Review by Arugal
Lacking game with Pokemon put in it for appeal
Pokemon Ranger: Shadows of Almia is a spin-off title that differs vastly from other games in the series; a spin-off which can't hold a candle to the Main Series.
Game play consists of doing the following: Capturing Pokemon by drawing circles around them (using a "Capture Styler") and running around clearing "obstacles" (moving a boulder blocking a path, putting out fires, etc.) by using captured Pokemon's abilities. This is basically the whole game in a nutshell. You cannot keep any Pokemon you capture, they are just basically used as temporary "tools" then run off after they are spent. Dungeons consist of a lot of "obstacle puzzles" followed by a boss at the end. Some of the captures (mainly bosses) can get pretty frustrating (as the further you get in the game, the Pokemon get faster and have a more variety of attacks, the styler can only take so many hits before you are downed). The game also gets very repetitive after a while, rinse and repeat. There is nothing to gain really from playing, as the only thing you "acquire" is level-ups for your "Capture Styler", Rank-Ups (which give you the ability to have more Pokemon with you at one time), and the ability to "charge" up the styler to cause more "friendship" (which is supposed to make captures faster). However, things that are welcomed is that you can actually run in diagonals (you are not limited to walking in a grid-like fashion) and the Pokemon are shown on the field before running into them, which is something the Main Games could take a hint from.
The game has a continuing story that spans everything you do in the game. You start out at Ranger School doing tasks, graduating and getting a "Partner Pokemon" that basically just follows you at all times and is pretty much dead-weight as it has no redeeming abilities. You are assigned missions and can take optional quests as well. A Pokemon Ranger basically just caters to the "whims" of the citizens and helps them with what ever problem they have. This game really isn't about Pokemon directly, its more of playing animal control ranger and using Pokemon to do mundane tasks. The Pokemon could be replaced with actual tools or plain animals and it would all work the same. The main gist of the game is to stop the criminal team of the region (Team Dim Sun, in this case) from using Pokemon for their evil deeds... By drawing circles, Ahem. The game's overall story is pretty flat and routine, not at all interesting and most of the characters are fairly one-dimensional. There is nothing special here.
The graphics in this game is perhaps the best thing about it. The Pokemon and People sprites are large and detailed. They also have distinguished animations. The backgrounds are very detailed, vivid and bring life to the environment. When you use Fly or Surf, the sprite is of the actual Pokemon your using. Its a very big step up from what's normal in a 2D Pokemon game. It is a shame that the Main Series Games do not utilize the same graphic style, it could benefit immensely.
[MUSIC & SOUND]
The music is fairly good, the tunes are enjoyable and fit within the context of the game, but easily forgettable. The sound effects in the game are the norm, with Pokemon having their usual game cries. Nothing really sticks out here.
The only real reason to of got this game was when it was first released; as there was "Special Missions" available for download over Wi-Fi. The missions allowed you (after completion of the game) to send a Manaphy egg, an Aura Sphere Riolu and Darkrai to your D/P/P games. As these missions can no longer be downloaded (and these Pokemon can be gotten elsewhere as well), there is little incentive to play through this game if you haven't already. I drudged through this game to get those Pokemon, if they where not the goal here, I wouldn't of played through the whole game. Its was a hugely frustrating and boring ordeal that I would not do again (even for any Pokemon). I cannot really recommend this game, even to a fellow Pokemon fan. It doesn't have any redeeming quality or lasting appeal that makes it fun. Its more like an empty shell with Pokemon tacked onto it.
Rating: 2.0 - Poor
Product Release: Pokemon Ranger: Shadows of Almia (US, 11/10/08)
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