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Nintendo DS Review: Pokemon Ranger: Guardian Signs

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I remember the days when Pokemon was new. I was in middle school, part of the target audience, when I heard about these obscure little pocket monsters. At the time (late ’90s-ish), it was difficult not to know about them. There was a TV show; numerous videogames; news stories; and of course, the notorious card game. What was so strangely alluring about a children’s television show which followed young boy who leaves his mother and, virtually defenseless, embarks on a cross-country journey on which he kidnaps various animals and forces them to fight one another to the death for his enjoyment? The answer: it’s Japanese. Because, of course, everything Japanese is cool.

Though my Pokemon cards and GameBoy games are long gone, it’s interesting to see how the franchise has continued to evolve and, oddly enough, survive through the years. Frankly, I don’t even recognize the franchise now; it’s changed so much from its inception. After playing the relatively recent HeartGold (a little closer to my generation of the Pokemon world), I got a little more in tune with the franchise again. I thought it’d be fun to peak in again and see what was going on.

Pokemon Ranger: Guardian Signs is the third installment in the Pokemon Ranger series, a spin-off of the main-line Pokemon games existing on the Nintendo DS. Guardian Signs. In the Pokemon Ranger series your role is a little different from the typical capture creature, train creature, become the best Pokemon Trainer. Instead, you play as a Pokemon Ranger, whose job is to protect Pokemon, people, and nature in the Oblivia region. Players investigate the horrible Pokemon Pinchers, who have been poaching and selling Pokemon, through several different missions. Rather than the pure adventure feel of the main Pokemon game line, Pokemon Ranger is more of an RPG, revolving around capturing Pokemon and harnessing their power in battle.

At the start, you have the option to play as a male or female ranger, but the storylines are virtually identical regardless of what gender character you choose. You are joined by an irresistibly cute Ukulele-playing Pichu and set out on your missions to battle the Pokemon Pinchers.

The key element of the Pokemon Ranger universe is the “capture styler” feature, which fully utilizes the touch screen and allows players to use of the power of Pokemon to solve puzzles and survive conflicts, and in Guardian Signs, the capture styler allows for drawing “Ranger Signs,” which summon previously captured Pokemon. It even powers up as you go through the game. For me, this was the most refreshing take on the traditional Pokemon battle game, plus it’s great to see a game utilize the touch screen this thoroughly.

A highlight of the game is the multiplayer capabilities. Up to four players can work together on certain missions using the DS local wireless connection, and even unlock certain areas of Oblivia exclusively in multiplayer.

Pokemon Ranger: Guardian Signs may not have the same appeal as the main line of titles, nor is it anything amazing, but it’s just plain fun, and Pokemon fans should enjoy it.

Pokemon Ranger: Guardian Signs is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for Mild Cartoon Violence.

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