Review: My Pokemon Ranch (Nintendo Wii)

My Pokemon Ranch
Developer:Ambrella
Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Storage
Release Date: 6/9/2008


This will be published 3 years and 11 months to the day when Pokemon Box was first released in the United States. Unfamiliar with Pokemon Box? I don’t blame you. It is both the rarest Pokemon and GameCube title ever published and sells on Ebay for upwards of $100. This title was only available through the now defunct Pokemoncenter.com website and I was the first person on the entire freakin’ Internet to review the US version.

Why this trip down memory lane? Because My Pokemon Ranch is the successor to Pokemon Box. Both “Games” are glorified storage devices that reward you for moving Pokemon over. My Pokemon Ranch is a no frills title that costs 1,000 Wii points AKA $10 USD, while Pokemon Box was $20 and came with free knick knacks, a GBA to GCN cable AND a limited edition ruby and sapphire coloured memory card. On the surface the two appear to balance each other out. Pokemon Box was praised by hardcore Pokemon fans who really did have to catch them all, but was considered a worthless piece of plastic by nearly everyone else. Will My Pokemon Ranch suffer the same fate, or will it stand out as a purchase for more casual Pokefans thanks to some new innovations?

Let’s Review

1. Modes

You’re probably wondering what on earth this game is. Well, first of all, it’s not really a game. There’s a little more substance and story than we saw with Pokemon Box, but the majority of the title just involves uploading Pokemon from your Pokemon Diamond/Pearl carts and occasionally getting a reward for such a transaction.

Your ranch starts up quite small, but it gains levels and room for more Pokemon as you transfer things over. The max level your ranch can achieve is level 25 and with such a feat, you receive… MEW! Wow. That is a step up from Surfing Pichu that you got in Pokemon Box, and that bloody Pichu required 1500 Pokemon rather than 999! As the ranch gets bigger you can bring over more Miis to interact and play with your Pokemon as well as toys for the Pokemon to frolic with. You can only put in so many Pokemon at a time though, so getting up to that Level 25 with 1,000 Pokemon will take some time.

The Ranch is run by Hayley and she will actually interact with your character. She is the one that gives you more room on the ranch for your Pokemon. She will sometimes give you items. She will sometimes just jabber away pointlessly. The two big things she does involves randomly chosen Pokemon.

The first thing Hayley does is offer to trade you one of her special Pokemon in exchange for a randomly chosen Pokemon. If you have this Pokemon in your lineup, TRADE FOR THE SPECIAL ONE, as each of these 22 Pokemon knows moves it wouldn’t otherwise know. A Pikachu that can use a grass attack? Not bad my friends, not bad AT ALL.

The second thing Hayley does is ask to see a randomly chosen Pokemon each day. She will make this request when you end the game for the day. The following day, if you bring that Pokemon into My Pokemon Ranch you will be rewarded with Hayley bringing some of her Pokemon in to your ranch to count towards your total, and thus give you an easier time of raising levels. These Pokemon will also have special animations, so you do get to see something new.

Most of the game however revolves around you and your chosen Mii(s) looking at your Pokemon, watching them interact with each other and playing with them yourself. You can also take pictures of your Pokemon Ranch and send it to your other Wii friends. It’s all very cute, but it is also a very passive game and it’s akin to one of those virtual aquariums most of the time.

Probably the neatest thing is that you can connect through the Internet and let your friends visit your Poke-ranch. It’s like the old Animal Crossing game but with Pokemon instead of furries.

In all, it’s a cute little game that offers you the chance to show off your Pokemon and interact with them in a whole new way. Unless you’re interested in riding a Gyarados or playing pattycake with Likitung, the game is simply a way to store your old Pokemon while scoring some ultra rare Pokemon for your collection. I personally think it is a huge step up from Pokemon Box, but it is pretty bare bones in terms of what you can do in the game, and I hesitate at using that word as a descriptor for it.

Modes Rating: Decent

2. Graphics

Okay, I know some people will think the graphics for the game are really cute. It’s chibi deformed Pokemon interacting with Mii’s. The truth is, the graphics are not that impressive. Not only is the game ugly even for a Wii title, but games like Star Soldier R and Lostwinds blow My Pokemon Ranch out of the water. If you look at the OTHER Pokemon game for the Wii, Pokemon Battle Revolution , My Pokemon Ranch ends up looking very shabby by comparison. I’d even say MPR is a step below things like Wii Sports and the other low end graphics games for the Wii.

