LOS ANGELES--At a pre-E3 briefing hosted by Nintendo, the company presented a number of its forthcoming DS titles in playable form for the first time. One of these was Pokémon Ranger, a game that takes the conventions of this hugely successful series and applies them to a compelling little action role-playing game. While Pokémon is best known for the RPGs that defined the series, the new Pokémon Ranger seems like it might successfully borrow a familiar style with some unusual new twists: namely, the way in which you must use the DS's touch screen to catch all those pocket monsters.
The game starts off like most Pokémon RPGs, though it's immediately apparent that the visual capabilities of the DS will make for a graphically richer experience in this game than you got on the Game Boy. You play as Lunick, a young Pokémon trainer initially tasked with aiding Professor Hastings. The fairly brief demo we played allowed us to escort the Professor to where he needed to go, while fending off attacks from wild Pokémon.
Nabbing aggressive Pokémon involved having to encircle them--repeatedly at times. Drawing on the screen with the stylus forms a line, and looping around and around a Pokémon will eventually let you grab it. But don't expect to catch every one of those critters without a fight. They'll literally attack the line formed by your "capture styler," and if you take enough damage in this fashion, you'll lose. However, if you ensnare one of those pesky little creatures, you could gain a valuable ally.
Pokémon you capture will follow you around on the field view, and they may be summoned to provide special benefits during a subsequent battle. For instance, a Pokémon could slow an opponent down, or cause your capture styler to generate flaming lines on the battleground. These different twists should help give Pokémon Ranger more depth and variety.
The demo culminated in a battle against a rather imposing Pokémon that stood much taller than the others. We got to see plenty of familiar faces during the relatively brief demo, such as Pichu and Torchic, and we managed to defeat the boss in the end. Pokémon Ranger seems clearly intended to appeal to those who enjoy the RPG trappings of the series, but who are also eager to see Pokémon spin off in new directions. Look for further coverage on GameSpot.