Many gamers see the Pokémon series as a child’s franchise. While hardcore Pokémon players can’t use the anime and the slew of spin-off titles as a good defence, the Pokémon franchise has sent millions into a "collect ‘em all” frenzy with as much depth and longevity as any other mature RPG. So it’s a little disheartening to see a Pokémon title hit the shelves without really knowing where it places itself.
On first appearance, Pokémon Ranger: Guardian Signs looks to be a fairly decent RPG that follows a new type of Pokémon handler. A Pokémon Ranger is someone who, instead of battling Pokémon, befriends them using a battle-like system. Should a Pokémon attack, a Pokémon Ranger pulls out his ’styler’ and starts drawing circles around them to show the Pokémon affection. Once the Pokémon has been shown sufficient friendliness, it calms down and can either join your wandering troupe or be released into the wild again.
It sounds easy, and it is. While the Pokémon you’re befriending occasionally attack (though they can’t actually hurt you), their attacks can damage your ’styler’ simply by touching your friendship circle, should your ’styler’ run out of energy, it’s game over. Extra layers of ’combat’ do materialise, with the ability to call upon Ukulele Pichu to calm enraged Pokémon with his rocking melodies, and the ability to bring any of your ’captured’ Pokémon into the friendship battle. The attacks of captured Pokémon speed up the ’friending’ process.
Let’s not beat around the bush: it should’ve been a fight system with actual battles and captured Pokémon. There’s something rather tame about the system used in Guardian Signs, and it comes off as a way to open the franchise to people who aren’t keen on beating up animals. Combine this with the fact that, while the story is semi-decent, the dialogue feels like it was clearly written for 8-year-olds, and you’ve suddenly alienated anyone in their teens or later who was actually looking for a new Pokémon game.
The graphics are dated, the sound effects are VERY dated and it’s fairly simple to blast through, all within a decent length. But at the end of the day, it's just not a title that I could recommend to anyone over the age of 12.