I am PekoponTAS. I have tourette's syndrome, and I have been a gamer my whole life. My favourite franchise is Kirby, and my all time favourite game is The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX. I'm a big fan of underrated hidden gems, and I tend to have opinions on games that really conflict with the popular opinion. Anyways, glad to meet you all and stuff.
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You know this was a pretty damn busy month for January. Most years January is pretty quiet, but this January there were FOUR games I wanted, and strangely enough each game was for a different system. First came Lost in Shadow for the Wii, then Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective and Prinny 2: Dawn of Operation Panties, Dood! came out on the same day for the DS and PSP respectively, and then the PS3 ended the month off with LittleBIGPlanet 2. Even more bizarre than there being one game for each of the current generation systems I own in the same month is the fact that they were all good. Sure some were better than others, but even the most flawed one was still good enough to be considered good. So even though Iíve already talked about two of these games in previous blogs, letís take a brief look at the games of January 2011, and see how they held up. How about we go in order of release?
Lost in Shadow (Wii) Release Date: January 4th, 2011 Developer: Hudson
Lost in Shadow is a 2D Platformer for the Wii, and while itís not a bad game, it certainly has its issues. Out of the four games I bought this month, Lost in Shadow was the only one I didnít finish simply because it was boring. The visual style and concept of traversing the shadows is entertaining enough for maybe one level per play session, but try and sit down with it for any length of time and youíll probably get bored. Apparently they introduce a cool mechanic later on, but Iím four and a half hours into this thing, and they STILL havenít introduced it. The only thing theyíve done to break up the tedium is have one boss fight, and while it was an absolutely amazing boss fight, it still didnít take me long to get over it and return to my bored state.
Lost in Shadow is a good game, but its main problem is pacing. There isnít enough variety in the level design, and the cool thing they do add to the mix takes too long to show up. Itís not a bad game, but youíll probably get bored with it.
Recommendation Level: Weekend Rental
Prinny 2: Dawn of Operation Panties, Dood! (PSP) Release Date: January 11th, 2011 Developer: NIS America
Prinny 2 had a lot to live up to what with its predecessor being one of my all time favourite games, and initially, it didnít do anything to convince me it was a worthy sequel. The level design was poor, they added a lot of extremely cheap enemies that made the cheap enemies from the first game look like Goombas with no feet, the main Prinny was an asshole, and the difficulty was ramped up WAY too far to the point of me almost completely abandoning it. However I eventually caved in and switched the difficulty setting to ďbaby modeĒ, and suddenly three of the problems mentioned above were fixed. (the main Prinny is still an asshole)
Baby mode is a much better designed game what with the more forgiving level layout, extra health, and easier boss battles. Iíll admit that sometimes the bosses felt insultingly easy on baby mode, but seeing as how everything else about the game is better on baby mode, Iím willing to let my pride be damaged a bit by pushover boss battles. (Well, by Prinny standards)
I previously talked about how much I didnít like Prinny 2, but that was before I switched it to baby mode. Baby mode of Prinny 2 is actually a good game, though Iíd still recommend the original game over it for the fact that itís a better designed game and itís only $9.99 on PSN. But for what itís worth, Prinny 2 is fun on baby mode, so long as your definition of fun still involves dying a whole lot.
Recommendation Level: Play the Original Instead
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective (DS) Release Date: January 11th, 2011 Developer: Capcom (Specifically the Ace Attorney Team)
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is an original I.P from the Ace Attorney team, and itís far better than any of the Ace Attorney games. The puzzles are fun and really clever, but the main hook of this game, much like Ace Attorney, is the story. (Though the gameplay is also phenomenal)
There are two things I can say about this game right away. Awesome characters, and a VERY well thought out story. The characters donít (usually) fall victim to many anime stereotypes, and are actually quite realistic. They all have their own issues and mysteries, and there isnít a single character you wonít want to know more about. The story is also the single BEST video game story I have ever seen, and itís EXTREMLY well thought out. Every major plot twist was amazing, and by the end of the game every single piece of the mystery fit together perfectly. The most amazing moment was finding out who the main characterís identity is, but I donít dare spoil it because itís probably the most outstanding revelation Iíve seen in a game.
Itís early on in the year, but already itís going to be hard to top this game for Game of the Year status.
Recommendation Level: Buy it!
LittleBIGPlanet 2 (PS3) Release Date: January 18th, 2011 Developer: Media Molecule
There isnít really a whole lot to say about LittleBIGPlanet 2 because while really fun with a friend, itís an extremely standard platformer. The level design is really good and it has a lot of interesting mechanics, but itís still a very basic platformer in a lot of ways.
This time around they added a very silly story with some very silly characters starring in some very silly cutscenes. I was initially turned off by the story and the pointless cutscenes, but over time I learned to like the expanding cast of goofy characters, and the silly tone of the whole thing. (That guy with a notepad for a head is my favourite character) The level design is even better than the design in the first game, and by far the biggest jump in quality compared to the original game is the boss battles. Boss fights in LBP 1 and the PSP game were terrible, but the bosses in LBP 2 are extremely fun, and worth replaying over and over.
