Pokémon spin-offs are a dime a dozen. Every few months there always seem to be a new game on the horizon to satisfy the cravings of those who have to catch 'em all. One such series to have emerged from the pocket monster craze is Pokémon Ranger, an action RPG that puts a unique ‘spin’ on the classic Pokémon gameplay. The series is now gearing up for its third instalment on the Nintendo DS, in the form of Pokémon Ranger: Guardian Signs, and we have a hands-on preview.
New to Guardian Signs is the ability to summon a helper Pokémon, via drawing ‘Ranger Signs’ on the touch screen, to aid in capturing the target monster. In the demo version you get a choice between a friendly, heart throwing Eevee, or a toxic spewing Croagunk, to help you capture the ever elusive Mew. After a brief control tutorial you're thrown into battle against the wild Mew, only this time instead of selecting actions you must draw rapid circles around your nemesis in the hopes of reducing its resistance gauge and making it befriend you. A simple tap of an on-screen button will summon your helper Pokémon who automatically attacks the target.
Visually, the game takes directly after its predecessors, with sharp and colourful 2D visuals andflashy special effects thrown in for good measure. This is a double edged sword, however, as while the 2D graphics suit the game’s style well, it does make it seem rather dated. At times you will swear you are playing a Game Boy Advance game from 2005, and not a Nintendo DS game from 2010.
The demo is laughably short, only offering the battle against Mew, and while it may not floor you it was enough to sell me on the gameplay. Catching Pokémon by circling them with the stylus is surprisingly fun, frantic and at times even difficult, and the game's reliance on a story deep in Pokémon lore will make fans of the long running series very happy.
The demo for Pokémon Ranger: Guardian Signs is currently available on the Nintendo Channel’s DS Download Service, so give it a try before the game launches on October 4th.