Pokemon Ranger: Shadows of Almia Review «

espite my fondness for Pokémon, I never got the chance to play much of the original Pokémon Ranger, so I was interested to see how this side series compared to the main games (Diamond & Pearl being the most recent entry). It turns out I wasn’t missing out on much; the game provides some addictive — albeit overly simplistic — fun, but this part of the Pokémon franchise still has a lot of growing up to do.
For a game obviously skewed toward a younger audience, Shadows of Almia is very text-heavy. But the actual story alternates between banal narrative straight from the mind of an 8-year-old, and moments completely lost in translation. The videogame medium still doesn’t have its own Harry Potter or Finding Nemo, a story that resonates just as powerfully with young audiences as with old. Nintendo and the Pokémon juggernaut have the resources available to create just that, so it’s a little disappointing that they never seize the opportunity.

Click the image above to check out all the Pokemon Ranger: Shadows of Almia screens.
But crafting a deep, introspective narrative was never the series’ goal. Pokémon is about catching as many of the titular monsters as you can, then using them to fight off the bad guys. The Ranger games change things up a little by ditching most of the role-playing elements: Instead of battling your prey until they pass out, you befriend them by drawing circles with your stylus. It seems like that’d get old quickly, but the creatures you’re up against vary their stylus-avoidance techniques enough to keep things challenging and interesting.

The “puzzles,” on the other hand, get pretty tiresome. Conquering a dungeon merely consists of running into an obstacle, then catching the Pokémon who can clear the path. You keep a few helper Pokémon with you constantly as you explore (and their numbers increases as you play the game), but you can only use each Pokémon once. The option to retain Pokémon until you’re finished with them would eliminate a lot of boring backtracking.

Your journey to become a Master Ranger is actually lengthier than you might imagine, given the game’s kiddie vibe. The main quest clocks in at just under 20 hours, but dedicated fans who want to complete all the side missions and find every Pokémon can rack up a lot more playtime. While it’s nowhere near as addictive as the regular color-coded Pokémon games, Almia’s still a decent diversion — I just wish the story offered something a little deeper.


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