Pokémon is big business: the truth in this statement is reflected in the fact that the main series of Pokémon is currently on its fifth generation, with the sixth currently in production and due to become a reality later this year with the release of Pokémon X and Y. In between the main-series games, fans always have the opportunity to keep themselves occupied with some of the spin-offs whilst they wait for the next big game to arrive. The Pokémon Ranger series is a unique take on the Pokémon idea, and is arguably the best of all of the spin-offs of the main series. Pokémon Ranger: Guardian Signs is the latest in the Pokémon Ranger series that involve the capturing of Pokémon in a manner far removed from the main series of games; rescuing the Pokémon is the aim here, and eventually setting them free is the ultimate goal.
Pokémon Ranger: Guardian signs takes us to the Oblivia region where we are responsible for stopping the Pokémon Pinchers from nabbing all of the Pokémon out there. In order to stop these Pokémon thieves, you must take control of a Pokémon ranger and befriend Pokémon temporarily in order to use them against the thieves. In order to make friends with these Pokémon, you use a device called a ‘Styler’ to convey positive feelings of friendship and other stomach-churning sentiments to the wild Pokémon. To do this, you must use the DS’s stylus to rapidly draw rings around each Pokémon until it becomes your friend. This procedure is what much of the gameplay is based on, and as far as spin-offs go, it is a pretty original one.
It isn’t all bubblegum and sugar though, since befriending the Pokémon carries a certain risk, with Pokémon’s attacks depleting your styler’s power. If you let the Pokémon damage your styler enough, you lose and pretty much have to start again from the last save point. In Pokémon Ranger, you gain experience points from Pokémon encounters which allow you to upgrade and improve your styler by boosting its energy. Completing various missions also allows you to upgrade your stylus through earning Ranger Points: the ability to charge your styler can be earned, as well as increasing its effectiveness against Pokémon.
The whole process of encircling Pokémon to capture them is probably the most original battle mechanic of all of the spin-offs, but it does get a little repetitive. The whole thing is also a little simplistic and isn’t all that challenging unless you’re facing a boss, which does require a little patience and strategy since you often face multiple aggressive Pokémon at once. You do get to wander around with a partner Pokémon named Ukelele Pichu, however, though this hugely restrictive compared to the previous title which allowed you a generous choice of partner.
Pokémon Ranger: Guardian Signs is a refreshing take on the often disappointing attempts at Pokemon spin-offs. The game is arguably superior to all other spin-off games, with its unique capture mechanic and the fairly impressive graphics. This game is highly recommended and beats any of the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games outright in its entertainment value and originality.
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