Pokemon Ranger: Guardian Signs Review

I know, I know… I’m late.  Don’t know why I put this off for so long since I finished the game about a week and a half ago, but I apologize to those of you who have been waiting for me to give my verdict.

Guardian Signs was not my first ‘Pokemon Ranger’ game.  I had also played the second one (Shadows of Almia) as well.  In many ways this new game improved upon my previous experience, but I definitely see a lot of the same.  One of the biggest changes, for me, was the exclusion of selectable ‘partner pokemon’ that traveled with you and were not just “single use” like the normal wild pokemon you would encounter.  Instead you are stuck with “Ukulele Pichu” for the entirety of the game… whether you are a fan of the electric rodent or not.  Being the grass and bug pokemon fan that I am, I would’ve preferred some choice in the matter.  Find the full review after the break

Graphics

Guardian Signs adds nothing to the traditional ‘Pokemon Ranger’ graphical style.  Sprites seemed to be the same and of fairly good quality.  The backgrounds were pretty, particularly the forest settings.  One of the downsides to the sprite approach is that when you have pokemon following you they only have about 4 ‘directions’ they face and they’re all diagonal.  Sometimes when you’re moving in a straight horizontal line it can look out of place.  The Ranger series does not even pack in all of the pokemon up to the end of Gen IV so this seems to be a time/cost saving measure that doesn’t reflect well on it.  The graphics may be pretty, but they do not stand out and are certainly not up to par with some other series who use 2D to beautifully illustrate their games.  6/10

Gameplay

The main gameplay mechanic in the Ranger series is to draw circles around a pokemon while it moves around and launches attacks.  If it hits your “styler” (top shaped gadget) or your line you’ll lose “energy”; run out of energy and it’ll be game over.  To be honest it is addictive and fun when the game challenges you.  Some attacks cover the entire screen and you’ll be hard pressed to keep circling.  If a small amount of time goes by when you haven’t circled the target pokemon its gauge that shows your capture progress will start to deplete.  The problem with this game lies in the fact that it really doesn’t challenge you very often.  I got a ‘Game Over’ screen *once* (final boss).  Shadows of Almia had some challenging bosses in my opinion, but Guardian Signs just seemed like a major pushover.  When you dumb down the system too much it feels like you’re just wasting time and slogging through the storyline instead of really “playing”.

One of the nicer additions to the gameplay here were the ‘points’ you earned for completing the ranger missions.  These points can be used to upgrade your styler’s strength, line length, and more.  This adds a level of customization to your game experience that didn’t exist in the last two games and felt like a welcome improvement.  Like in past versions there are also some ‘side quests’ thrown in to add additional gameplay.  Generally these come from villagers who are worried about a pokemon or need you to capture a pokemon for them.  Completing these will give a smaller amount of ranger points than you would receive from the official ‘missions’, but are a good way to get a few extra points here and there.  In Shadows of Almia you would unlock certain resistances to types of attacks, but using points as a reward was a much better incentive for me.  You can also take on multiple side quests at a time and complete them at your leisure, another improvement over Shadows of Almia.  The last thing I want to mention is the fact that you start off in Guardian Signs being able to have a full party.  This was also a convenience as opposed to past iterations.  This game also included obstacles that would have to be cleared by using multiple pokemon’s field abilities.

I’ll also touch on the ‘Signs’ quickly: During the course of your gameplay you’ll encounter some legendary bosses that will reveal a “sign” to you that you will then use to call them at will.  The 3 legendary dogs are the main ones you’ll use throughout the story and are akin to HMs of the main game.  You’ll find obstacles scattered throughout the world that block your progression until you get the dog that can overcome them.  A secondary feature is that they provide a faster walking speed so you’ll frequently call them whenever you feel like walking might be too slow.  Side quests will also unlock other various pokemon for use by you, but they’re generally the first stage of an evolution chain and server no purpose (why they were included I don’t know).  The signs add very little to the game in my opinion.  7/10

EDIT: I would like to point out that Guardian Signs did MUCH better about easing players into the gameplay than Shadows of Almia did.  The latter’s “Ranger School” section bored me out of my skull and I was worried I’d find the same slow, mandatory tutorial area in Signs.  Luckily my fears were unfounded as all of the previous mechanics have skip-able introduction tutorials and I was alright with the new mechanics being explained.  Guardian Signs hits the game running and I give it props for doing that :]

Plot

This game thinks it has an engaging story.  I’m sorry, it doesn’t.  Playing through this game you will hear characters go ON AND ON with dialog box after dialog box with no signs of stopping.  In fact it feels like the gameplay is severely hindered by these large story-driven scenes in which characters will be much more melodramatic than they should be.  I would save after every large story interruption just so that I could guarantee that I would NEVER have to go through it again (even when pushing A A A A A A A A A A A A A on the DS they still take awhile to get through).  Had the plot been integrated better it could’ve been entertaining, but since I built up such a resentment towards being interrupted after every mission it just felt like the developers thought they were writing the next FFXII, or at least trying to.  Give us some animated cutscenes and then try to put in an epic storyline.  Another thing I wanted to touch on is the character dialog.  It is weird.  The characters all seem to phrase things in highly unusual ways and it kept on annoying me to read it.  One thing that stands out is the running gag of the series about tying people up “a smidgen on the tight side”.  It is obvious this sort of writing style is just used to try to amuse the younger audience they’re aiming for, however I question why they have such long story sections then.  No 10 year old is going to sit through that.  3/10