The game is still extremely boring to play on your own, so I highly suggest playing with a friend or sibling. I played through the first world on my own, then restarted the game and played the whole game with my brother. It was a much better experience, and helped to overlook the basic feel of the game.
LittleBIGPlanet was a lot of fun to play with my brother, and despite how short it was, it was a worthwhile purchase. However if you donít have anyone to play co-op with, you might not find it as fun as I did.
Recommendation Level: Buy it for co-op. If you canít play with anybody next to you, rent it.
The winner of the game of the month award for January 2011 goes to Ghost Trick Phantom Detective. Go buy it and experience its greatness. I might do a full review at some point to go into further detail about why itís great.
Prinny Can I Really Be the Hero? is one of my all time favourite games, but many people instantly say the game sucks for one specific reason. Prinny jumps the same way Simon Belmont does, meaning that once you jump, you cannot alter his path. Youíre committed to that arc, and if you mess up the jump, thereís not much you can do about it. This causes a lot of, in my opinion, completely unjustified hate to the game, and I am going to speak my mind and tell you once and for all why this really isnít that big of a deal.
First of all, I find it pretty unbelievable that a person canít simply adjust to it. After all, Iíve been playing the Mario games my entire life, and it didnít take all that long for me to get used to it. I feel that itís the same kind of unjustified excuse for why people say Mario Clash and the Game Cube version of Mega Man Anniversary Collection suck. So what if they swapped the jump and attack buttons? Is it really that impossible for your brain to adjust? At the risk of sounding offensive, I find the people who despise a game for this sort of thing to be quite narrow minded. When you move to a new house, you can adjust. When someone close to you passes away, over time, you can adjust. So why is it that the human brain can adjust to something so drastic, yet it canít adjust to a different jumping mechanic in a video game?
Second, the claim that there is nothing you can do to adjust your jump is completely misinformed. Compared to games like Castlevania and Ghouls and Ghosts which use the same jumping mechanics, there is a lot you can do to save yourself. While Prinny does jump in a set arc, there is also a double jump, and this double jump is the main way to save yourself. Letís piece together a situation, and see the various ways you can save yourself.
Example 1: Say youíre jumping towards a platform and you overshoot it. Rather than just falling in the pit like other games, you can use your double jump to go back the way you came and land on the platform.
Example 2: Letís say that in the example above that after you double jump in the opposite direction, you're going to overshoot it anyways. Rather than just fall in the pit, once you are above the platform you can use your ground pound attack to stop in mid air and shoot yourself straight down.
Example 3: Similar to example 2, if you think youíll over shoot a jump, you can use your second jump to jump straight up, and thus land on the platform below you.
There is a more advanced technique which one can use when it comes to moving platforms. Say that youíve used up both of your jumps, and the platform has moved out from under you. Rather than just hip pound into the abyss and kill yourself, you can make one last ditch effort to save yourself. When you attack in mid-air, you stay stuck in that spot for a brief time before you start to fall. Even if there are no enemies nearby, if you can still use it for just a little more hang time. While that time is brief, it may just be enough time for the platform to move back under you, and let you land on it. Itís not a situation that happens all that often, but itís just one more trick you can use to salvage a jump.
Those are your main methods of correcting jumps, and with practice you can overcome the limitations of the set arc quite easily.
And finally the most important reason as to why this style of jumping is perfectly acceptable is that unlike games like Castlevania or Ghouls and Ghosts, the entire game is designed specifically for it. Aside from the fact that the level design is crafted specifically for it, making it so that Mario style jumping would be completely incompatible with it, thereís another, much more important reason for it that 100% justifies it.
Prinnyís gameplay is centered entirely around patterns. Every single thing you do will trigger a specific pattern, and itís your goal to figure out what you need to do to trigger a pattern that will get you through the stage. You will die a lot, but once you find a pattern that works, you can pull it off every time. Now imagine for a moment that they didnít have a set arc for your jump, and instead had the adjusting in mid-air and momentum of the Mario games. Unless youíre running at full speed, itís very difficult to do something exactly the same way every time in a Mario game. Since patterns in Prinny are so precise, any significant screw up of a jump can completely throw off the pattern. Because of the pattern gameplay of Prinny, a consistent arc is much more suitable, and itís overall to the gameís benefit.
When you factor in the above, I find it impossible to make a convincing argument that the game is bad simply because of its jumping mechanics. Itís completely foolish to say the game would be better without it, and the continuous use of the excuse ďIím used to Mario style jumpingĒ makes me extremely frustrated. While Prinnyís jump may not be able to adjust, the player most certainly can.
