Game flaws outweigh the benefits

“Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity” is the most recent entry in the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon series of role playing games.

In this series rather than playing as a Pokemon trainer, a character who catches and trains Pokemon, you play as a Pokemon. You and your partner Pokemon then form a rescue team dedicated to beating evil Pokemon, reclaiming lost items and rescuing helpless Pokemon from the world’s randomly generated Mystery Dungeons.

As I played through “Gates to Infinity,” I inevitably began comparing it to its predecessor, “Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Sky.” While “Gates to Infinity” does have a few changes that aren’t too bad, on the whole the things that were removed or changed between “Explorers of Sky” and “Gates to Infinity” really weigh the game down.

In “Explorers of Sky” and all the other previous Pokemon Mystery Dungeon games, the player would take a brief personality quiz at the start of the game that would determine which species of Pokemon they were. This really made me feel like I was meant to be that Pokemon.  “Gates to Infinity” does away with this entirely and just has the player pick from a list of Pokemon. Additionally, In “Explorers of Sky” you had 19 Pokemon you could end up playing as, while “Gates to Infinity” only has five.

Continuing with my complaints about the player Pokemon, in “Explorers of Sky,” the player’s Pokemon was usually mute, with the partner doing most of the talking. This let me identify with the player Pokemon, as I could project myself onto this blank slate of a character. In “Gates to Infinity,” the player Pokemon can talk, which in itself isn’t really bad, it’s just off-putting  when I’ll be thinking one thing and the character will say something completely different.

Another problem I had was that the Pokemon never stop talking, every time you go to a shop they have two or three screens of unnecessary blathering before you actually get to the shop menu, and with a text speed that’s so slow that I have a welt on my thumb from holding the speed-up button, that gets real annoying, fast. While there are exceptions, like the Scottish Herdier, or the ever energetic Emolga, I usually just don’t care what the characters have to say, as I don’t care about the characters themselves.

The most infuriating part about the cutscenes is the rampant overuse of flashbacks. I kid you not, more than once a cutscene flashed back to something that happened literally less than ten minutes before.

The gameplay itself stands up well enough, though there is the occasional unfair death, whether it’s brought on by enemies, or stupid AI partners. But there is an inherent flaw in the structure of the missions that occur in the Mystery Dungeons.

The Mystery Dungeons themselves are broken up into floors, with stairs leading to each new floor, for of a total of between five and 15 floors. Only one mission can occur per floor, but multiple missions can occur per Dungeon. The problem with this is that once you’ve completed a mission, you can’t do any more in that trip to the Dungeon. This is infuriating, as previous games in the series let you take on as many missions per trip to a Dungeon as you wanted, allowing you to receive a plethora of rewards for completing the missions. In “Gates to Infinity,” you’ll be lucky if you get four rewards per Dungeon.

My final problem with this game was its story. There’s a startling lack of major conflict until you’re around two-thirds of the way through the game, and towards the end there’s a plot twist simply for the sake of having a plot twist. When this game’s story is compared to its predecessors, it falls drastically short, especially when compared to “Explorers of Sky,” which managed to implement a time-travel plot without it feeling forced and did plot twists right.

Overall, “Gates to Infinity” is not what I hoped it would be. The battle system is meh, the story is barely there, the mission structure’s atrocious, and there are very few likeable characters. If you’re really wanting a Mystery Dungeon fix, save your money and replay “Explorers of Sky.”

I expected better of you, Nintendo.