Overall

It’s clear that this game is not one that can find an audience with older fans of the main series who may want to try a pokemon spin-off game.  From silly dialog to the linear storyline progression, it just doesn’t cut it for those of us who enjoy the deep strategy that we’ve come to expect from the Pokemon games we grew up on.  It is unfortunate that Nintendo titles rarely go on sale, because if you could find this game for about $15 I’d say it might be fun to buy it.  You just need to go in with the mindset that this is a light hearted game whose main draw is the circling mechanic (which can be very enjoyable at times).  It is definitely a step up from the Ranger game that preceded it in a lot of small ways, but I’m afraid that it is largely the same game with a new (and terrible) plot line.   Final Opinion: Be ready for what you’re buying if you’re going to drop $30 on this game 6.5/10

<3 pokejungle

ps- Thoughts?!

pps- NEW POLL!! </overdue>

      1. Harsh and honest is better than flowery compliments that falsely praise a game that shouldn’t be bought. XD

      2. i would be mad this game is sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo cool

  1. Honestly, I thought this game was great. The added aspects of flying and diving were quite entertaining, and a nice change compared to the others in the series. I know it’s your opinion but I feel the game deserves better than what your giving it credit for, anyway that’s just how I feel so don’t take any of this like an attack or anything cause this site has a really unique feel. So keep up the good work and try your best.

  2. i have to say, i literally disagree with you on everything. the plot is better in this ranger game than the other ones. i think the plot is more like a 9/10. but you have yur opinions

    1. I think the plot is well constructed and has a lot of merit, but the way they told it just beat out any enjoyment I would’ve gotten.

  3. That’s one fantastic review. Well written. Worth the wait. You know what, the dialog is the same reason I gave up on Almia.

    1. I still haven’t finished Almia :p Think I’m near the ending, but just haven’t devoted enough time to slog through it. The beginning of Almia was probably the most painfully slow tutorial I’ve ever gone through 😐

      1. You are lucky because you’re nearing the end. I’m nowhere near it, you remember the Blastoise stopping the forest fire? That’s where I stopped.

        1. Bahahah I seriously love how you always have Lady Gaga references in like all your comments. >< ozy approves! 8D

  4. Thanks for the post! I was unsure about this game from the moment I saw the artwork… I’m a big Pokemon Ranger fan so I’ll probably purchase the game anyway, but maybe I’ll wait a few months until it goes on sale. But let’s keep that between you and I.

  5. Despite your “poor-ish” review, imma just get the game anyway. >< I need a new game and now that BW has gotten boring guess I'll go to Ranger~Awesome review Boss! ^^

      1. Like all Pokemon games, after you beat the Elite 4 and capture legendaries, it just gets kinda meh. :/
        Not much to do but look at the amazing graphics. > Zekrom
        Whist Forest > Black City
        White exclusives > Black exclusives
        But I like the colour Black more….
        ARGHHH so hard to decide!! Dx

        1. I going with……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..BOTH!!!!

        2. ^This! I decided for black in the end though, i like reshiram so much more, and about the exclusives, there’s always GTS, it’s never failed when I make the offers hehe.

        3. White, it’s much better, has more Pokemon to catch (there are 20 Pokemon in White Forest that you can’t catch in Black), more triple battles, less rotation battles (those thing take forever), has better looking version exclusives with better stats (the Black exclusives have crappy looks, crappy stats, and crappy moves), and a blue genie, so please choose White!!!!!

  6. One thing, that i dont see enywhere in this article.

    The multiplayer option.

    IS FRIKING EPIC.

    Plain and simple, the multiplayer part of this game gives the total reason of this games existence. Is the only thing good in this game, playing with your friends, capturing the pokemons at the same time, training your partners pokemon to make better assist, is just great…. o,o

  7. I havent played guardian signs but i did prtly enjoy shadows of almia, but it kind of just seemed the same as the original Ranger. And, like you said, wayyyyyyy too much dialogue. I like this review, and I feel as if its informed me more about the game. Thanks

  8. i +hate+ [for lack of a better word] all the Ranger games.
    i’m not sure what it is about them, i just can’t play them :C
    they just don’t go well with me.
    i haven’t played GS, but i played the first two because my brother and friend had them and needed help
    why they asked ME of all people i’m not sure.

    anywho.
    i’m done now.
    +off to play Earthbound 8D+

  9. I played the very first Ranger game because a friend let me. I thought the unlockable missions would be re-obtained if I started a new game. Nope.

