Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity is the latest game in the Mystery Dungeon series for the Nintendo 3DS. The basic premise of the game is that of exploring an infinite series of dungeons: the ultimate dungeon crawl game, painted with a Pokémon veneer, you might say. I take up my adventuring gear and head for the nearest dungeon entrance to see if I can find treasure.

The Mystery Dungeon spinoff of the main Pokémon series has been going for a while now—since 2005, in actual fact. That last one I’d personally played was the Nintendo DS Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time back in 2007. I’d thoroughly enjoyed playing it, so it was a great deal of curiosity and enthusiasm that I approached Gates to Infinity.

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Like prior Mystery Dungeon games, Gates to Infinity starts off with you as a human being turned into a Pokémon character of your choice between Pikachu, Tepig, Snivy, Oshawott, and Axew. Afterwards, you’re dropped into the land of Pokémon and the adventures begin. The game is best described as “Rogue with Pokémon”, since the titular Mystery Dungeons are all randomly generated, meaning that no two dungeons or adventures are ever alike. In theory, at least. There are a good few overland shops to stockpile from, and aboveground is where most of the dialogue and plot take place. Most of the time, however, you’ll be stuck, start airquotes—underground—end airquotes. I use airquotes because a number of the dungeons are out in the open, especially when you start venturing into the DLC dungeons.

While spelunking around the caves, or meandering around the various mazes, you’ll come across other Pokémon who, for reasons best known to them, want to attack you. Combat is turn-based, but you only really get to control the moves of the human-turned-to-Pokémon character—the others act for themselves. This can make very large battles a bit of a chore as you wait for character after character to make their move, leaving you twiddling your thumbs until things have run their course and it becomes your turn again. Predictably, you eventually run into the same problem that plagues many RPGs: battle becomes boring, and with too little variation or content to the dungeons, some of the exploration starts feeling very samey after a few hours with the game.

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The game is subtitled “Gates to Infinity” for a very good reason. If you’ve decided that you want to take a break from the story mode dungeons, there you can have the game create new random adventures by finding circular objects in the real world and using the 3DS camera to “open Magnagates”. This is a fancy term for a randomly-generated dungeon, randomly-generated hero, and randomly-generated enemies. Any spoils you win from such dungeons get sent to the inventory of the story characters, of course. It’s a great way to obtain goods you might otherwise be having difficulty looting from your current dungeons.

Things start getting fun again around the 8-hour mark, when you’re able to expand on your homebase area and customize it. You can build facilities that will grow inventory items for you, or build dojos to help your characters train. Expanding on the base also allows your team to grow in number, bringing you back to the “gotta catch ‘em all” mentality that made Pokémon such a great franchise. You’ll need to explore a lot of dungeons to collect all the Pokémon here!

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As with many Pokémon games, it’s got an immense amount of appeal to the younger players, and those with an insane amount of patience or time (or both). Personally, I found the story a little on the soppy side, but that’s to be expected. The direct translations from Japanese are also heavily evident, lacking the “putting the gist of the meanings” that I’ve seen in better-translated games. This doesn’t detract from the gameplay, of course, but if you’re any more than passingly familiar with the Japanese language and culture, it’s heavily noticeable. On the other hand, considering the game’s audience, I can see its appeal. It’s great fun to play in short bursts, and most dungeons are just long enough for a decent session while commuting.

It’s not a perfect game by any long shot, but the obvious homages to Rogue are what keep me coming back to it. It’s a fun little game despite the combat shortcomings and dreadful lack of variety in the mazes, and with the Magnagates, you’ll not run out of gameplay any time soon. Yep, there’s some treasure in the dungeon, but you will be fighting hard for your shinies and loot.

Final Score: 6.5 gotta catch ‘em all prawns out of 10

Detailed Information
Developer: Spike Chunsoft
Publisher: Nintendo
Distributor: Nintendo South Africa (Core)
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Age Rating: 3+
Website: Pokémon Gates to Infinity