- Platform: Nintendo DS
- Released: 2006
- Developer: HAL Laboratory
- Publisher: Nintendo
- Genre: Action RPG
- Modes: Single-player, Multiplayer, Online Multiplayer
- ESRB: Everyone
Pokémon Ranger’s unique controls, attractive graphics and long quest make it one of the most interesting spin-offs of the series.
Pokémon Ranger is a spin-off of the successful series that features a very interesting approach to capture the hundreds of little critters. While some of the elements proper of the Pokémon titles are retained, here, instead of sending one of your monsters to battle against another one, you’ll need to draw circles around them as they restlessly move around the bottom screen. The basic idea seems quite simple and plain, but soon you’ll find out that it’s much more difficult and entertaining than what it appears.
In the game, you can be either a boy or a girl who wants to become one of the most famous and recognized Rangers in the world. Soon enough, the character you choose will be recruited to protect people and preserve the environment. He or she will also be given a “styler”, a device that can help pacify wild Pokémon. Additionally, you’ll find out about a terrible organization called Go-Rock Squad which is looking to capture the little monsters and use them to control the world. One of your main objectives is to get rid of your opponents from this evil squad. At first, the game is pretty linear as you move from mission to mission, but as in any other Pokémon game you’ll be able to do a variety of side quests. Once you finished the main quest you can undertake missions which involve facing some of the rarest legendary monsters.
Ranger allows you to move up on your rank, becoming more and more powerful and letting you to face bigger and fiercer critters. Once you enter a dungeon you can capture and befriend some of the Pokémon you encounter, all of them have special abilities you can use for specific purposes. For example you can use Magneton to recharge the energy of your styler, or you can use Graverler’s strength to break walls. But to capture these monsters first you have to be part of an engaging minigame. In combat, the creature has a natural tendency to move and run around making it much more difficult for you to capture it. To do so you need to draw an uninterrupted number of circles around it to tame it. While some of the littlest Pokémon can be captured by only drawing a couple of loops, the largest foes require many more. Eventually, you’ll face more than a creature at once so a new strategy is required. Unfortunately, trying to draw so many circles in such a short period of time can damage the touch screen of the Nintendo DS. You can pretty much solve the issue by not pressing the stylus too hard or being more careful so it isn’t such a big deal.
There are some interesting characteristics that make the combat really interesting. First, if you touch a monster while you try to capture it the line immediately breaks, and you’ll need to start the process all over again. The easiest strategy involves making quick loops around a Pokémon when it isn’t attacking you. When you’re attacked by them your styler loses energy and some of the toughest creatures make much more damage than others so you need to pay attention, especially considering that if the styler runs out of energy it’s game over. Furthermore, its energy increases as you level up by facing more creatures, just like in any other RPG. Even when Ranger isn’t one of the most difficult games on the DS it can be quite challenging as the adventure gets hard quickly. First, capturing a Pokémon is really simple, and then the battles not only require more time but more patience also.
The game features around 200 pocket monsters and capturing some of them can be really engaging. The exploration of the various dungeons and cities isn’t that fun, mainly because you are forced to capture a specific Pokémon to move on and proceed to the next area. At first, getting some of the obstacles out of the way seems inventive but it quickly becomes something tedious and uninteresting.
Pokémon Ranger doesn’t include any multiplayer modes and the single player isn’t exactly long. If you explore all the cities or dungeons and if you decide to see what some of the side missions have to offer, you can pretty much finish the game in 10 to 15 hours. The 2D graphics are well animated, but what’s really awesome is that every single Pokémon is shown to scale. So some immense monsters will be much harder to catch due to their size. It’s really nice to see these critters fully animated and moving around an attractive environment and using their special skills and abilities. On the other hand, sound effects are not that good. Each creature produces a unique sound, which is usually an annoying screech proper of the 16-bit era. The rest of the music can be quite catchy.
Pokémon Ranger has much more variety than what it seems. Not only the game features a very interesting gameplay, but it also includes a refreshing experience to the series. Unfortunately, the feeling of immersion that the traditional Pokémon games have is completely lost here, mainly because you simply don’t collect and train all those many creatures. In any case, this is an original Pokémon game that it’s great for kids especially if you want to teach them to treat the environment with the respect it deserves. And that is a great message to transmit.