    It was an interesting mechanic, but I never liked it fully enough to buy a game. None of the side-games interest me, to be honest.

  10. Nice, honest review. I personally love the Ranger series and will definitely be buying the game no matter what, though! There’s something so entertaining about using the capture styler…

    I also have a small comment on the poll; I was all excited to click the “Colosseum/XD” option, when I noticed that Colo had been bundled with Stadium and PBR– and XD was nowhere to be seen! Colo and XD are both very different from the other stadium-style games because of the actual RPG included there, which is actually my favorite Pokémon game /ever./

    Then again, one could argue that those aren’t spinoffs, as you travel through a region battling, capturing– well, snagging– and training pokémon.

    1. Hm, well I count them as spinoffs since there are no gyms, No Elite 4, etc :p

      They shouldn’t have been bundled with Stadium and PBR though so I did separate them :] Thanks!

  11. Hmmm. I would honestly give the graphics 8.5
    Seems quite dull the way you put it.. I also started off the series with SoA and I had hours of addictive fun, and atleast 10 or so game-overs 😛
    Sad you didnt mention the change in PokeAssists. At the beginning points it really doesnt seem like its better than SoA, even though there is more variety. I was hoping to know how it is with stronger Pokemon.
    Still gonna give this a shot, though. Mouse-circling is oddly fun 😀

  12. I just wanted to tell you PJ, I really like the fact that you reviewed this game because I just finished it. I myself REALLY liked it and although I disagree with you on a lot of points, I’m grateful you did it anyway. 🙂

  13. By the way, your poll says to pick up to 3. I chose Ranger, MD and Snap. When I tried to vote, it told me I had to choose 1. I am disappoint.

  14. Unrelated but….WHO ELSE IS DYING FOR GAGAS NEW ALBUM TO LEAK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. The first Ranger game was good, but it had many problems, for example, there was basically nothing to do after the end of the game, only the Capture Arena and three bonus guests involving the Hoenn legendaries, the second was a major improvement over the first, with multiple partners, a longer storyline, tons of areas to explore, and side quests as far as the eye can see, the only problems it had involved the story, which focused way too much on the humans than it did with the Pokemon, for example, many rangers mention their partners, such as Keiths Buizel, they get a mention, get a small appearance, then are never seen or mentioned again, with the characters acting like they never had a partner in the first place, that is a big problem because Pokemon Ranger is supposed to focus on the relationship between the two equally, not just one…..

    The third Ranger, however, was just horrible, it attemped to fix the problems of the second game, but failed miserably. And you ask how? For one thing, it only had one partner, and it was a Pichu of all things, seriously, why a Pichu, especially when we had just got Spiky Eared Pichu and Pikachu Colored Pichu, why couldn’t it be a Riolu or something, and why give it a Ukelele, I know it was to distinguish it from other Pichu, but, just WHY a Ukelele, why not a scarf or something. Another thing is that it focused too much on the Pokemon, mainly the legendaries, like I said with the second game focusing too much on the humans and that the series was supposed to focus on the two equally instead of just one most of the time, the game had way too much focus on the legendaries, most especially the Johto beasts. And then there’s the plot, it’s like something you would see in the Pokemon anime, except WORSE, especially with a plot twist near the end of the game, which had little buildup to it, and in turn, created so many plotholes, it was unreal, not to mention Oblivias “legend”, which was about a kid riding a Pokemon, as opposed to the Almia legend, which was actually interesting. I recommend you AVOID this game and just wait for the English release of Black and White, which have a much better story and actually have an interesting legend (about two brothers who argued so much that they unleased a power that almost destroyed the world) and a region that’s a First Class Eagleland (well, Wargleland)…..

  16. Also, your poll is broken, it says to pick 3, but when you press “vote”, it says you can only choose 1, seriously, what the hell!? Can you please fix this…..

      1. My browser is Internet Explorer, my mom won’t let me use Firefox other than for school, and I got screamed at for downloading Google Chrome…..

        1. Ahahaha same here man, same here. ><
          Both my parents work for Microsoft, I can't tell you how hard it was for me to convince them to let me download Chrome. :l
          Oh and gettin' an iPod….parents needa coalll down. 😛

  17. random comment, but im the biggest pokemon fan in the whole intire world….. i know everything and those who oppose me will feel the wrath of infernape and blastoise!! if u do oppose me get ready for a bad romance…

  18. I play(ed) all the Ranger games in Japanese.

    Batonage is my favorite, but imo, I thought Hikari no Kiseki was best (oh god the original’s gameplay was fucking horrible…I haven’t finished that one yet =__=). Better gameplay (my only problem is the PokeAssists…it made everything too easy), better graphics, and the setting. I can’t love the setting enough.

    The cutscenes are such an ass to get through though. D: I’ve been playing the Professor Layton games lately and the animated cutscenes are fucking awesome. It bothers me that the CMs are animated but not parts of the game itself.

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