March 25, 2008 - We at long last have an answer to the age old question: what happens if you try to play Pokemon Ranch without having a collection of Pokemon from Diamond & Pearl?
The answer is, a whole lot! The WiiWare service's launch Pokemon title in Japan may be a glorified tool for managing the Pokemon from the DS titles, but it also offers something for the Pokemon fanatic who's starting from scratch.
Pokemon Ranch hooks up with your DS via Wi-Fi, allowing you to transfer your Diamond & Pearl collection over for viewing in full 3D in a ranch environment. You can do all sorts of things with your new 3D friends, including making them interact with your Miis and with the toys that you place around the ranch. You can take pictures, which can be saved to an SD card and sent to your friends. You can also invite friends to your ranch in order to show off your collection.
So what happens if you don't have your copy of Diamond & Pearl handy? It turns out that the game starts all players off with six starter Pokemon, Pikachu included. From then on, the ranch manager, Yukari, adds a new Pokemon to the family at the start of every day.
Even with the freebies, there isn't too much to do when you first start off Pokemon Ranch. In fact, the game initially limits your control over the action. You initially have access only to an "auto" mode of movement, which switches views automatically between things on your ranch. It's only once you've reached a high-enough level with your ranch, which you do by collecting more Pokemon, that you gain access to a free movement mode. This lets you freely move your view point and force Pokemon and Miis to move around.
In short, most of your initial time with Pokemon Ranch will be spent starting at low polygon models of Pokemon. If that doesn't excite you, you'll probably want to start your WiiWare collection off elsewhere.