Even though I love the DSi and anyone who utters the words "backwards compatibility" will get a swift kick in the shins, I can't deny that the DSiWare is a load of poo. Oh sure there are a handful of standouts, but certainly not enough to say it's a worthwhile place to buy games. However while most DSiWare games are doomed to fail, The one success story to come from DSiWare is Wayforward. When DSiWare had nothing noteworthy on their store, Wayforward came along in 2009 and gave us the absolutely brilliant Mighty Flip Champs. It was an amazingly well designed puzzle game that was not only a completely original concept, but a concept that worked so beautifully that it holds it's own against such brilliant puzzle games as The Adventures of Lolo and Downstream Panic. It was DSiWare's first must own title, and from what we've heard from Wayforward, it's done extremely well.
2010 gave us a game from Wayforward that a cult following had been demanding for eight years, a sequel to the 2002 Game Boy Colour game called Shantae. Shantae: Risky's Revenge was put up on DSiWare for a somewhat steep 1200 points, but that extra cost was well worth it because it's not only just a good DSiWare game, it's a good Nintendo DS game. Risky's Revenge rivaled even the most amazing of retail DS games what with it's outstanding sprite art, incredible soundtrack, and awesome gameplay. It was the sequel that everyone wanted, and it is DSiWare's showcase title.
After Risky's Revenge, the thought never even occurred to me that Wayforward could be working on another DSiWare title, even though it was incredibly obvious that they would be. In the February 2011 issue of Nintendo Power, that thought finally crossed my mind when an exclusive preview for Mighty Milky Way was shown. Itís a spiritual successor to Mighty Flip Champs, and that has me quite excited.
To be honest Iím not super hyped yet since I havenít seen any footage, and I donít quite understand how the game works from just text alone, but the interview with Sean Velasco was the most intriguing part for me. One question asked was ďWhat makes it a spiritual successor to Mighty Flip Champs?" The answer had me in thought for a while.
To sum it up, Sean said that they had to create requirements for what goes into a ďMightyĒ game. They listed some requirements such as ďcute girl protagonist, actiony puzzle levels, retro sound effects, a loud colour palette, and copious nonsense.Ē This means that they now have the idea of what a ďMightyĒ game should be, which hopefully means that the ďMightyĒ games will become a series, much like the bit.trip games.
Hopefully it wonít be long before more news of Mighty Milky Way is announced, because Iím most certainly interested. I expect this will be a 2011 release, seeing as how in the interview they said they had been working on the concept for over a year. If so, letís hope itís as good as Wayforwardís previous DSiWare titles, because it would be awesome to have a great DSiWare title from them three years in a row.
Prinny Can I Really Be the Hero? is one of my all time favourite games, and I feel it gets misunderstood an awful lot. Sure Prinny was difficult, but if you can get past that youíll find a great game with a ton of replay value. My play time on Prinny CIRBTH is 71+ hours, and Iíve done pretty much everything in the game. With a game that I adore so much, it would be quite difficult for any sequel to match it. Well Prinny 2: Dawn of Operation Panties, Dood! has been released, and guess what? It doesnít hold up to the standards of the original. Iíll fully admit that I havenít completed Prinny 2 yet, but I HAVE played through the first six stages where you can choose them in whichever order you like. So whatís wrong with this follow up? Well letís take a look.
First of all, letís take a look at the main character, and compare him to his counterpart from the first game.
In Prinny CIRBTH, Prinny was naÔve, stupid, and carefree, but he was also a nice guy for the most part. The fact that he was on such a dangerous mission, yet so accepting of it made him a strangely hilarious character. Sure his comrades were getting murdered, but for him itís just an ordinary day at work, and still has a pretty bright attitude. His voice was also a joy to listen to, not just because he had a lot of funny lines, but because all of his emotions were completely over the top. He was all around a really likable character, and he was a character that I was really rooting for the whole way through. Everyone likes an underdog, especially when the underdog is a nice guy that is deserving of a reward.
The Prinny in Prinny 2 had none of the traits that made him likable in the first game. His voice was changed to a more generic voice which decided to ditch most of the over the top emotions, and instead of a bright carefree attitude he was hit with the asshole stick and now spews insults and back talks with every other line. Now granted an asshole character can be great fun so long as the insults are funny, but they donít even get that right. Much like everything else he says, his insults are so bland and emotionless that they just make me want to punch him. Due to all of this, Prinny isnít likable, and I donít want to root for him anymore. Iím rooting for Etna to blow his brains out so he canít be a dick anymore. You know a Prinny is unlikable when youíre more willing to side with ETNA than it.
Next on the list is the feeling of accomplishment. Prinny is a notoriously hard game, but one of the big reasons why itís such a joy to play is that every victory feels like you just got your report card back and saw that you got straight A+ marks. A very big part of that feeling of accomplishment was the victory music when awarded with something. The victory song after beating a boss, the song on the results screen, and the song when getting a netherworld award all feel extremely victorious, and as you sit there listening to it you feel that youíre slightly better than everyone else.
