Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Why Ranger 3's Multiplayer will Kick Your Butt

Written by pikaby

It's in Japanese, but usually when Pokemon Ranger is the subject, people automatically file any achievements under 'meh' and turn off the DS, seeing as both of its previous incarnations were less than challenging. But the multiplayer mode in Pokemon Ranger 3 changes all of that. For all future reference before the US release and to clear this up once and for all, I'll show you why this specific multiplayer mode is unlike those in any Pokemon game ever. And why the above screenshot is worth fawning over.

One, the multiplayer mode is completely separate from the single-player campaign. After progressing a certain amount in Ranger 3 you're introduced to multiplayer via time-traveling Pokemon Celebi. All the multiplayer missions take place in the past world of Oblivia, but you're not allowed anywhere else except for the main hub, Cocona Town. You're not allowed to bring Ukulele Pichu or any of your present Pokemon to the past, instead, you have a new set of partners which you can train and upgrade, and there are hundreds of them you can collect across all the missions. You can only have one at any set time. And your Styler is reduced to level one. Multiplayer might as well be a separate game on its own.

Top screen in the lobby, showing your unused AP, your Styler stats, and your partner's stats. Note I only have 205 Attack at Level 65, whereas in single-player you'd get at least double.

Two, it's not really multiplayer per se- you can take on the missions solo if you want to, and there's 24 of them in all. But, and this is a big but, they're still all clearly designed for co-op play, and can sometimes be way too expansive for one player to go through. Bosses have thousands of HP even from the very beginning of the list, missions may involve many split paths and different switches to press, the regular Pokemon are also harder to take down than those in the single player mode. Think of it this way- if you play basketball against a team of five players, would it be easier if you had your own team, or you played against them by yourself?

Wireless, but you can opt for a greater challenge by going it alone.

Three, the mechanics of multiplayer are not in favor of a lone Ranger. You're given a time limit for the mission, and you're supposed to complete a task (usually capture x number of Pokemon, or x number of specific Pokemon) by running around the various temples, and after finishing the mission objective, converge onto a red warp zone to fight the boss. All within the stringent time limit. All too often you'll find yourself struggling to shave off the minutes on the mission objective just so you can have enough time to even see the bosses attacks. And the time extends littered around the course don't do much to help, unless you're at a level much higher than the recommended one (recommended is for co-op, remember)

Four, the leveling up system. This is the one that will threaten to turn this part of Ranger 3 into an addictive, compulsive affair on par with the main line RPGs. After capturing a Pokemon inside a mission you're given APs, points that add to your Styler and act as experience points for the multiplayer mode, and also the points used to upgrade your feeble partner Pokemon into a formidable force. Weaker Pokemon give smaller amounts of AP and stronger ones give you more. In the first Temple, the Forest Temple, you're almost always given only one AP per Pokemon captured. Not favorable when your Styler needs 40 to level up, and your partner needs 300 to upgrade its recovery time. The thing is, you have to gather tons of AP. There's a fast way to get APs though, by getting the bonus points at the end of boss battles. Finish quickly(get an S Rank) and you're given at least a hundred APs to add to your counter. But it's still a merciless grinding affair for the solo gamer.
1200 AP? You won't freely get this many until you're at the later stages.

Five, your partner Pokemon start out weak as hell. Their stats are calculated in three areas, Assist Level, Recovery Time and Power. Assist Level is the magnitude of the attack, for example, a Piplup with Assist Level 2 will spit out more bubbles and do it faster than a Piplup at Assist Level 1. Recovery Time refers to how long your Pokemon needs to recharge before being able to come out and perform the PokeAssist attack again. If it gets hit by another Pokemon's attack, be prepared to wait a half-minute penalty before it can come back into the action, which is very, very long. And Power is, well, you know what Power is. And remember, PokeAssits no longer mean that the Pokemon is used up to power up your Styler line or give it special powers. In Tracks of Light, you have to bring the Pokemon to the arena and then the Pokemon itself will attack. If it doesn't get hit by an opponent, you only have to wait the Pokemon's regular recovery time in order to use it again. But if it does.....Like I said, a painful half-minute penalty to recover the Pokemon, meaning you're on your own.

