for the Nintendo 3DS. I’ve seen a lot of hate for this game across the internet, complaining about things such as the lack of Pokémon, the easiness, and the story. Sometimes this hate is reasonable, but other times people bash it solely for not being Explorers - search "Gates to Infinity" on Tumblr and you'll see what I mean. I can understand why some may find it disappointing, but is it really THAT bad? Well, that’s what this review is for.
Gates to Infinity tells the story of a human who is summoned to the Pokémon world by a Pokémon named Munna, who wants you to rescue her from Hydreigon. After choosing one of five Pokémon to turn into, the human, who doesn’t have amnesia this time, falls out of the sky meets a Pokémon who will become their partner. The partner wants to start a paradise where all Pokémon can live together in peace, and you gather resources from missions in order to build facilities there. Along the way, several plot-important Pokémon join Paradise. Emolga and Dunsparce are two friends who want each other to be happy; Virizion doesn’t like making friends; and Espeon and Umbreon, who aren’t on the boxart for some reason, are a pair of dungeon researchers. As a sidenote, I really like how the story treats Virizion just like any other Pokémon. I’m honestly getting tired of the whole "THIS POCKYMON IS A LEGENDARY! THESE OTHER POCKYMON ARE ALSO LEGENDARIES! LEGENDARIES ARE COOL! THIS IS TOTALLY HOW TO WRITE A GOOD STORY! BUY OUR MERCH!”
thing that’s been happening in various Pokémon media over the years.
Now, I’ll be getting into the important plot details, for both this game and Super.
It turns out that the world is ending because the negative feelings of Pokémon have created an entity called the Bittercold. Many people have said that the idea is cheesy, or that the Bittercold doesn’t belong in a Pokémon game, but they actually integrate the themes of hope and despair into the story very well. The Voice of Life, guardian of the world, took the form of a Hydreigon and summoned several humans to the Pokémon world in order to defeat it, as regular Pokémon would be suffocated by the Winds of Despair that surround the Bittercold, but the antagonists “defeated” the other humans. Munna, the main antagonist, hijacked Hydreigon’s call to the player at the start of the game, and tricked them into believing that she was on their side.
They then go on to rehash the idea of a villain made of hate in Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon, only this time, the antagonist, Dark Matter, turns everyone into stone. While Gates to Infinity has several scenes showing Pokémon becoming negative, like Gurdurr scamming the protagonists because someone insulted his work a long time ago, Virizion’s trust issues, and Munna wanting the world to end, Super has none of this. It’s like they didn’t know how to make Dark Matter exist without being sued by HAL Laboratories, so they just reused a major plot element from a previous game without really thinking about how to implement it.
Shortly before the world almost ends, the protagonists tell everyone in Post Town about it. Most of the Pokémon don’t see the point of saving the world, but Leavanny, whose child, Swadloon, was rescued by the protagonists earlier on in the game, and Lillipup later meet them in Paradise, where they say that they don’t want the world to end, because they want the children to have a future. To be honest, this might be my favourite scene in the series. Heck, Lillipup is definitely my favourite Pokémon Mystery Dungeon character, despite his small role. It’s actually very touching, and I can’t believe I forgot about it until my second playthrough.
In the final battle against the Bittercold, the player is almost suffocating from the winds of despair, when the positive feelings of the Pokémon cheering them on weaken the Bittercold. Cue awesome music! I really like that scene, because it’s one of the few scenes in the series where it feels like the secondary characters are actually important. I like it in stories where it feels like there’s a functioning world beyond the protagonists.
After the boss fight, there’s a celebration scene that goes on for way too long, in which Hydreigon tells the player that they have to leave or else they will cause a distortion, and that everyone will forget about them. The next day, the player returns to the human world, and on the way, Hydreigon gives them a frism, a kind of magic microphone thing, which the members of Paradise recorded a message on, saying that they’d never forget the player. While it again goes on for ages, the messages the Pokémon give are actually very bittersweet, and the music that goes along with this scene are great.
After the credits, you don’t return to the Pokémon world. Instead, it turns out that nobody forgot the player, and the partner has to go to a dungeon in order to bring them back. While the postgame is disappointingly short, it’s nice that they actually addressed that the player has a life in the human world for once.
Now, let’s talk about the presentation. Gates to Infinity, being on the 3DS, has, of course, transitioned to 3D graphics. Unlike the Japan-only WiiWare games, the models are completely new, instead of being reused from My Pokémon Ranch. While this allows for more dynamic cutscenes, the character models don’t have facial expressions, and instead their emotions are conveyed through facials portraits. I know that the portraits are part of the style, but I feel like more could’ve been done. I’ve seen some people say that 3D isn’t right for Mystery Dungeon, and many people wanted Super to go back to sprites before we got any footage of it. Gee, I wonder why this 3DS
game has 3D graphics. Thankfully, this complaint has died down now, but still. It was like The Wind Waker all over again…
The music, meanwhile, is much higher quality than before, thanks to the extra cartridge space of the 3DS. The music is much more dramatic than before, and the instrumentation sounds much more realistic. Compare the original version of, say, Beach Cave to its remix in Super Mystery Dungeon, which uses similar instruments to Gates, to see what I mean. In addition, the tracks are a lot longer, with some lasting for about three minutes or so. My personal favourites are Ragged Mountain, Stirrings of Hope, Sympathy and Sincerity, the final dungeon theme, and several of the themes from the ending cutscenes.
My biggest problem with the presentation is the text speed. I’m a fast reader, and it gets really annoying to have to wait for the text to finish scrolling, especially when it was MUCH faster in previous games. While it’s not AS slow as I remember from my first playthrough, it does make the cutscenes drag on, especially when you’re replaying the game and you just want to get past the exposition and tutorials. The ending cutscene in particular goes on for over HALF AN HOUR. When I first played this game, my 3DS was flashing red by the time I got to the end of the credits.
How about the gameplay? Many have said that this game is the easiest in the series. There’s a new mechanic called move growth, which means that moves get stronger the more you use them. There’s also the removal of hunger, which I honestly didn’t really mind, except for a few DLC dungeons. What does bother me, however, is why they decided to make it so you can’t restore HP by walking in any form of weather, even the non-damaging kinds.
I like how you can now select attacks by pressing L and then a face button, instead of setting one move and having to open a menu to use the others. It’s a lot more convenient. The dungeons, while randomly generated, are a lot more maze-like than before, with longer corridors and rooms that aren’t square.
My biggest issue with the game is that there’s only 144 Pokémon, which wouldn’t be a problem if it weren’t for the fact that it feels like there are the same few Pokémon in every early-game dungeon. And why
are there Ice-types
in a volcano
Honestly, the lack of Pokémon makes me wonder if this game was rushed. Don’t get me wrong, rushed games can
be good – The Wind Waker, for example – but it leaves the game feeling lacking. There are also unused portraits of Sunkern in the game’s files for some reason.
Then there’s the fact that they removed the option to choose the player and partner’s genders in the international versions, which wouldn’t be a problem, except the characters refer to them with male pronouns multiple times. The other Mystery Dungeon games have gender-neutral writing; why can’t this one?
All things said, a lot of the hate this game gets boils down to it not being Explorers. If you want to play Explorers, play Explorers. While it blew my mind as a kid, I’m now beginning to notice an awful lot of plot holes in that set of games. While it’s fine to criticise something, saying something is bad just because it’s not exactly the same as something you like isn’t a good argument.
Don’t complain that it’s different, be glad that it works properly, because the same cannot be said for all video game sequels.