Now in Prinny 2 that feeling of accomplishment is severely decreased because none of the music sounds all that victorious. It takes one of the best parts of Prinny 1, and makes it much worse. I realize that saying ďthe victory music isnít as goodĒ sounds like an extremely petty complaint, but unless youíve played both games, you really donít understand just how big of an impact it makes.
Whatís worse is when you get a netherworld award. The netherworld awards are special medals you can get for pulling off significant accomplishments, such as simply beating the game, to getting 50 S Ranks. In the original game these are such a joy to get because you work so damn hard for them, but the victory is so great that you really feel proud. A camera crew comes up to you and awards it to you, and thereís a great song in the background that Iíd always sit and listen to for a while. Now in Prinny 2 the camera crew is still there, but the music is completely bland and not celebratory at all, and the camera crew now has distracting voice acting. Adding those voices really hurts that victorious moment somehow, and rather than feeling proud about getting an award, I just felt annoyed when I had to listen to the hostís annoying voice. As I said, this all sounds petty, but believe me when I say itís a big issue.
However probably one of the biggest issues for me personally was the addition of stage specific hazards. Now a lot of people complained that Prinny 1 had very little variety, and to this day I object to that. After all, did the original Super Mario Bros. have much variety? Did Ninja Gaiden have much variety? Just because Prinny was on more capable hardware and had the possibility for more variety, didnít mean it was really required. The stage specific hazards in Prinny 2 were not only poorly handled, but one in particular threw away everything we had been taught about how to play Prinny.
Prinny is all about patterns. Everything you do will result in a set pattern, meaning that once you figure out where to stand, when to jump, when to attack and so forth, you could discover a pattern that could get you through the stage no problem, and once you found that pattern you could do it every single time. Thereís a certain stage in Prinny 2 where thereís a thing in the background that shoots fireballs at you, and you can stop it from shooting for a brief time if you hit certain switches to attack it. Itís not a big deal at first, but at the final checkpoint thereís a part where you have to do some vertical platforming while that thing shoots fireballs at you. No matter how hard I tried, I could not find a pattern that worked, and it dawned on me that it was shooting them at random. I might be wrong about that, but no matter what I tried, I couldnít get it to shoot in a consistent pattern.
Because of the way Prinny is designed, thereís basically no room for twitch reflexes. Unless you know exactly what to do, the chances of you making it through the stage are slim. When a game that centers around patterns suddenly throws in something thatís completely random, the game completely falls apart. Itís completely unfair, and thereís no excuse for such a poor choice.
Another problem with Prinny 2 is the story. Now of course it seems unfair to criticize the story in a platformer, but I have a good reason. In Prinny 2 the goal is to retrieve Etnaís stolen panties, and for the first six stages you get a rare item at the end of them to put in a trap to lure the thief. In the original game the goal was to collect ingredients for the ultra dessert, and since the sort of items you often got were things like monster toenails, it was much funnier that they were being put in food, rather than just a trap.
The final thing that stinks about Prinny 2 is that in the normal mode you now only have two spare hits before you die. Three hits and youíre dead. In Prinny 1 you got four hits on normal mode, and it was possible to regain health through a combo meter. This design is still in Prinny 2, but it has been turned into the baby mode. This is really unfortunate because the health system in baby mode is a much better design, but the levels themselves have been made easier too. It strikes me as a bit of a kick in the face that they disguise a poor design choice as ďhard modeĒ.
But in the end, is Prinny 2 bad? Well Iím not entirely sure how to react to that. In the eyes of a lot of people, Prinny 1 was bad because it was just too hard, and at first glance had a lot of poor design choices. However once you sit down and get into it, you may be surprised to find that itís actually a really well designed game, and that some of those ďbadĒ design choices actually work to the gameís advantage. I donít think the same can be said for Prinny 2. The bad design choices they made for the sequel are simply bad, and no matter how much I love the original, I cannot excuse these choices. My advice? Pick up the original game, and ignore Prinny 2. The complaints above may seem petty, and most of them only really apply if youíve played the original, but if you have played the original, trust me when I say they really add up. Prinny 1 is just a better designed game, and thus I cannot really recommend Prinny 2.
Because Iím lazy I have decided to NOT include relevant pictures in this blog, and instead just post pictures of random stuff on my hard drive.
2011 has a lot of good stuff coming out in January, but the year got started off with a Wii exclusive platformer called ďLost in ShadowĒ. This was a game that had been talked about for a very long time, and was delayed at least once in order to polish it up. It was in a lot of issues of Nintendo Power, and it seemed like a game Hudson was putting a lot of effort into. The game made me interested enough to buy it, and thus I entered the world of Lost in Shadow. Is it good, or should it stay in the shadows?
Now keep in mind this is not an actual review. So far Iíve only played about three and a half hours, so this is more of a first impressions than a review. However I feel Iíve played enough to give some insight on the game. Why am I doing this before beating it? Well, mainly because I have a strong feeling I wonít be finishing this game.
