The Pokemon Ranger series is back again for a third installment on the Nintendo DS with Pokemon Ranger: Guardian Signs. A few changes have been made to the system again, along with a new storyline and some new Pokemon falling into the mix. Nothing big in terms of changing how the overall game is played, as you're still drawing circles around Pokemon in order to capture them. It's still a fairly repetitive experience, but Pokemon lovers and veteran Ranger fans will be pleased with this latest addition.
Pokemon Ranger: Guardian Signs
Developer: Creatures Inc. / The Pokémon Company
Genre: Action Adventure
Release Date: October 4, 2010
ESRB Rating: E
Players: 1, 2-4 local wireless
You'll be bringing your Ranger, male or female, to the islands of the Olbivia region as you battle a new group of baddies referred to as The Pokemon Pinchers. And like the previous Ranger games, they're forcefully capturing Pokemon to use for their devious plans. I found the storyline to be fairly engaging and enjoyed it from start to end. Given how repetitive the gameplay can be, the story really helped in making me want to play more. Though it does help tons to be a lover of Pokemon. One disappointing thing though is that the story is a little on the unoriginal side, as it shares many similarities to the story used in Pokemon The Movie 2000.
Just like the previous Pokemon Ranger games, the core gameplay mechanic of the game is to draw circles around wild Pokemon using the DS touch screen in order to capture them. The Pokemon life bar is back again and each successful circle drawn around the Pokemon will fill the bar. Once it's full, the capture will be complete. The wild Pokemon will be moving and throwing out attacks that will disrupt you and you'll have to redraw the circle again. You do have a life bar as well, and it will deplete when you take in attacks. If your life bar reaches zero, it's game over
To help make the process quicker and easier, you'll be calling in help from your Pokemon party by utilizing their Poke Assists. Each wild Pokemon will have a Poke Assist that can be used while you're capturing. For example, a water Pokemon can blow bubbles out in order to fill a Pokemon's bar and also slow them down. There's not that many variations of these Poke Assists, since they're tied to the type that the Pokemon has. But stronger Pokemon will have more stronger versions of these assists, and a few specific ones have their very own. A cooldown time is present after a Pokemon uses an Assist move, so you can't exactly spam them repeatedly.
There is a risk when using a Poke Assist. Before you use an assist, you can set your Pokemon wherever you want on the field. A bit of strategy is involved for this, as you'll want your Pokemon to be in a safe spot where they won't get hit with an attack. If your Pokemon does get hit with an attack, they'll run away, and will be dropped from your party. So some caution is needed if you don't want to lose a useful Pokemon. You'll also have the help of your Partner Pokemon, Ukelele Pichu, which will be with you throughout the whole game. His assist works differently, as he doesn't have a cooldown time, and instead pops up at random time, and he has a very lengthy Poke Assist and is immune to Pokemon attacks. He's your only Poke Partner this time, so you won't multiple partner options like in the last game.
Aside from Poke Assists, the Pokemon you capture will also have a field move. This move is usable when not in battle. This is where you'll be using the Pokemon you captured to get rid of obstacles in order to progress further in the area you're currently exploring. You'll never reach a dead end, as Pokemon with the needed field move are not too far away. New to this installment are obstacles that will require multiple Pokemon in order to clear. So some party management is needed since your party is limited to seven Pokemon. But once a field move is used, the Pokemon will leave your group.
Capturing Pokemon is optional, and you can just go through the whole game just capturing the Pokemon needed to clear obstacles. But successful captures will net you experience points to make your circles more effective. Leveling up will increase the strength of your circles and your life bar. You'll also gain Ranger Points after completing missions that will level up more specific parts, like how long your lines can stretch and reducing damage taken. Along with experience points, you'll also earn a rank based on how well your capture was, consisting of A, B, C, and S ranks. Not taking damage and keeping your Pokemon after an assist are things that affect your rank. Netting the high S rank will earn you an extra Ranger point.
Pokemon Ranger: Guardian Signs also introduces some new action areas by taking things to the skies and waters. Majority of the game is done in traditional land areas, but you'll also find yourself diving underwater or flying to the sky on Staraptor. Other than housing specific flying and water Pokemon, these areas also have their own action sequences that pop up at certain points in the story. For underwater, you'll be holding the DS sideways and guide your ranger with the touch screen as you descend deeper into the waters. For the skies, you'll be dodging incoming projectiles. They don't add too much in terms of gameplay, but they help freshen things.
The main newly added feature are Ranger Signs, which is where the basis of the title comes from. By beating certain boss Pokemon, you'll earn a sign. By drawing the sign, you can summon that Pokemon. The summoned Pokemon will then join your party, and these Pokemon tend to have very helpful Poke Assists. With the legendary Pokemon Raikou, Entei, and Suicune, things are different. They won't join your group, but you'll be able to ride them once summoned, and use them to hurdle specific obstacles like jumping gaps, smashing huge rocks, and walking on water. It's a nice feature and another mechanic that you'll need to utilize in order to reach the end of the game.
Completing the main story of the game took me around 18 hours, but many factors can lessen or increase that time for you. A Pokedex-like system is in place, so you can keep track of all the Pokemon you've once captured, and there are also many side-quests to partake in, even after completing the story. Downloadable missions via Wi-fi are also available to increase playability time. And there's also multiplayer missions where you can join other Pokemon Ranger players through local wireless play. I didn't try much of the multiplayer missions, since I don't have a nearby Ranger to link up with, but they are playable with one player, though it can be a bit difficult. It is very disappointing that these missions couldn't have been Wi-fi compatible.
Overall, the new additions made are nice, but don't change the core gameplay much. You're still drawing circles around Pokemon, and while it still gets very repetitive, the story helped me stay engaged. It's lengthy and has many other things to do after completing the story, but I did find the journey rather easy. If you're a fan of the previous Pokemon Ranger games, then you'll have some enjoyment with Pokemon Ranger: Guardian Signs. I still find the main Pokemon games to offer the best Pokemon experience, but the Ranger series has some elements that I would love to see used in the main Pokemon titles. It's a lengthy yet decent game, and pleased this Pokemon lover.
- Storyline kept me entertained
- Lengthy with several options for more playtime
- Still a repetitive experience
- Multiplayer is local only
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