If there was one game I didn't expect to play at Nintendo's Fall Press Event last week, it was Pokémon Ranger: Shadows of Almia. Not only because I haven't kept up on the series much since Diamond and Pearl, but I also managed to somehow skip over every mention of its existence. Whoops!
"Pokémon Ranger: Shadows of Almia looks to offer more action-based, puzzle-solving fun than you can shake a stylus at..."
Oversight aside, I was only able to get ten minutes with Shadows of Almia thanks to its silly auto-shutoff timer, but I could see that a lot of what made everyone love (or hate) the original Pokémon Ranger was still intact. My journey began at the entrance to a giant Pokémon reserve, and it was soon made clear to me that a fire had broken out, and it was my job, as a complete novice, to save the entire PokéForest. All right!
As I made my way into the area, the first Pokémon I came across was an iconic Pikachu. For those who never played the original Pokémon Ranger, you don't directly engage in turn-based battle with Pokémon in the same way you do in most of the series. Instead, in Ranger you must feverishly draw circles around Pokémon in order to convey your innermost feelings of love and peace. This allows you to "borrow" them and use them like items to help out your character and get through certain tricky areas, solve puzzles, and otherwise bring peace back to the region of Almia.
Given that there was a fire going down, I knew that I needed to locate some sort of water-based Pokémon to put it out. As I bumbled around circling Pokémon for dear life, I finally came across a Squirtle that allowed me to use it as a firehose, quenching the thirst of the relentless fire ravaging the wilderness. Before my Pokémans had the chance to pat me on the back for being such an awesome ranger, my game reset and it was time for the next savior to step in and rescue hordes or Pokémon from danger.
As a sequel, Shadows of Almia seems to keep most everything intact from the previous game, while adding in a few bonuses here and there to make up for the original's shortcomings. While the original only had a smattering of "partner Pokémon" that used their TM-like attributes to get your ranger out of sticky situations, Shadows of Almia features one Pokémon from each type (17 total) to help you along your adventure. The "circling" mechanic seemed to work a little better than I remembered in the original, but it was hard for me to tell if it was just my mad skills pushing me ahead, or if the game had actually been tweaked in response to some of the original's critics.
As with most Pokémon sequels, Shadows of Almia looks to be more of the same that will surely delight those looking for another solid adventure. If you've tired of the same ol' turn-based combat that's been with Pokémon since the beginning, Pokémon Ranger: Shadows of Almia looks to offer more action-based, puzzle-solving fun than you can shake a stylus at when it hits stores on November 10. Here are some new screens to tide people over.