So the game starts with a very pretty opening cutscene where a young boy dies and his shadow gets separated from him. After that there are no more CGI cutscenes, which is kind of a bummer. The basic idea is that since you are a shadow, you can only traverse on the shadows of objects. Thus we get an interesting visual style where there are objects in the foreground, but you have no physical interaction with them. At first itís a bit confusing to pay attention to the shadows and not the foreground objects, but you quickly get used to it.
The first few stages consist entirely of platforming with some very basic puzzle elements thrown in. As I said earlier, you canít physically interact with the foreground, but what I didnít mention is that your little fairy friend can. Using the pointer on the Wii-mote, you can use your fairly to interact with certain objects and move them around so their shadows suit your needs. If you find yourself in a situation where you canít progress anywhere, chances are good youíll have to find an object to interact with to create a new path. Itís pretty nifty, and it further increases the cool factor of the concept of traversing the shadows.
Later on youíll pick up a sword, and as you can guess, this is where the enemies start to show up. As youíre probably already aware from other reviews, this is where one of Lost in Shadowís downsides comes into play.
The combat in Lost in Shadow is probably its biggest downside, at least at first. At the beginning of the game youíre extremely underpowered, and it will take many sword swipes to down the simplest of enemies. This wouldnít be so bad if not for the fact that after your combo of three slashes, and depending on the enemy, even after your first slash, youíre completely defenceless since it takes a little while before you can slash again. This meanís youíll likely get hit unless you take the strategy of slash once, run away, and wait for another chance to slash. Fortunately killing enemies gives you experience points in yet another case of COMPLETELY pointless RPG elements, so as you level up youíre able to kill enemies much more easily.
One thing that I should say is that there was one level early on where I simply HAD to turn down the difficulty to easy because I was still underpowered, but the level was completely SWARMING with enemies, and I died many times because I couldnít defend myself. The enemies were way weaker on easy, so if you want to get through the earlier stages without too much trouble, switch it down to easy for a few stages. After I had played on easy for a while, I decided to just keep it at that level. Call me a wuss if you want, but Iíve got better things to do than replay your long stages after dying near the very end for the fourth time.
Lost in Shadowís other weakness is that there is very little variety. They introduce a handful of mechanics relatively quickly, and then they donít do anything different for a long time, until you get to the first boss. This isnít really a bad thing as the levels are still enjoyable to play if you just do one or two in a play session, but even when you do take breaks, it gets monotonous after a while.
I mentioned a boss fight above, and I have to give the game a lot of credit and say that it was extremely awesome. Iím gonna spoil it, so skip the following paragraph if you donít want to know about it.
The first boss isnít technically a boss fight. The boss is a shadow monster with arms and legs sticking out of it, and all you can do is run away from it in terror. The only way to put distance between it and you is to not only run as fast as possible, but to hit switches that create patches of light. The monster will be stuck at the patch of light until it fades, and thatís when you have to get moving and not mess up your jumps. If you dawdle for too long the monster will catch up to you, and itís these brief moments where you see the monster that make you want to poo your pants. After all, if it touches you even once itís an instant kill, so you want to get as far away from it as possible, and never let it catch up.
Yahtzee of Zero Punctuation once said that a monster stays scary the less you see of it, and this game is what truly made me understand that. While it can also be scary to see the monster, not seeing it can be just as scary, if not more-so. He also mentions frequently that itís scarier to be completely defenceless, and this boss also proves that to be true. Lost in Shadow is not designed to be a horror game, but this one boss fight was so genuinely terrifying that Iím willing to call it one of the scariest things Iíve ever seen in a game. (Though keep in mind I never play any horror games, so to most people this will be extremely tame)
Sadly, after the boss fight it was back to the same old stuff I did in the previous levels. Donít get me wrong, the atmosphere and art style still make them interesting enough to play through and have fun, but if you donít get as engrossed with the style as I do, you might find the game just flat out boring.
Now from what Iíve heard they introduce a cool mechanic later on, but I have yet to encounter it. I assume it has to do with the sparkly parts on the ground that I havenít been able to do anything with yet, which would explain the collectables I donít have access to yet. Iíll most likely have to re-play old stages to get those items once I get the new power. I just hope it isnít too long from now, because Iím honestly getting a bit tired of what the game has to offer at this point.
So in the end, do I recommend Lost in Shadow? Itís hard to say. Obviously I havenít played until the end, and thus thereís still a lot of stuff I havenít seen, but aside from that boss fight thereís not really anything in this game that Iíd say you have to play the game for. That boss is cool, but itís not enough to buy the game, and it has most likely been done more effectively in other games. However if youíre looking for a Wii game that you can pick up every once in a while and play a level or two, that is when I can recommend Lost in Shadow. Itís a great time killer, and itís great for distracting you when waiting for other games to come out, or waiting for a phone call or something. However if youíre looking for an outstanding game that youíll want to play all in one sitting, youíll want to look elsewhere.
