E3 Impression

Pokemon Ranger



If a Pokemon cuts down a tree and no one's there to...nevermind.

This ain't your daddy's Pokemon game. Pokemon Ranger don't mess around with balls. You catch the sneaky Pokemon by drawing circles around them. You don't kill Pokemon for experience, you trap them. Also, you don't train Pokemon either. No balls, no battles, and no attacks? Like I said, this ain't your daddy's Pokemon. It's a colorful game with a battle system that's fun and intuitive, but, sadly, repetitive.

Let's start with the basics. The demo started with the main character being initiated as a Pokemon Ranger. They appear to be an elite group of Pokemon hunters, devoted to serving people and Pokemon alike. The main character has long dreamed about becoming a Ranger, and is eager to start his new job. But what does the Ranger leader give to our hero to catch the Pokemon with? A stylus. After a brief tutorial you're sent out to escort a kindly professor through a nearby forest. No further indication was given about what the plot would contain, since the only event battle the demo held was a face-off with a Rhydon. The familiar rock Pokemon was his usual angry self, and the hero was forced to capture it to calm it down (before it hurt itself or someone else).

How, then, did I catch the Rhydon? I ran circles around him. In battle, a Pokemon appears on the screen and is preceded by the customary: "Wild POKEMON appeared!" To catch it, the hero uses the stylus to draw circles around it. After you enclose the Pokemon once, the Pokemon loses 1HP. You continue circling it until it has lost all its HP. If you continue to circle after the Pokemon has lost it's HP, the amount of experience you gain from the capture is increased dramatically, at the risk of losing the capture. Sounds easy, right? Nope. If the Pokemon runs in to, or attacks the line you've drawn with the stylus, the chain is broken and the Pokemon goes back to full health. Your stylus also loses some HP. A successful capture nets you experience, which levels up your stylus.

Six's a crowd.

What do you do with the captured Pokemon? Since there's no battle system, what good are they? Well, they get added to the all-important PokeDex--the Pokemon collection system that represents the heart of the Pokemon franchise. They can also be useful in capturing other Pokemon by engaging each Pokemon's unique PokeAssist. For example, using Chicorita in battle adds tendrils of grass to your stylus' line, which slows down the enemies' ability to attack or dodge. Other PokeAssists that I experienced included an electric attack that stunned them, bubbles that trapped them, and Pichu was able to recharge the stylus' energy. What's the catch? Each Pokemon can assist you for only a fixed number of times. Pichu can only zap once. Pikachu can zap the stylus twice. Rhydon can use his earth attack three times. After the Pokemon has consumed its PokeAssists, it leaves your party. No great loss; if all goes well, you will have a new Pokemon by the end of the battle.

I played it for only a few minutes, but I felt that I had already experienced most of what the battle system had to offer. In my opinion, any further attacks would probably do the same thing: slow down the opposing Pokemon. Drawing circles around them is fun for a time, but there is relatively little strategy involved beyond choosing which Pokemon to engage in battle. Although, it is also notable that Pokemon can be engaged outside of battle to clear obstacles. Also, the only battles I experienced involved only one Pokemon at a time. It seems natural to me that the game would progress to several Pokemon at a time, but I can't say for certain. Regardless, Pokemon Ranger is a fresh take on a classic franchise. It uses the stylus well, but I can't help but suppose that drawing little circles will grate on the nerves within a short duration. Pokemon has gotten to big for its balls, and it's a good thing.

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