Review by Big Bob

"If you want a Manaphy, you have to earn it."

Somewhere in the 250 hours that I've played Pokemon Diamond, I decided that I wanted the rare pokemon Manaphy. I found that in order to get one, I just had to buy the game Pokemon Ranger and complete it, which will give me an egg to transfer to Diamond. Looking at reviews, I figured that this game wouldn't be a waste of my money. Was it? Read on.

The basic concept of this game is that you are a Pokemon Ranger, a person who is a protector of peace in the game's region. Instead of catching and raising pokemon, your job is to watch over the local townsfolk, run errands for scientists, and generally just stop any bad guys who come along. You use a device called a stylus...*cough*...sorry, I meant styler... which can be used to temporarily recruit pokemon to assist you on the field or when trying to tame tougher, more difficult ones. The game's storyline involves around a professor's prototype styler being stolen by a bunch of bad guys called the Go-Rock squad, who want to use it to control powerful, legendary pokemon.

The problem with this game's storyline is that it's...just childish. They make an emphasis on "having an emotional bond with your pokemon" that sounds like something a therapist would say. The bad guys are completely lame and idiotic, and none of the main characters are likable. The dialogue lacks any kind of charm, with it being basic so a child can understand, yet lacking anything that would make a storyline endearing.

So the storyline's written for kids, so obviously this is a simple kid's game, right? Well, that's what I thought. And for a while, it is. The way you use the styler is by drawing lines around pokemon. You run into on on the field, then it's taken to a separate battle screen where you try to capture it while it tries to defend itself. Each pokemon has a certain number of lines to be drawn around it, depending on its natural strengths. This makes sense. After all, that huge Rhydon near the beginning is quite slow, so while it's easy to circle it, you have to do it many times. Meanwhile, Sneasel is swift and fast, but you only need to circle it three times to catch it. Any wild pokemon you catch may be recruited to do tasks, such as burning down a tree, knocking down a wall, or pulling you across a chasm, and these parts are executed quite well. The puzzles in the game aren't difficult, since the pokemon you need is typically not too far away, and it's never confusing about where you have to go next.

However, here's where the bad news comes. There are several glaring flaws with the capture mechanics that annoy the hell out of me. Remember that Rhydon earlier? Not only do you have to circle it 10 times, but you have to do it without lifting the stylus from the screen. Doesn't sound so easy now, does it? Especially when most pokemon you try to capture don't take kindly to having lines drawn around them, and try their hardest to get out of the way. This is especially frustrating in boss battles, where you might have to circle something 20 times in order to capture it. These problems are even worse when you take into account that multiple pokemon may be on-screen at a time, each blocking your progress when trying to catch one of the others. Also, it's possible for the pokemon to wander off-screen. I don't know why, but it is. If a pokemon does that, you have no choice; you just have to sit and wait for him to come back to some spot where you CAN circle him. It's a frustrating game mechanic, and I can't believe that the programmers left this in.

The only saving grace to this is the pokemon you capture. With such a huge variety of pokemon, there are many different ways to go about capturing a boss. Not only that, but the weaknesses/resistances from the games also come into play, meaning that your electric attack against that bird pokemon is going to stun it much longer than a grass pokemon, which resists electricity. In fact, you even get a helper pokemon in the form of Minun, whose electric attack can be charged up over time. While this sounds like a good mechanic (and it is), execution is far worse. Since you have to capture pokemon in one fell swoop, often your only option is to use "cheap" tactics. This means stalling until Minun is fully charged up, let an attack loose, get a fighting-type pokemon to halve the number of circles you have to make, and then scribble like crazy, hoping you don't screw up or the pokemon doesn't recover.

With such a childish storyline, the gameplay really got it all wrong. Many, many times I was frustrated with this game and the way it played. However, under all the flaws, there is still a charming game under here. It may not present itself on the surface, but the adventure really is fun. The pokemon are animated really well, and there's always a good thrill when you figure out how to catch a seemingly-tough pokemon. I don't know if this game was worth the $35 I paid for it, but as I passed some of the challenges, my motivating factor was Manaphy. Whether it was intentional or not, you have to earn Manaphy by completing this game. If you think you're up to the challenge, by all means, go for it. If you can't handle frustration, and have no interest in Manaphy, it's safe to pass on this.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 08/08/07

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