If you were to ask me which Pokemon game is the best out of the entire franchise, Iíd blow your mind and say Pokemon Ranger. Iíve been playing the Pokemon series ever since Red, faithfully shelling out my money for nearly every game in the franchise, and after Ruby and Sapphire came out and officially stagnated the series by being lazy uninspired piles of vomit, I couldnít help but feel like Iíd been abandoned. So I mostly ignored Pokemon after that, only stopping by to play Pokemon FireRed. Once the DS came around I started buying every Pokemon game again, starting with Pokemon Dash which was awful, then Pokemon Mystery Dungeon which was awful, and then Pokemon Trozei, which was somewhat good if not just for introducing Lucy Fleetfoot, which despite her art style is easily the coolest main character of any Pokemon game.
After those three games I decided to skip out on Pokemon Ranger and just wait for Diamond and Pearl which would further stagnate the series. However I couldnít stop myself and I eventually bought Pokemon Ranger not knowing anything about it, and I am incredibly glad I did.
As I said at the start, Pokemon Ranger is easily my favourite game in the Pokemon series. It replaced the boring press (A) a billion times and go into a coma gameplay of the RPGs with fast paced action where you circle Pokemon with the stylus in order to befriend them. This may not sound like the most amazing idea ever, as many people are quick to dismiss it and say ďall you do is circle PokemonĒ, which is somewhat true, but itís a hell of a lot more fun and interesting than having the action of channel flipping disguised as an RPG.
So before you start throwing plastic Pokeballs through my window with death threats inside of them, let me go into further detail about what I like about Pokemon Ranger. As an added bonus, Iíll also talk about Pokemon Ranger: Shadows of Almia and Pokemon Ranger: Guardian Signs. So as the title of this blog suggests, this is a retrospective of the Pokemon Ranger series.
To begin with, letís look at the main characters. You can choose between either Solana or Lunik, and seeing as how Iíve never played as Lunik, Iím not sure if it makes any real difference to the story. However seeing as how Solana is the coolest heroine in the Pokemon series right after Lucy Fleetfoot, I always take her, not caring if the story is different without her. Afterall, Iíd rather play as an awesome female character than be forced to play as an awesome male character. I mean, you just donít see enough awesome heroines in games, so thatís why I usually choose the girl when given the option.
Anyways, what I like most of all about Solana is that sheís not a kid. In the RPGs youíre always a ten year old, (even though they look about seventeen) and while that was perfectly fine when I was young, now that Iím older Iíd much rather play as a character more my age. Solanaís age varies from source to source since I donít think she has ever been given a specific age, but judging from how she looks in the game, the show, and the manga, she looks to be in her early twenties. This makes her much more relatable, and it also suits her role as a Pokemon ranger. After all, young kids shouldnít be sent out on dangerous missions, so it makes sense that the characters would have to be older to get a job as a Pokemon Ranger.
The other thing that makes Solana a much more appealing character than the RPG heroes and heroines is that her sprite, along with all the other people, actually looks like a human being. In the RPGs they are all one tile sized chibis, and while that style certainly works well enough, theyíre hard to take seriously after seeing much more sophisticated and realistic sprites in the Ranger games.
Next on the list is the story. While it still wonít win any awards and is still pretty light-hearted, itís most certainly more edgy and better told than other Pokemon games. It actually has structure, and the story progresses all the time unlike the RPGs where you can go through three gyms and nothing happens to further the plot, which is virtually non-existent in the first place. Itís still a bit silly, and it has more than its fair share of dumb dialogue, but the final boss is so cool that it really makes the final part of the game epic. Though if you already know who the final bosses are, it wonít have as much of an impact on you as it did on me.
Next is the difficulty. As mentioned before, the Pokemon RPGs have next to no strategy unless youíre battling competitively, and while the Ranger games have very little strategy except circle things really fast, the bosses and even some of the standard encounters are difficult enough to warrant some planning out. Most of the time you can bull crap your way through bosses by just using Plusle or Minunís Pokeassist to stun them for a free chance to circle, but if you challenge yourself to not use Pokeassists, or at least not use Plusle, you have to do a bit more planning.
For example, thereís an encounter against a Steelix that is one of the harder bosses in the game, and you have to be sneaky when fighting him. Itís completely possible to get him without an assist, as I have done it, but most people will want to get some help. If you donít want to use Plusle, a good strategy is to get a Jynx and a Medicham. Use Jynxís assist to make Steelix hover in the air, and then use Medichamís assist so each loop is worth two loops. It makes it a lot easier.
If you use Pokeassists for every boss, it will make the game a lot easier, but it will still present some problems if you donít choose the right ones. The real challenge though is beating bosses without assists. The very final boss in particular is way more fun if you donít use any assists, as are most of the bosses. Oh sure youíll probably die a few times, but it makes catching them a million times more satisfying. Though if you can manage to catch Scizor without an assist, Iíd like to see that since to this day I canít do that.