What is impressive is to see hundreds of things show up on your screen without the slightest hint of slowdown. Watch dozens of Pokemon decide to go on a parade. Watch even more form a shape of a Mewtwo when viewed from above. It’s things like that that one doesn’t normally think of when we talk about graphics. We usually talk about the flash instead of the staying power and amount of moving objects, each with their own A.I. Although MPR definitely lacks the former it more than makes up for it with the latter.

It’s by no means a pretty game, but I do hesitate to call it an ugly game. Instead let’s refer to MPR as a stylish game that will appeal to a certain small niche of gamers.

Graphics Rating: Poor

3. Sound

Not much to say here. The sound effects and noises from the Pokemon are what we have come to expect from the Pokemon cartridges. The score of the game is quite nice, which again is what we have come to expect from the Pokemon franchise.

There’s not much here in terms of music of sound effects, but the game makes the most of what little there is, which is the most we could ask from the title.

Sound Rating: Mediocre

4. Control and Gameplay

Gameplay wise the title is as solid as you could ask for something of this nature to be. You use the Wiimote to walk around and play with your Pokemon. It’s all very cut and dry and simplistic. Once you figure out the controls, you’ll be able to figure out how to do a natural disaster or two. Don’t worry, it won’t hurt the Pokemon, but it provides a bit of visual change from the usual events.

Trading, collecting, and dispensing new Pokemon is all done with menus for the most part, and the Wii-DS interface is solid, quick and effortless.

My Pokemon Ranch is about as seamless as a game can get. Granted there’s not much too the game so that last statement is a bit misleading, but there are no glitches in the title, no slowdown, and the game is exceptionally easy to play. Highest possible marks here, just by the nature of the game.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Unparalleled

5. Replayability

For ten dollars, it’s amazing how much replay value is in this single downloadable title. You can waste a lot more time that I would have expected just watching your Pokemon run around and interact with each other. I’ve always been a fan of the strange spin-offs that have kept Pokemon from being a straight forward (and thus played out) turn based RPG franchise and this was no exception.

MPR makes for a nice background filler for when you are doing something else. It’s serene, soothing and cute, so it’s easy to just sit and watch and let your daily tension unwind as you see a Snorlax parade around or a Jigglypuff totem pole.

From your daily Pokemon brought in by Hayley, to the trading and eventual goal of getting yourself a legit Mew, you can feasibly check in on this game for a few minutes each day and keep coming back for months. It’s always a thrill to get a Pokemon with a unique (and rare) moveset and working towards that Mew is enough to keep any serious Pokemon fan tinkering with MPR.

Replayability Rating: Good

6. Balance

I was very tempted to do a “Not Applicable” here for Balance. After all, there’s no competitive A.I. Instead I’m looking at what you need to get the special Pokemon, which is an utterly random choice by the computer. Everything is utterly randomized regarding the Pokemon of the Day and the Pokemon Hayley will want in exchange for a trade. Does that mean the game is unbalanced? No, instead it gives you something to work towards. I’d definitely have considered it unbalanced if Hayley asked for a Entei in exchange for a Bidoof, but thankfully the game is designed to ignore Legendary Pokemon. This means it should be very easy for you to get the 22 collectible Pokemon in MPR without the fear of losing a true one of a king Legendary Pokemon.

The trading aspect ensures you are trading something pretty basic for a solid rare Pokemon to add to your collection. Even better, these rare movesets can be duplicated as long as you breed the Pokemon. Not bad! HOWEVER…these Pokemon will have Hayley as the trainer, so they will level up faster and also have slightly weaker stats then Pokemon with your own Trainer Code. This is all the more reason to breed them.

Although you are getting 22 Pokemon in this game, you DO have to sacrifice some of your own via trading. With Pokemon Box. you were given eggs free and clear without giving up any of your Pokemon. There weren’t as many, and they weren’t as interesting (save for Surfing Pichu) but you did have to trade a lot more Pokemon.

