Flagship Pokemon games on the Gameboy all the way to the Nintendo DS have always delivered the same fantastic experience time and time again. The spin-off games however have not quite lived up the main titles and lack behind them in almost every way. Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity is the latest spin off to come from Nintendo. Will it buck the trend of poor spin offs or does it just join in line with the rest? Read on to find out.
Game: Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity
Developer: Spike Chunsoft
The story is what makes a game, it doesn’t matter what the gameplay, graphics or audio offer, if there isn’t a strong plot gamers will get bored eventually quit. Pokemon Mystery Dungeons: Gates to Infinity starts with a blurred out human face, with text regarding his (or her) confusion. You then find your self turning in to a Pokemon, at this point you are asked to pick which Pokemon you are from the following list: Pikachu, Oshawott, Snivy, Tepig and Axew. You are then presented with a cut scene, something becoming more and more common in recently released Pokemon games, of a Munna running from something asking for your help. You then awake from a dream (the cutscene) to another blurred face, this time a Pokemon’s. Again you choose from the list as to which Pokemon it is, bar the one you have chosen. From there you and the second Pokemon team up and go on adventures that eventually lead to you saving the Pokemon universe! At the start it begins with very simple tasks but as the game goes on the tasks get more advanced and test you in every way.
This is one of the best aspects of the game. The 3DS has really brought out the best graphics for Pokemon games. The 3D models for the Pokemon far exceed what we have seen in past spin off titles and blows out of the water what we have ever seen in the main titles. Pokemon X & Y are set to come out in October and if they use the same graphics then fans of the main titles are set for a beautiful visual experience. Attacks are on full display during battles and animations look good but not spectacular, on some of them all you really see is the Pokemon jump at their opponent and a small icon appear above them with the type of attack it is. There are of course some that are not like that, Ember for example shows actual flames come from fire type Pokemon. It is these attacks that clearly show off the potential for the battle mechanics for Pokemon games of the future. A nagging issue with the graphics is that when the Pokemon all talk to each other they never move their mouths. This is a small issue but still annoying, regardless of the fact that there is no voiceovers there should still be a degree of reality that when they are talking they can move their mouths, but more on that later.
Audio has always been a hallmark of every Pokemon series and this now including Gates to Infinity. The music is up beat and cheery when you are in towns and exploring friendly areas, but when you enter more dangerous territory then it changes to something a bit more appropriate! This is of course nothing new, but works as well as it ever has. As mentioned earlier there are no voiceovers for the Pokemon, with only the very familiar scrolling bar at the bottom of the screen showing every bit of the dialog. Even if putting actual human voices wasn’t an option then perhaps Nintendo could have at least added the Pokemon’s cries so the game had slightly more audio appeal. That would have at least brightened up the moments in the game when the dialog drags.
As a spin off series, Mystery Dungeons brings something very different to the main series of games, so if you haven’t played any of the previous spin off titles you’ll be very surprised by what you see. Saying that, as long as you don’t compare it to the main Pokemon games then you can have an enjoyable experience. Gameplay runs smooth, with a lot of clearly placed hints through out the game to help you get to grips with the controls for the game and even understand your objectives further down the line. Nintendo have come up with an easy to understand battle system for Gates to Infinity. Hold L to bring up a menu of attacks and then choose the attack you want to unleash. If you attack with out pressing L first then you will use a generic tackle to whittle down your opponents HP. Pokemon can battle just by going close to their opponent and selecting their attack, but take too long and you’ll be hit first. Certain attacks can even hurt enemies from anywhere in the room, but they don’t tend to be as effective as general attacks.
Nintendo have used a grid system when it comes to movement, so you can attack from several different angles. A lot of the same mechanics have been brought over from the flagship Pokemon games. Hit Points and Power Points are included and must be watched carefully as if they aren’t, you’ll find your self in a world of trouble. Items are there too, exactly the same as the main titles. Berry’s restore HP and you get the idea. Perhaps the most important mechanic brought over is the levelling up process. Defeat enemies, earn EXP, level up and get stronger. This is the best and most obvious levelling up experience as it has always worked flawlessly for Nintendo in the past, not just in the Pokemon series. All of these systems were always a safe bet to happen as you need to try and keep some type of familiarity in order to still make it the experience Pokemon fans have known and loved for many years. An annoyance found through out the game has to do with dialog (again). There are moments when I feel I could fall asleep, wake up the next day and the Pokemon would still be talking to each other before getting to the next part for us to actually play! It isn’t the entire game but it does get very tedious, sometimes you really want to just play the game in front of you.
Pokemon games have always been known for their longevity. The endless possibilities for such an enormous game have always helped. This still provides a lot of longevity but on a smaller scale. The fact that there are five Pokemon to choose between means that you could at least start the game five times with different consequences, add to that the second Pokemon selection and that’s another element to be considered.
Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity is actually a good game on its own. The problems is that these spin off games will never be as good as the main titles. You may be getting sick of that being brought up over and over but unfortunately it’s the truth. However what I can say is that die hard Pokemon fans will have fun with this title and it will happily hold them over until October comes around and Pokemon X & Y blow their minds! If you aren’t a massive Pokefan then perhaps this isn’t the game for you, but then again, you may be pleasantly surprised by what you find.