E3 06: Pokemon Ranger hands-on

Anyone who's played a traditional Pokemon RPG in the past - and literally millions of gamers have, so we're guessing that's a reasonable point of reference - knows how annoying it is to fail in an attempt to capture a pokemon. You beat the critter down to near-unconsciousness and toss your little pokeball out there in total confidence - only to have the damn thing wiggle once, wiggle twice, and then, POOF! The ball evaporates and the pokemon is still sitting there, nearly dead, but not about to go down. It's random, it's infuriating, and you have nearly no control over it.

Until now. Instead of throwing pokeballs, when it's time to capture a pokemon, you're given a view of your targeted creature on the DS's touch screen. You then draw circles around the creature as quickly as you can, using the DS stylus. Once you've reached the designated number of circles, that pokemon is captured. Nothing left to chance, no balls to throw, no random reasons for you not to make the catch.

Okay, there is one thing: if the pokemon touches the edges of your circles before you have it captured, you have to start over. But you can apparently use the abilities of the other pokemon in your posse to influence the odds of that happening. During our brief playtest, which involved a simple trip through the forest, we started out with one pokepal and quickly accrued our full allotment of six.

Exactly what else you do in the game isn't yet clear, as the demo ended shortly thereafter, but it appears that the player uses the powers of the pokemon at his command to commit various good deeds. Which sounds good to us. We're eager to try to earn a few merit badges when Pokemon Ranger ships later this year.

May 08, 2006