The last thing on the list that I really like about Pokemon Ranger is that itís short. If all you want to do is get to the end credits and not do any of the after game content, it will take you maybe eight to nine hours to beat your first time through. My most recent play through the game was a mere six hours and fifty-three minutes. While that may not sound like a good thing to most, just trust me. Itís a good thing.
The above are the main things that make Pokemon Ranger the best in the series, and of course the fact that the game is simply a lot of fast paced intense fun. It was a new take on the series, and it was a great idea when you stop and think about it. The RPGs consist of people capturing Pokemon and forcing them to fight for their amusement. The Ranger series on the other hand involves people befriending a Pokemon long enough for them to help protect the environment, or if necessary, thwart the big bad guys. Once they get the Pokemonís help, they let them go back to where they came from. Itís a concept designed specifically for the parents who wonít let their kids play Pokemon because they disapprove of the ďanimal crueltyĒ of the main series. And if itís this much fun, I most certainly support it.
After Pokemon Ranger, I had regained faith in the Pokemon series, and was excited for Diamond and Pearl. To briefly sum it up, they were decent, but in the end brought me back to the conclusion that the Pokemon series was beyond help. However the disappointment of Diamond and Pearl didnít stay in my mind for too long, because it was announced that a new Pokemon Ranger game was in the works. I was the most excited I had ever been for a game, because I had thought that Pokemon Ranger would just be a one-shot that theyíd never go back to. However they decided to make another one, and I couldnít have been more excited. Pokemon Ranger Battonage was released in Japan, and I had to wait a really long time before it was brought over to North America. However it finally got here, and I rushed out to buy it. Little did I know that it would be one of the most disappointing games of all time.
The first warning bell went off when I found out that Hal Laboratory who co-developed the original game was not involved with Shadows of Almia. I didnít think much of it, but it was certainly troubling. The second warning bell went off as soon as I got to the title screen where they were playing recycled music from the first game. ďOkayĒ I thought, ďso they cut corners a little bit. I donít mind.Ē These were just small complaints, but as time went on, I found out that they had changed a lot of very important things.
As I started the game I was frustrated to find that I was a younger character in a ranger school, and thus I not only had a less relatable character, but I knew that Iíd be stuck in this school area for a while before I got to go out and do anything semi-interesting, and by ďa whileĒ I mean two friggin hours. And throughout these two hours I want you to play a little drinking game that will more than likely kill you if you try it. Take a SIP any time someone says the words ďfriendĒ, ďdreamsĒ, or any variation of them (friends, friendship, dream) I guarantee you will be puking within the first half hour. I emphasize SIP because if you took a full shot you wouldnít make it through the first ten minutes without puking. (Though that might happen even without the alcohol)
*If you are not of legal drinking age do not play drinking games with actual alcohol*
You know it wouldnít be SO bad if things got exciting after those first two hours, but thatís just until you leave that damn school area. And if youíre dumb enough to put up with it and read ALL of the text, it might take you anywhere from two and a half hours to three. Really itís not until six hours in that you get your first important mission and the game gets exciting. In the first game the game is almost OVER at that point! This segways into my next complaint. THIS GAME IS TOO EFFING LONG.
As I said, Pokemon Ranger will take you at most eight or nine hours to beat on your first play through the game if you just want to get to the end credits. Pokemon Ranger: Shadows of Almia took me twenty-five hours to beat. That is simply too long for what Pokemon Ranger has to offer. I barely remember anything about Shadows of Almia because throughout the second half I was just in a trance, not caring about what was happening in the game, but rather just mindlessly playing to see the end credits. Out of those twenty-five hours there are only a handful of areas that I can honestly remember. I donít even remember who the main villain was. To put it simply, the game was extremely boring, and Iíll tell you the main reason, which is also the main flaw with the game. They dumbed down the combat.
In the original game you have to loop the Pokemon without interruption, meaning you have to capture it all in one shot. If the capture line gets attacked, hits the Pokemon, or you lift the stylus, you have to start all over. This was the main aspect that made the original game challenging and fun. In the sequel there is a bar that fills up each time you loop the Pokemon, and once you fill the bar, you befriend it. You CAN get attacked/hit the Pokemon/lift the stylus without having to start over, but if you wait around for too long without looping, the bar starts to decrease and youíll have to fill it up again. However youíre given a lot of time before the bar starts to decrease, so it usually isnít a problem. In order to make this somewhat difficult, they decided to make each capture take many more loops than the original game, which basically just makes the pathetically easy fights go on way longer than they should. Since the combat was so easy I never ONCE needed a Pokeassist in Shadows of Almia, which made it so there was none of the strategy of the first game. Circle really fast, lift the stylus when youíre in danger, wait for a safe chance, then repeat.
So when you combine forgettable characters, a boring story, pathetically easy and boring combat, and stretch the game on for 25 hours with nothing interesting happening for the first six, you not only ruin everything good about the first game, but you just overall make an extremely boring game. Pokemon Ranger Shadows of Almia was NOT worthy of the Pokemon Ranger name, because the Pokemon Ranger name should insure quality. Pokemon Ranger Shadows of Almia sucked, and it would forever be a puke stain on the entire franchise.