In the end, it’s decent trading fare and in case you don’t know anyone or can’t ever make it out to a Pokemon Day at your local Toy ‘R Us, My Pokemon Ranch is a great way to get some new Pokemon. There are some checks and balances when compared to Pokemon Box but each of the Pokemon in the game would probably go for about $5 on the Pokemon black market (Yes, there is such a thing) and Mew is worth the cost of the game alone, so not bad people. Not bad at ALL.

Balance Rating: Above Average

7. Originality

This is a pretty unusual title, but as we’ve seen, MY Pokemon Ranch is basically Pokemon Box with a lot of bells and whistles. This is the first game I’ve seen that allows you to really interact with your captured Pokemon though, and it’s the first game you can reliably, and legally, catch Mew in. Points there for making a Pokemon of that level catchable to all. Now we just need a Celebi in this fashion.

It’s interesting to see Pokemon Box spawn a sequel, and more interesting to see the new way of interacting with one’s Pokemon. It’s a weird little game, but definitely a unique title, even if it’s a nice one.

Originality Rating: Above Average

8. Addictiveness

Low marks here. There’s not much one can do with the game, and unless you’ll REALLY into Pokemon or need a good Zen focus, you’ll get bored quite quickly with watching Pokemon sit around and run into each other or perform tricks.

The only real lasting draw is bringing in the Pokemon to get the special Pokemon and the Mew. THAT will keep Pokefans coming back. Even then people are whining about the amount of Pokemon it takes to get Mew, which makes them ungrateful little babies considering you had to have 1500 Pokemon from a single cart to get Surfing Pichu and this is just 999 altogether. Pansies.

Once you have that Mew though, kiss goodbye to playing this game ever again.

Addictiveness Rating: Bad

9. Appeal Factor

Heh. Talk about your niche title. Unless you play a lot of Trainer vs. Trainer matches or you want to catch them all, there’s no reason to get this game. If you do either, this is a big big must have. I suppose if you want misfit Pokemon or a nice game to watch rather than play, that’s an option here as well. Still, MY Pokemon Ranch is the perfect definition of a niche game. Even with the amount of Pokemaniacs we have here at Diehard Gamefan, I think I’m the only one who was even paying attention to this title, much less planned on playing it.

Of course, most gamers had no idea about the special Pokemon contained within this title, so that may change. For now, this title has about as limited (and fanatical) as a well-made title can probably get.

Appeal Factor Rating: Bad

10. Miscellaneous

Perfect score in this category. Why?

Mew
Phione
Pikachu with Grass Knot
Eevee with Natural Gift and Shadow Ball
Shellos with Natural Gift and Double Team
Croagunk
Finneon with Water Pulse
Wynaut
Pachirisu with Grass Knot
Aerodactyl(!!!!) with Earthquake, Stone Edge and Aerial Ace
Lickitung with Solarbeam
Wailmer with Ice Beam
Combee
Staravia with Roost
Yanma with Ancientpower (Auto evolve into Yanmega!), Silver Wind, Hypnosis and Dream Eater (WOW!)
Snover
Shroomish with False Swipe and Spore (AMAZING Pokemon to catch those legends with!)
Ponyta
Buneary with Drain Punch and Foresight
Militank with Shadow Ball and Arm Hammer (!)
Tangela with Leaf Storm and Ancientpower (Auto level up to Tangrowth and this Tangela is LEVEL 1 when you get it!)
Vulpix with Energy Ball and a Fire Stone (!)

This is easily worth ten dollars just for the special Pokemon. Now that you’ve seen the list, if you have a Diamond or Pearl cart, hopefully you realize how awesome My Pokemon Ranch is for you.

Miscellaneous Rating: Unparalleled

The Scores
Story: Decent
Graphics: Poor
Sound: Mediocre
Control and Gameplay: Unparalleled
Replayability: Good
Balance: Above Average
Originality: Above Average
Addictiveness: Bad
Appeal Factor: Bad
Miscellaneous: Unparalleled

FINAL SCORE: Above Average

Short Attention Span Summary

My Pokemon Ranch is a very niche game that rewards long time Pokemon enthusiasts for collecting and trading Pokemon. At ten dollars, it’s the best WiiWare title I’ve played so far, but that’s mainly because I really love Pokemon and this game rewards me with gifts for my DS carts. You can’t really play this game, but you can watch it and earn very special Pokemon, some of which are worth the ten dollar price tag alone, so buyer beware before you download it. For long time and serious Pokemon fans ONLY, but they will love it.

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