Hundreds of partner Pokemon to collect and upgrade. With your limited AP, which will you choose?
Finish your PokeAssist without getting hit and wait a few seconds to recover
But if you do...
Be prepared to wait for a while

Six, your Styler also starts out weak as hell. Level 1 in the single player gives you a healthy 20 Attack, but in co-op you're only given 5. Five. And the most basic Pokemon, Sunkern, already has 108 HP. If you decide to just loop around it you'll end up looping 22 times before you capture Sunkern (1 AP), so coordinating loops with PokeAssists isn't just important, it's a definite must, for that extra attack power. Your Styler gains on average, one attack point every time it levels up. Yep, just one. It's only until you reach level 40 and above that it starts to increase by a bit more. And the enemy Pokemon? These aren't bosses, they're regular affairs:


Lairon (3 AP): 1680 HP
Girafarig (4 AP): 1300 HP
Vaporeon (6 AP): 2236 HP
Rampardos (14 AP): 6621 HP with Rage meter of 796 HP

If your Styler has let's say, 40 Attack per loop, Rampardos is going to step you into the ground and waste your time. And if your vital PokeAssist gets hit, well let's just say you'll have to tough it out.

Seven, the Rage Meter makes things tough. This new addition to Ranger 3 serves to balance out the fact that Pokemon in single player can later on be captured so easily you'll yawn straight over them. Certain Pokemon, mostly bosses, have this red energy bar that you'll have to deplete in order to go back to regular capturing. In Rage mode, your Styler deals only 10% of its attack power. 40 Attack per loop? 4 on Rage mode. 9 Attack per loop? Just 1 on Rage Mode. It quickly becomes an unforgiving affair in multiplayer. The only way to deal regular damage to a boss while in Rage mode, is to use your PokeAssist. Predict the boss' patterns, otherwise if your Pokemon gets hit, AND your crappy weak Styler has to deal with the Rage meter at sharply reduced damage with the clock still counting down....you're basically screwed. It takes a lot of skill to get it right on the later missions, especially when boss Pokemon start to aim their attacks at your Partner when it comes into the arena.

See that red thing? That's the Rage bar. Not to be confused with the Rage Candy Bar

Eight, any conveniences in single player are all but absent here. Your Styler doesn't get more powerful if you loop more than five times in a row, you can't charge it up for extra power unless you're with a mate, and the overpowered 'Paralyze' status which plagued Ranger 1 and Shadows of Almia has been greatly toned down and is now a super-rare status effect only present in a few Pokemon, and the amount of paralysis time being reduced to one-tenth of the original.

Nine, the bosses themselves. Pokemon in multiplayer have their attack patterns and power toned up from the single player campaign. What is a relatively harmless Magmortar with slow moves in the regular game turns into a nightmare boss in the Fire Temple. All of them have a wide variety of moves and crazy, creative and clever attack patterns not seen in any other Ranger game. It takes some getting used to, and some have so many restrictions to your Styler on the arena that you'll swear it's impossible in the remaining time you have left. At least until you get to at least 5 levels above recommended. And the bosses' HP? Don't get me started, I can't really count, but Drapion, the first boss, has 300 HP and 40 HP of Rage. The final boss, Arceus, has at least 80,000 HP and two Rage meters each with at least 5,000 HP.

Many restrictions and power downs, the new PokeAssist system, the Rage meter system, and the fact that you're taking on a four-man quest alone, makes for an unprecedented challenge in the Pokemon Ranger series. If you beat both previous Ranger games and scoff at how easy they are, you're in for a nasty shock if you come into Ranger 3's multiplayer and expect the same level of difficulty.

That said, it is extremely rewarding when you finally conquer that boss which you've been stuck on for weeks, and it quickly becomes an addictive sub-game to the main single-player campaign, conquering super-tough bosses on your own and itching to see what monstrosities await you next, all the way up to Arceus. In the Japanese perfect guinde for the game, the player mentioned that he spent 18 hours on single player, but over 100 hours on multiplayer! It's that good.

So I hope when Ranger 3 eventually gets released in the US, you lot won't forget about the multiplayer section, cause if you don't play it you're missing out on a crazy challenge, a rarity in a Pokemon spinoff. And now.....DIE ARCEUS.

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