Review by Mykas0
"Infinitely better than Torouze"
While this game can't be considered a true sequel to the colour-based RPGs, it will probably please those fans who are waiting for the Diamond and Pearl versions. The gameplay found in here is unlike any other ever found in a Pokemon RPG, with new functions and a whole new world which will surely appeal to the classic Pokemon fans.
With all these new functions comes a new character, a boy (or girl, depending on your initial choice) who is a Pokemon ranger. No, being a Pokemon Ranger has nothing to do with sentai (a type of series generally considered as "Power Rangers" outside Japan). Instead, they are a group of people who rely on Pokemon to take good care of the environment and perform several tasks to help the human population, kinda like a Park Ranger.
With the main missions (apart from being a RPG, the game is also mission-based) being given to you on your headquarters, you can expect to confront tasks such as removing all the rocks blocking paths in a cave, finding missing Pokemon for their owner, stop rampaging enemies or even escorting someone to a particular place, among many others. However, unlike what happened in "Fushigi no Dungeon Blue", in this game there are absolutely no randomly generated missions, which is a pity.
In order to perform these missions, and since you will only have a single Pokemon accompanying you on your adventure (Plusle or Minun, depending on the sex you picked before starting the game), you will need to capture more of those monsters to help you. Initially you will only be able to have 4 of them at each time, but as you progress across the game it can be upgraded up to 7. An important feature is that this time the Pokemon are only temporarily captured with a "Capture Stylus", disappearing from your party after being used once in either a battle or in the field.
This turns the game into something slightly more strategic than you could think at first sight, with the player having to correctly manage its free space to store whatever Pokemon may be more useful in the future. While in the field you can use your monsters to clean or remove any type of obstacles that cross your path (provided you have a Pokemon of the required type and with enough power to do it), in the battles you can make them unleash a particular attack of their type or (depending solely in the Pokemon selected) turn your "Capture Stylus" into an elemental one, which is a lot more effective when in a specific conjugation with a particular type of Pokemon. For example, using a Blastoise in the middle of a battle would make it easier to capture a Charizard, but it would also make you weaker against that fire pokemon's attacks. If you picked a Blaziken against that same Charizard, you wouldn't have an easier time when trying to capture your enemy BUT you would be stronger against his attacks.
An interesting note should be given to the action of "capturing", since you can actually capture ANY Pokemon you find, provided you enter a battle with it. If it is a wild Pokemon, after beating him he will be added to your party for the time being, but (unlike what generally happens) if you fought a Pokemon who has a trainer (or is found in very specific conditions) only his data is added to your Pokedex, a rather nice detail. With the ones you can't get into a battle, you simply get some data (generally, how they look...) and that's all.
Now, you could be asking "but how exactly do I capture them?". Well, using the "Capture Stylus" (this is the name given to the pen-like device the rangers have) you need to draw closed lines around the enemies. Each time you complete a full closed line, the opponent's HP goes down by one, and once it goes below 0 you can even give some more turns in order to increase the EXP gained from that Pokemon (more levels equals more HP for you). While this may seem easy, it really isn't. The Pokemon will be moving around, sometimes even trying to run away from you (or simply attacking the Stylus, which will drain your own HP), and when you are attacked (or simply if you pull your stylus from the screen of the console) the opponent's HP will get back to its original value, granting this game some harder battles.
Talking about the number of Pokemon in the game, strangely this product seems to feature just a few more than 210 of those monsters, some of which can only be acquired by off-game tasks. The Pokedex order is also different in here, with some original Pokemon not even appearing in the game, while their evolutions do. A strange thing, I admit it, but that isn't very important at all.
However, I must give a negative note to some of this game's features. Having included not even a single item in the game they obviously turned the game into a slightly harder experience, but it will also make players stick to a particular area for a bit in order to get limitless Pokemons with a certain function (electric ones usually restore your HP, as important thing you may have to notice during the game), as releasing one of them will later make another one of that same type appear in the same point of the original one. Also, the learning curve of the game is too weird, with the player having to face a random easy battle and, less than 5 minutes later, facing your toughest battle ever.
Concerning the story, unfortunately there isn't much I can say about it unless I spoiled a lot more than I should. Basically, you will be fighting against some evil plots created by Team Gogo (more like Band Gogo, but that's fine...), an organization a lot better than the old and famous Team Rocket. The adventure also features some interesting plot twists near its end, but that's for the player to find out.
About the replay value, it is indeed possible to complete the game in less than 20 hours BUT without accomplishing any side quests. Playing the few mini-games and trying to complete the full Pokedex (apart from actually managing to beat the last boss) will surely take a long time for you to perform, a lot longer than in most Pokemon games since in this one there aren't any who can be acquired by evolving, thus making your task even harder.
Evaluating the graphics, they are not as good as you could wish, since they resemble the best ones found in the GBA console. Being this one a superior console, I would expect an higher quality, a criteria to which this game couldn't fulfill.
The sound is generally great, with the player being able to hear themes that resemble the ones of older games but also new themes of such high quality that one could think to be hearing them in an anime series and not in a mere game.
As the game is actually playable for someone who doesn't have any knowledge of Japanese language, all I have to add is that this game is rumored to unlock some sort of contribution to the adventure of the yet-to-be-released Diamond and Pearl versions of Pokemon. A good game that all Pokemon fans should play.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 03/24/06, Updated 04/07/08
Game Release: Pokemon Ranger (JP, 03/23/06)
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