Title: Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX
Developer: Koei Tecmo
Release Date: December 9, 2021
Reviewed On: Switch
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Genre: RPG Simulation
Unlike Pokemon and Digimon, the Monster Rancher series never took off in a big way. There were a few circles of dedicated fans, but the simulation monster-raising RPG fell into obscurity. Still, I’ve held onto hope that we might one day need our Compact Discs to unlock monsters and spend hours simply hanging out. Luckily, Koei Tecmo is here with Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX as a remastered offering of the first two entries in the series.
Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX are similar in a few areas. Both titles begin with you being a new monster trainer. You’re given an assistant who does all the heavy lifting, and you’re set loose into a fantasy world. Your first steps are to unlock a monster from the Shrine; in the original, this would be done by grabbing any CDs you have, sticking them into your console, and hoping for a monster friend to be discovered.
In this remastered version, players can use a search feature to look up the song’s title or the artist and find a list. Understand that these games came out in the 90s, so your searches should include artists such as Will Smith, Mariah Carey, and R.E.M. However, you’ll discover that some monsters are locked and require more experience.
Monster Rancher 1 is an excellent introduction to the simulation series. After you acquire a monster friend, you head to your ranch, and each week you decide what your monster does. The idea is to train your monster, raise its stats, and fight the strongest trainers around. However, that’s mostly it for general play. Each week, you train, your monster does or doesn’t do their assignment, and you move on.
With just that, you might think this is all a little too basic, but there’s so much more here. Each monster seems to have its own personality. Some are more defiant than others are just more playful, but somehow you get attached to whatever monster you end up with. Further, there’s a ton of hidden content in this game, from adventure mini-games to special discs for other monsters and a whole lot of secret items.
Monster Rancher 2 is Monster Rancher is, but more. Everything has been expanded here, the battles, secrets, and systems. A nice feature is that it’s possible to bring over your frozen monsters to Monster Rancher 2 to continue your adventure, but know that all monsters die.
It’s sad in a way, you spend in-game years with these creatures, winning tournaments, tending to their needs, finding them when they’ve lost, and so much more, only to come to a time when your assistance informs you that your friend is getting old. Welp, you’ll move on eventually and find a new monster friend, rinse and repeat. The idea is that you want to complete the tournaments and rank up, but the fun of this experience come with just general play.
This DX release could have used some quality updates for additional increases to the speed of everything. Also, as fun, as they are to watch, the unskippable animations during training get old quickly. Still, this being a Switch game, you can just take this on the go with you. However, there’s no touch screen support, which would have made things a lot more interactive.
Battles are determined by stats. It’s possible to build any type of fighter. A speedy monster that can’t be touched, a tank, or a long-ranged fighter, it’s really up to you. During a battle, you’ll see your attacks, the possibilities they’ll Hit, and the number of skill points, or Will/Guts, that you have access to. It’s pretty straightforward and engaging the more you train your monster. There are also ways to make your monster so strong that your opponent just surrenders.
There are some other nuances in the battle system that would require a guide, but someone just playing for fun won’t really need to dig too deep. I do enjoy how the monsters learn abilities on their own and the many ways to unlock new monsters in both games. In fact, you may need a guide if you plan to see everything these games have to offer, but whatever way you play interesting things are bound to happen.
Graphics are not the best that I’ve seen, but these are old games. The standard resolution is kept with ugly borders on the edges, but the sound has been updated for the sequel. Character models have had their avatar sprites updated, but the in-game assets are very hard to read sometimes.
Additional features allow you to further track your progress. Aside from the fast-forward options, you can also access random battles and track your online rank. There were also 27 new monsters added to this release exclusive to specific regions.
Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX is a very fun game that requires some patience to discover everything it has to offer. However, these systems are timeless and exceptionally balanced to provide nearly endless enjoyment. There are plenty of ways to spend your time playing with no wrong way to enjoy raising your monsters and proving your skills in tournaments.
Nostalgia might play a role here, but I think these games are a blast.
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