Developer – HAL Laboratory
Publisher - Nintendo
Touch Screen Compatible
It hasn’t been that long since my last review of a Pokemon game and here I find myself reviewing yet another one. I have noted in the past that I do not consider myself a huge Pokemon fan, and to review another one so fast is somewhat challenging as I have to endure yet another cute game of “catch them all”. Nintendo’s latest offering into the Pokemon universe is titled Pokemon Ranger, and as with Pokemon Mystery Dungeon it is not a direct sequel to the series but it is an off shoot to keep pokemanics happy till Diamond and Pearl are released.
Pokemon Ranger is surprisingly good looking. Don’t get me wrong, it does not tax the DS hardware, but the game is quite pretty. The visuals are mainly 2D effects that are quite bright and vibrant and the backgrounds seem different from games of past. This can be attributed to not only the developers talent, but the DS Lites improved screens as well. The animations are pretty good too, but they can be pretty simple. This doesn’t take away from the visuals though and everything seems to mix quite well. Overall I would have to say that the developers did make some effort for the game to look good, but there is still room for improvement, given what has been done on the DS in the past.
If you have played any Pokemon games in the past, which if you are playing this Pokemon Ranger I would assume you would have, you will instantly feel at home with the music as it seems to be very typical Pokemon. As for the rest of the sound, it is quite simple and not very overwhelming. It seems as if the developers once again used your standard low res sound-bites that have been used for Pokemon sound in past games. I would like to see some improvements in this area indeed.
Pokemon Ranger is a separate style of game that is not linked to any other Pokemon games. If one reads the back of the box there is a warning which states that the game is not compatible with other Pokemon games. This is a clear indicator you are in for a different game then what you are used to. The premise in this latest addition is that you are put in the role of an actual Pokemon and you help other Pokemon in need (editors note: where have I seen that story before?). And to assist you in wrangling up other Pokemon the familiar Poke-balls are gone and you use a Styler to catch those you are helping out.
The new Styler, as the name suggests, utilizes the stylus and the DS’s unique touch screen features. Once you come across a Pokemon in the wild you are put into a combat mode where you use the touch screen and stylus to do battle. To defeat the various Pokemon you draw circles around them to weaken them, the stronger the Pokemon the more circles you will have to draw. Now this sounds simple at first but there is actually some skill and strategy required. First off the Pokemon don’t stand still and drawing multiple circles around a moving character is not particularly easy. Secondly, you can utilize other Pokemon to assist you to slow down the Pokemon you wish to catch. The Pokemon you have already acquired have powers and these can be used to your advantage. Hitting your targets with electricity or trapping your prey in a water bubble is two examples of how to use other Pokemo’s owers to help you.
The story itself is quite linear and there is pretty much no room for one to free adventure. You will find that the game directs you from task to task and there is no way for you to really explore the world in front of you at your own leisure. I would have liked to have seen more ability to do things my own way, but as Pokemon games seem to be aimied at the younger folk this may be a good thing as it keeps the story on track.
As this is somewhat of an RPG adventure there are some puzzle elements to be found as you explore the world in front of you. Many of these puzzles can be solved using your acquired Pokemon’s abilities. For example, water Pokemon can put out a fire while fighting Pokemon can help you shake a tree. Different abilities will help you solve various puzzles and help you advance in the game. I should note that once you have used a specific Pokemon and their corresponding ability it is released back into the wild so you will need to find another one should you need to use that specific ability again.
As I looked at the back of the game box, I noticed something that I haven’t seen any Pokemon games in the past. It says “basic reading ability is needed to fully enjoy this game”. I thought to myself why would Nintendo put this on the box. Well, as I played through the game it became evident to me why: there is A LOT of reading in this game. Should you not be the patient type, which I am not, then Pokemon Ranger may test what patience you have as you will be doing a lot of reading, particularly during the initial stages of the game. Consider yourself forewarned.
Pokemon Ranger is exactly what it should be, a “have to catch them all” game. This latest entry into the Pokemon universe has some pretty visuals and a new style of gameplay, but I can’t help but wonder how the true sequels, Diamond and Pearl, will take this series into the future. Pokemon Ranger is definitely a game for pokemanicas looking for a fix until the next true chapters in the series are finally released in N. America.