This game just makes more sense than other Pokemon games.
I was intrigued by this game the very second it was announced a more than a year ago. A Pokemon spinoff made by HAL? I’ll bite. And my teeth sank into a fluffy digital pastry filled with the sweetest of crèmes.
The premise of the game is that the player is a Pokemon Ranger out to preserve the natural Pokemon world. I’ll toe the official Nintendo description and say that a Pokemon Ranger is something of a cross between a park ranger and a police officer. You take on missions to protect the natural habitats of Pokemon from strife and villainy, even if they are as small as “catch this old man’s Taillow because he is freaking out." Now, before you get all excited about some sort of open-ended game just because I said the word “mission," you don’t actually sign up to do jobs on your own. They are given to you by the relevant superior Ranger. It’s much more linear than it sounds… not that this is a problem.
The content of these missions usually involves the player having to capture and utilize a Pokemon’s power in the real world. Capturing is an action that requires multiple circles to be drawn around the wild Pokemon in question. After the requisite numbers of circles are drawn, the stylus is lifted and the wild Pokemon is captured. Of course, the wild Pokemon will have an opinion about his being captured and attempt to elude or even attack the Styler line (the Capture Styler being the weird gadget of the game that allows Rangers to capture Pokemon). If enough attacks drain the Styler’s energy, it’s game over. If successful, the captured Pokemon will do your bidding once and then run off, with the exception of the partner Pokemon (Minun or Plusle), whose abilities can be used over and over. The abilities are obvious. Fire Pokemon can burn things impeding the Ranger’s path, Electric Pokemon can charge the Stlyer’s energy, etc. Captured Pokemon even aid in the capturing of other Pokemon with Line Assists, where you can tap a Pokemon’s type advantage to tamp down a particularly unruly specimen, although even the most difficult of captures can be done without aid of any kind. You continually capture Pokemon to advance in the game, as well as earning experience to level up the Styler’s abilities.
This game is supremely fun. It doesn’t stop being fun, even after the end of the game, when you enter the bonus missions, which I hear unlock something in the upcoming Pokemon Diamond/Pearl versions. Even though the game sounds simple, as drawing multiple circles around a Pokemon certainly sounds, it keeps the gameplay fresh by introducing multiple captures and various minigame challenges. I found myself strangely and frequently challenged by the game. Even though I noticeably got better at the game as I was playing it, certain captures, like Salamence, still posed a significant challenge. And thankfully, the challenge is not manufactured from bad controls, as the only control problem arises when you have too many friendly Pokemon allied with you and the screen gets a little cluttered.
This game is the best Pokemon spinoff I have ever played, and I dare tread into volatile territory and say this is the best Pokemon game I have ever played. It was fun every step of the way, even if I lost at times. I was always motivated to have “just one more crack" at catching the tricky ones, especially the ones at the Jungle Relic dungeon. I find this game to be most enjoyable and recommend it.
Oh, I forgot. Why do I think it makes more sense than the other Pokemon games? The game is more like the world of Pokemon that all of the games in the series describe than any other game in the series. The wild Pokemon are not caught and spirited away into inexplicable Pokeballs stashed away into some ambitious trainer’s pocket. They exist and move in the world they live, wild and free, with no such strange technology keeping them restrained (well, heh, except for the Styler, but that’s a point against my argument, so it doesn’t count). And this was a totally unnecessary paragraph right? Eh… Alright. Pokemon Ranger is good. Review Over.