Nintendo Australia Pokemon Ranger: Shadows of Almia
This kiddy DS title just isn't worth the price for more seasoned gamers.
- Colourful and vibrant graphics, accessible gameplay for the DS stylus
- Lame story, missions quickly become repetitive, puzzles require little brainpower
For a guy who willingly stood in line alongside five dozen grade school kids for a copy of Pokemon Diamond, I'm surprised and disappointed at how quickly I got bored with Pokemon Ranger: Shadows of Almia.
Price$ 69.95 (AUD)
Even if you're a hardcore Pokemon freak, minor gameplay changes and a yawn-inducing story means this kiddy DS title just isn't worth the price for more seasoned gamers.
In the first Pokemon Ranger, a new concept of Pokemon-catching was introduced that didn't include Pokeballs, gyms, or battling. It was heresy, but the resulting game was a memorable spinoff of the main franchise. Shadows of Almia, the recently released sequel to Pokemon Ranger has a lot of things that I wish the previous Pokemon titles had: exceptionally animated graphics, intricately detailed sprites, and more active ways to "catch" Pokemon. Unfortunately, Shadows of Almia's actual gameplay gets old before the game even gets started.
With Shadows of Almia, you're put in the role of a rookie "Pokemon Ranger," a special type of trainer who enlists the help of wild Pokemon to do community service. This includes anything from visiting old ladies in retirement homes (boring) to fighting forest fires (less boring). Catching Pokemon in this game is done via the special Styler, a device that tames Pokemon with a beam of "friendship" and good will. Making a successful capture is easy, since all you have to do is trace circles around the Pokemon you need to complete an assortment of missions. The capture process is easy — so easy, that by the time you've played through a few hours of the game, it presents no real challenge.
There's a painful amount of missions you'll have to complete to get through the game, and most of them involve either "fetch quests" or a variation of "bring-this-Pokemon-to-this-obstacle-to-get-to-the-next-area" tasks. Even as you gain the ability to retain a small army of Pokemon with your Styler, the tedious nature of tracing loops and backtracking through areas for specific Pokemon types will surely test your attention.
To the game's credit, Shadows of Almia looks much better than it plays. From underwater levels to fire-filled volcanoes, there's always a bit of excitement in seeing what new Pokemon populate every region. Still, the charm wears off before the game ever picks up, hampered by a cookie cutter story that fails to really engage its players. Even when you're circling and taming legendary Pokemon, the gameplay remains inherently the same as it was the first hour. If you're going to pick up Shadows of Almia, just keep in mind that while it can be fun, there's nothing compelling or new enough to impress a hardcore Pokemanic.
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