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Pokemon Ranger: Shadows of Almia
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this Pokemon game de-emphasizes combat in favor of "befriending" Pokemon and capturing them for a short time so that they can help players solve environment-based puzzles. Players capture wild Pokemon by drawing circles around them with the stylus, but can also use other Pokemon to stun the target Pokemon. Some of the capture techniques include using electricity to shock the Pokemon. Some Pokemon are aggressive and will attack the player, but it's because they're under the influence of a strange machine. Players can use the Ranger Net service to download addition missions through the Nintendo DS WiFi connection if they're within range, and can also trade Pokemon with friends.
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What's it about?
POKEMON RANGER: SHADOWS OF ALMIA is the second game in the Pokemon Ranger action/role-playing game series. You start out as the newest student at Ranger School, where you learn the ropes alongside your friends Keith (who also wants to be a ranger) and Rhythmi (who wants to be an operator). Eventually you'll graduate to become a full-fledged Pokemon Ranger and will be able to go on missions and quests to help resolve Pokemon-related issues, such as why more and more Pokemon seem to be behaving abnormally.
"Combat" in Pokemon Ranger is very different to the other Pokemon games. Instead of selecting a Pokemon from your stash to do battle with wild Pokemon in a turn-based environment, players use the DS stylus to draw circles around wild Pokemon to capture or subdue them. Pokemon can attack and drain your Stylus meter, and if it reaches zero before you're able to flee, you'll lose the battle. You can bring a limited number of Pokemon with you as you explore, and each Pokemon has special skills that must be used to solve puzzles and progress through the game. Pokemon with the "crush" ability, for example, can destroy crates that are blocking a pathway, while electric Pokemon can recharge your Stylus meter for you.
Is it any good?
The game mechanic of having to temporarily catch Pokemon to solve puzzles is a refreshing change from other older Pokemon games such as Pokemon Diamond, which placed a greater emphasis on combat and filling out your Pokedex with hundreds of Pokemon. The story is linear but enjoyable, and the game offers a good system of helping players keep track of objectives and their location on an overhead map. Shadows of Almia isn't a huge leap forward from its predecessor, but Pokemon fans will enjoy it.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether it's more fun to actually have adventures with the pokemon, or to just try to catch as many of them as possible as in the other, ealier Pokemon games. What's your favorite type of Pokemon and why? Why do you think the Pokemon franchise is still so popular after all these years?