i’ve played a fair number of pokemon spin-offs, but i still have a ways to go. the DS era saw the greatest number of pokemon spin-offs, and pokemon ranger is notable because it spawned two sequels. the game was the fourth pokemon spin-off to appear on the DS (after pokemon dash, trozei, and mystery dungeon), all of which were to tide fans over until the release of the next entry in main series, diamond and pearl.
i knew that the reviews had been lukewarm, but i went in with low expectations and came away reasonably satisfied. the core gameplay mechanic sounds simplistic since it involves drawing circles around pokemon to capture them, but the game explores this basic premise fairly well. you can use different pokemon to assist you, and their types alter the behavior of the capture (e.g. you can use a water pokemon helper to enclose the pokemon you’re trying to capture in a bubble). the gameplay also proves to be less shallow than on first impression. most of the time madly circling a pokemon with your stylus will get you through, but the game certainly isn’t completely mindless: planning out when to use your assists, using their type advantages, executing them, and also planning your circle-drawing strategy based on your target’s movements (sometimes seemingly random and erratic, but oftentimes unique) all play a part in getting through the game.
the game paces itself by gradually introducing new types you can capture as the story progresses, but the story itself is simplistic (about on par with the main series). the gameplay outside of battles is your standard RPG town and dungeon setup, although the game succeeds pretty well at providing a natural, stylus-only interface. in the end, though, the gameplay, while more interesting than i expected, still isn’t quite enough to sustain the entire game and as a result it ends up dragging on a bit too long. there’s a post-game mode to complete your “browser” (this game’s version of a pokedex), but it’s just more of the same so there’s not much motivation to do so.
i can see why pokemon fans would dismiss this game since all the core mechanics of the main series, namely collecting and levelling up pokemon, are missing (in this game you’re continually capturing pokemon because they automatically get released once they’ve assisted you). still, it does provide a nice change of pace and the pokemon character designs are as lovable as ever, and the game features a good cross-section of the critters from all three of the first main games. as a one-off experience i had just about enough patience to see this game through, but even though it sounds like the sequels added more variety in the game mechanics i’m not in much of a hurry to check them out.
circle these pokemon ranger links:
– as usual serebii.net and bulbapedia are the first places you should check out for info on the game. the former has a handy guide to finding all the rarer pokemon, most of which you can’t capture until after you complete the main game.
– info on the post-game special missions as well as the wi-fi downloadable missions (including the manaphy egg mission, which is the only pokemon you can transfer to a game, namely diamond/pearl)
– if you’re wondering what happens after you complete the browser, check out this page
– entry at wikipedia