Oddly enough it wasnít too long after the second game came out in North America and destroyed any hope that was left for the Pokemon franchise that a third installment in the Ranger series was announced for Japan. When I heard about it, I simply laughed it off and didnít give it a second thought. After the second game, I was genuinely shocked that they were going to make another. How on earth could they possibly redeem themselves after what they had done? The game was announced for a North American release, and I still shrugged it off. Once the release date started to draw near though, I got curious about it. After all, I went into the second game with such high expectations that it was bound to disappoint no matter what. However after Ranger 2, I genuinely had no idea what to expect about the third one. I didnít expect to hate it, and I didnít expect to like it. With this totally clean slate, I could go into Pokemon Ranger Guardian Signs with the same frame of mind as I went into the first game. Knowing nothing about it, and not having any expectations. I decided Iíd buy it and try it out, and I am so glad I did.
Right off the bat Pokemon Ranger Guardian Signs fixed a huge problem that both games had. As much as I hate on the second game for taking a long time to get started, the original Pokemon Ranger took itís time getting exciting too. It took about two hours before it really got going, but unlike the second game where it took two hours to leave the first AREA, and then four more hours to get to exciting stuff, the first game simply took two hours to get exciting. Guardian Signs is clearly aware of that problem, and throws tons of stuff at you as soon as you start the game, and never lets up. The first thing you see in the game is you high in the sky riding a Staraptor and chasing two bad guys on hover devices. You then catch some Pokemon without any tutorial, and then you dodge some bullets the baddies shoot at you. You then get knocked into the ocean, chase a Mantyke to get your styler back, and then within the rest of the first hour and a half youíll fight Celebi, time travel, and see Raikou. Needless to say, Guardian Signs is much more exciting than even the first game.
The other big problem that the first two games had that was fixed in Guardian Signs was the music. The first game had some decent tunes, but they all sounded really grainy and unpolished. Shadows of Almia simply recycled a lot of tunes from the first game, and what was new also had that grainy sound to it. Guardian Signs not only made the sound quality better, but actually had a couple of really memorable tunes, such as when youíre riding on the legendary beasts, or while fighting the Pokemon Pincher grunts. Which brings me to my next point, the villains.
awesome Pokemon Pinchers song
In the first game the Go-Rock Squad was a complete joke, and while the Go-rock Quads were at least memorable, they still werenít all that intimidating. However the final scene before the final bosses with Gordor is actually quite intimidating because, to put it frankly, Gordorís just kind of insane. In Guardian Signs itís completely backwards. The standard grunts of the Pokemon Pinchers are actually more intimidating than the higher ranks. They have the more threatening and awesome music, they look like what a normal villain (by cartoon standards) would look like, all dressed in a black uniform rather than a Dragonball Z villain with a dumb costume, and while some of them fall to comic relief, theyíre actually more serious in tone than the main villains. I think the big problem with the main villains is that the main villain keeps changing. In the original game the main villain was Gordor, and it STAYED that way. There were no plot twists where it turned out there was someone more evil, it was just Gordor. In Guardian Signs the main villain changes so many times, and it keeps changing right up until the cutscene before the final boss. Because of this I had no time to get intimidated by the villain because I didnít know who to be intimidated by. Sometimes itís better to just keep things simple.
Now Guardian Signs DID keep the dumbed down combat of the second game, but they fixed it up a bit to make it more interesting. The boss fights made it so you were now pretty much required to use Pokeassists, which sometimes felt a bit like it was just lengthening the fights, but at least spiced it up a bit, and they added to a few things the second game introduced. They also had some pretty interesting boss fights, the coolest of which was a boss fight with a Ditto. Iíll let you figure out why that was cool.
Whatís interesting about Guardian Signs is that while it did keep the easy combat, it didnít feel as monotonous because the story was so exciting that I didnít mind the fights being over quickly. The game also benefited from being severely chopped down in length, only taking fourteen hours to complete rather than twenty-five. It was longer than the first game, and right at the very end it did sort of seem to drag, but it at least ended when it was out of stuff to throw at you. It was just slightly too long, but for the most part, it flew by pretty quickly.
Pokemon Ranger Guardian Signs was a worthy sequel to Pokemon Ranger, and did the name proud. Itís still not as good as the original, but it was enough to redeem the series in my eyes. I highly doubt there will be a fourth game, and I kind of hope it stays that way. Iíd rather have the Ranger series end on a high note than suffer through another Shadows of Almia.
Iím on my sixth page of text in Microsoft word, so Iíd better end this. Iíll wrap this all up by saying if you want to try the Ranger series, play the original first, and if you want more, go play Guardian Signs. Both of them are great games, and I highly recommend them. Just stay away from Shadows of Almia, unless you want to try that drinking game.