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Pokemon Ranger: Guardian Signs review

Decent
AT A GLANCE
  • Exploring the Oblivia region
  • Leveling up your capture styler
  • Ukulele Pichu is adorable
  • Capture mechanic is boring and repetitive
  • Bland story
  • Not challenging

The Pokemon Ranger series appeals to a specific demographic: young kids. If you're old enough to appreciate the sophistication and depth of the main Pokemon games, Pokemon Ranger will probably bore you. Of course there are still some diehard fans who can't help but love anything and everything Pokemon-related, and if you've played the first two Ranger games you can rest assured that Guardian Signs doesn't mess with the formula.

Instead of playing as trainer who captures and battles Pokemon, you take the role of a Pokemon ranger, which is kind of like a park ranger. Your goal is to make sure that wild Pokemon can live peaceful lives undisturbed by evildoers. Armed with your capture styler, you travel around the Oblivia region befriending troubled Pokemon and thwarting the mischievous Pokemon Pinchers, a gang of humans bent on kidnapping all the Pokemon for their own terrible purposes.

As you meet Pokemon along the way, you can befriend them by entering capture mode and using the DS stylus to draw circles around the Pokemon as fast as you can. If the Pokemon's attacks hit your circles while the stylus is touching the screen, your capture styler sustains damage, so you have to watch the screen and pause to dodge attacks accordingly. Once you've drawn the requisite number of circles, the Pokemon will become your friend, and you can choose to have it accompany you on your journey (up to eight Pokemon can accompany you at any given time). It's a mechanic that's fun the first few times but gets old quickly, because there's no real strategy involved and it feels repetitive and mindless. Unless you're five years old, you're probably going to get sick of scribbling circles over and over. And over.

Once a Pokemon is your friend, it can assist you in two ways. You can summon it during capture mode to help you befriend additional Pokemon (type strengths and weaknesses come in to play here – Water-type Pokemon are good at befriending Fire-type Pokemon and so on), or you can use its field move to overcome obstacles and help you progress in the story. Ukulele Pichu is the one Pokemon who stays with you throughout your quest, and he has a powerful ukulele-playing move you can use to capture wild Pokemon quickly. He's undeniably adorable, but the problem is that his move is so powerful that it almost makes the other Pokemon's capture moves obsolete.

Capturing Pokemon and using their field moves to progress to new areas are the two main components of the gameplay, and although the Oblivia region does offer impressive variety in its locales – the quest goes everywhere from grassy meadows to erupting volcanoes, from the sea floor to high in the skies – most of the gameplay still feels too repetitive. 

Like the title suggests, there's also a feature where you can draw symbols, or "signs" on the touch screen to summon legendary Pokemon that you've previously defeated in boss battles. Of course legendary Pokemon are cool, but here they act as little more than fancy field moves. For example, summoning each of the legendary beasts (Raikou, Entei and Suicune) will help you traverse obstacles by jumping over pits, walking on water, or smashing boulders to clear a path. 

Pokemon Ranger: Guardian Signs just doesn't offer enough depth to appeal to most hardcore Pokemon fans. There are some elements that appeal to Pokemon sensibilities, like being able to upgrade and customize your capture styler by distributing skill points to various stats as you see fit. The bottom line though is that Guardian Signs is a great game for small children, but is too simplistic for the rest of us.

Oct 5, 2010

More Info

Available Platforms: DS

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8 comments

  • Kapuran - October 13, 2010 4:04 a.m.

    I hate to fight a losing battle, but... Holy shit. I just (finally) got to try the multiplayer and that shit is fucking fun, and potentially addictive. Collectable partner pokemon plates + EXP + replayable, semi-dynamic levels... I'd go so far to say that this is worth getting for the multiplayer alone (although I happen to think this has the best story and gameplay of the spinoff series so far). And all you have to do to access it is unlock the time travel stone in game, which only taks a few hours. (This is the means for getting Deoxys, btw, but that's a level 25 mission, so you'll have to play through the multiplayer missions a but if you expect to pass the mission).
  • Sway - October 6, 2010 7:18 p.m.

    I was going to ask if there were any unlockables, thanks for answering that Kapuran! I downloaded the demo of this and it was awful. It was one capture and didn't give a feel for the game at all, not sure why they bothered.
  • Kitsuta - October 6, 2010 5:37 a.m.

    Hm. Labeling fans of a game series either "young kids" or "diehard [Pokemon] fans" is a pretty offensive tactic, don't you think? You mention that they don't mess with the formula, but then you go on to ignore most of it, opting for an oversimplified explanation of the combat. There was quite a bit more than what you described - and I'm not counting the capture moves, which I never cared for. I'm talking about the battle score. Bonuses you can get for certain achievements during combat proved a pretty good incentive to try for a perfect score. Time limit and not getting hit were the main challenges - sounds simple, doesn't it? Not with quick-moving Pokemon. Or bosses with new types of attack. Or Pokemon with large area effects. But even if had no strategy, that's not the point. It's not a strategy game. That doesn't make it a kiddy game, it makes it a different game. Let's compare it to, say... WarioWare. Not a strategy game. Does that make it a kiddy game? No, it makes it a reflex game. It's a totally different, but still valid, form of gameplay. And Ranger is the same way, especially later in the game as it becomes more and more difficult to avoid a hit. Yeah, you just draw circles, but you practically abuse the DS screen trying to do it fast enough to get an "A" score. Perhaps Ranger won't appeal to fans of the main series, and that's fine. But it's not because it's an inferior game or a "kiddy" game - it's because it's a different game, and it is based on a different type of fun. Personally I think it does have a lot of appeal for completionists, with a very classic "gotta (have caught) them all (at least once)" objective. But no, it won't appeal to strategists. Too bad about the bland story, though.
  • Kapuran - October 6, 2010 3:18 a.m.

    Disagree. Also, don't fail to mention the Manaphy, special Heatran and Shaymin, and the Deoxys that you can get for your core game from Guardian Signs.
  • Crimmy - October 5, 2010 11:48 p.m.

    First was good, second was okay(friend bars instead of challenging numbers of loops to make made it easier), and this one looks like it sucks. Good job Ninty.
  • 510BrotherPanda - October 5, 2010 10:18 p.m.

    I only got the first Ranger brand new for the Manaphy. SO no thank you...
  • FrozenImplosion - October 5, 2010 9:13 p.m.

    That's disappointing. I liked the others in the series.
  • Engage183 - October 5, 2010 8:49 p.m.

    never tried these games, apparently i'm not missing anything in the Ranger Series. I'll just wait for Black and White Now a pokemon game i do enjoy is the Mystery dungeon games, i don't understand why it got sub-par reviews, i have a lot of fun with it.

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