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Michael Kontoudis
31 Dec, 2010

Pokemon Ranger: Guardian Signs Review

DS Review | Gotta circle 'em all.
As the third title in the Pokemon Ranger series, Guardian Signs had much to live up to. The Ranger games, as spin-offs of Nintendo’s juggernaut Pokemon franchise, have never attracted the attention of their big brothers, but its easy to see the appeal: by focusing on simplified mechanics which emphasize accessible action over the series’ traditional RPG trimmings, Nintendo has created an offshoot perfect for younger kids lacking in the tactical know-how or patience to tackle the series’ major entries. Hot on the heels of the original Ranger and 2008’s Shadows of Almia, both of which suffered from a variety of niggling issues which detracted from their respective experiences, Guardian Signs held the promise of righting past wrongs and exalting the Ranger games to the highest reaches of their potential. It is a minor disappointment to report, then, that Guardian Signs plays it safe every step of the way, never daring to step outside the template established by its predecessors.

Guardian Signs once more posits players in the role of a Pokemon Ranger, a protector and guardian of the Pokemon who ensures their safety, peace and prosperity. Traveling through the land of Oblivia with their helpful Ukulele Pichu, gamers take to the wild with their ‘capture styler’, assisting monsters-in-need and fending off the nefarious band of poachers known as ‘Pokemon Pinchers’ who aim to capture the creatures for their own ends. The tale spun by Guardian Signs is wordy, but largely uninteresting, traipsing through the expected plot-points with rote competence until the credits roll. Younger ones will no doubt enjoy themselves, but the game’s reliance on reams of text means that many will need the assistance of a parent to appreciate all the story has to offer.


The story is pure hokum, but the cast of characters and Pokemon are charming and well-designed as ever.

The story is pure hokum, but the cast of characters and Pokemon are charming and well-designed as ever.
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For better or worse, depending on your age and outlook, Guardian Signs upholds the spin-off series’ reputation for simplicity and accessibility. Capturing any of the three-hundred Pokemon on offer requires little more than rapidly drawing circles around the creatures with the stylus, dodging their various attacks to avoid doing damage to the capture styler. In practice, this means that the game’s core mechanic involves watching a rapidly-moving sprite and tracing circles around it in between bouts of counter-strikes from the Pokemon. Aside from a few occasions of mildly tricky timing, nothing in Guardian Signs is likely to challenge anyone bar gaming acolytes. In any case, capturing a Pokemon allows players to befriend them and have (up to eight of) them join in the journey. Befriending Pokemon allows players to summon them in ‘battle’, with each bringing their own strengths and weaknesses to the process of capturing other creatures. For example, fire-based Pokemon are particularly susceptible to their water-based brethren, which adds a small dose of tactical challenge to proceedings, as does the existence of unique ‘field moves’ which allow players to traverse the landscape by walking over chasms and the like. Even niftier, players can also draw (the eponymous) signs to summon legendary Pokemon (who must first be bested in battle). Despite these small touches, the repetitive nature of the title’s central mechanics renders Guardian Signs something of a slog for older players who require more in the way of variety or tactical depth.

Visually, Guardian Signs is bold, bright and simplistic, without ever even nudging the technical or artistic boundaries of the Nintendo DS. Vivid colours, effects and appealing character designs go a long way here, and each of the game’s lush locales, ranging from fiery volcanoes to verdant plains, serve to reinforce the epic nature of the adventure. Aurally, players can expect driving, upbeat melodies typical of the series, all of which are of decent quality and had us humming along during gameplay. Overall, Guardian Signs is the quintessential Nintendo product, boasting polished, charming presentation but lacking in technological ambition.


One of the rare occasions when one isn't drawing circles.

One of the rare occasions when one isn't drawing circles.
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For players willing to invest in the journey, Guardian Signs boasts a plethora of content, with the main quest and side-missions requiring at least a dozen hours to plough through, depending on one’s penchant for exploration. Multiplayer options are enjoyable, revolving around various mini-games, for example, capturing a set amount of Pokemon in the shortest amount of time. The multiplayer functionality never amounts to more than a fun diversion, but it’s there and it is sure to extend the life of the title for those who take a liking to the gameplay.

At its core, Guardian Signs is a solid game weighed down under lofty expectations. Fans of the Ranger series may rightfully have expected some evolution, while aficionados of the main series may have expected an inkling more complexity and depth. This is Nintendo on auto-pilot, a dependable, charming game churned out for less-discerning younger players who desire little more than to spend a few hours in a buoyant, vibrant universe. Newcomers to the Pokemon phenomenon would be better-directed to the more traditional, substantial iterations, but young children and fans of the Ranger titles are bound to derive some enjoyment from Guardian Signs.
The Score
Pokemon Ranger: Guardian Signs is solid, competent, and not without charm, but repetitive mechanics and a lack of depth render it a game best suited to younger or more inexperienced gamers looking for an easy entry to the franchise. 6
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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9 Comments
3 years ago
Any news on a pokemon mmo yet?
3 years ago
People have been asking for a Pokemon MMO since the release of Red/Blue. Its right up there with 'proper console Pokemon'; a fantastic idea that mean old Mr. Nintendo wont do.
3 years ago
Jarrod wrote
People have been asking for a Pokemon MMO since the release of Red/Blue. Its right up there with 'proper console Pokemon'; a fantastic idea that mean old Mr. Nintendo wont do.
that's because you ate there children
3 years ago
Jarrod wrote
People have been asking for a Pokemon MMO since the release of Red/Blue. Its right up there with 'proper console Pokemon'; a fantastic idea that mean old Mr. Nintendo wont do.
They won't do it because...

a/. They make too much money doing it as they are now.
b/. Doing so would endanger a/.
3 years ago
the new black and white games have elements entailing some of the requirements to make a MMO, but it's all local wireless connected and not internet connected, so it's looking like a possibility
3 years ago
With all the fancy new wi-fi connectivity in the 3DS, we'll probably see a Pokemon game with a lot of MMO elements soon.
3 years ago
I hope it happens one day. Although could it really stand up to the likes of World of Warcraft?
3 years ago
Yes. If anything could knock WoW off it's MMO throne it'd be Pokemon.
3 years ago
The closest thing to a Pokemon MMO was NetBattle which has been around for ages. And that's only the battling aspect of it which is ripped straight from the handheld games. I love WoW to death, but if there was to be a Pokemon MMO, I'd probably manage to somehow play both.

Unfortunately Nintendo seems to be slowly accepting of the whole online thing.
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| More
  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  25/12/2010 (Confirmed)
Publisher:
  Nintendo
Year Made:
  2010
Players:
  4

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