Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher Review – Calling All Kaiju

    Title: Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher
    Developer: Koei Tecmo
    Release Date: October 19, 2022
    Reviewed On: Switch
    Publisher: Bandai Namco
    Genre: Monster Sim

Monster Rancher has always been a franchise that I wanted to check out, and thanks to the newest release in the franchise with Ultra Kaiju, I finally had the opportunity to do so.

Developed by Bandai Namco, Ultra Kaiju sees you playing as a Monster trainer set on the Island of Istur, which used to be home to numerous Kaiju, some of them similar to previous monsters in the Monster Rancher series. At the same time, some are actual Kaiju seen from the Ultraman movie franchise, such as Zetton or Gomora.

However, due to the kaiju’s size and destructive nature, the residents of the Island suffer from their reign of terror until Ultraman, known as the Giant of Light, appears to them one day to seal all of the Kaiju in disc stones to stop them from destroying the Island.

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The disc stones were sealed away until they were discovered again one day and used to tame and train the Kaiju so they could live together peacefully with the residents of Latour. The Trainer that you play as is one of these people, having recently graduated from a Monster Breeder Academy, although they need all the help they can get to train the Kaiju of their choosing.

Helping them is Monster Rancher mainstay, Holly, and a monster farmer named Kanezo, who helps run the player’s kaiju ranch along with his grandmother Teresa.

The Ranch is where most of the training with your Kaiju takes place, where you can do various activities with them to train them for tournaments that your Kaiju can take part in for cash rewards, as well as raising your breeder rank.

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However, you can’t raise your Kaiju forever, as they age in the game, and after every three or four years, they will eventually stop fighting and retire, causing you to get another memory board to raise a new kaiju in their place. Therefore, you can only raise one Kaiju at a time unless you decide to fuse or sell it off to the Monster Association.

Memory boards in Ultra Kaiju are one of its main mechanics, which take the form of UFC cards you can buy in real life that you can place on your switch to summon various Monster Rancher monsters and Kaiju to raise. The Monster Association also offers monthly free monsters that you can raise if you don’t have any memory board cards.

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One of the first activities that you can do is to send your Kaiju out to do “drills” around Latour, which involves having your Kaiju do various kinds of training to help raise their stats, such as moving trees or cooking food and the more that you train a Kaiju in a particular area in Latour, they will eventually mark it as their territory. However, they will eventually get bored of the area and demand a new place to do their drills.

Sometimes rogue Kaiju will appear to decrease the monster’s territory, allowing you to battle them to increase their stats further. How well your Kaiju performs during these drills also depends on the fatigue state that they’re in. The lower the fatigue, the more likely they will fail the drill even if they’re in their preferred scenery. Failure to train correctly will make your Kaiju angrier, or they will slack off unless they rest for an in-game week.

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At the start of every month, you can give your Kaiju a variety of food for it to eat, as well as add certain spices in it that will improve your Kaiju’s performance in the coming month, such as having a slower chance to become fatigued during training or increasing or decreasing their weight. Feeding them the wrong food will cause their intrigue and anger to increase, so choose what they should eat wisely.

In certain moments, should you feel as though your Kaiju hasn’t impressed you, you can scold them, which will cause them to listen to you more, but in the process, they will grow angry. However, you can also encourage them, too, if they feel they have let you down, which will decrease their anger.

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Kaiju have an anger meter, which increases the more a kaiju is tired, eats food it doesn’t like, or is scolded. Should the meter reach its limit, the monster will go on a rampage throughout the Ranch, causing an Ultraman to appear to knock them out temporarily.

Each Kaiju can have a set of four moves called techs. You can learn a new tech by having other trainers train your monster for an in-game month; this action is called errantries.

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However, like with drills, your Kaiju will become frustrated if their fatigue is low when sending them out on errantries, so be sure that your Kaiju is energized and ready to go out before sending them out to be trained by other trainers.

You can also feed them cookies created by a woman named Faline at the nearby town that will give your Kaiju special traits that will help them improve in battle; as a kaiju ages, they can gain more trait slots that you can add traits into, you can also give them traits using memory boards as well.

Besides Faline’s bakery and the Altar you can use to summon a new kaiju to raise, the town also has the Monster Association Headquarters, where you can sell some memory boards.

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There is also a research station owned by Holly and Kanezo’s friend Dona which will allow you to fuse two Kaiju to form a stronger kaiju with stronger moves and stats.

When your monster trainer rank is high enough, you can also go on adventures for four in-game weeks, where you navigate your Kaiju through various areas to search for rare items and explore the valleys of Latour. To earn money to help raise your Kaiju, you’ll have to enter them through tournaments throughout the in-game year.

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Another mainstay in the franchise, tournaments will help gain your kaiju fame, promote you to a higher breeder rank when you win enough tournaments, and allow you to enter higher but more difficult tournaments.

If you’re worried about losing during your first few tries, you will still receive money depending on your placement in the tournament, although your monster’s fame will be lowered in the process. Tournaments will also help you gain new rivals that can help you train your Kaiju in errantries, and you can also battle other players’ Kaiju as well.

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Battles themselves consist of you moving your Kaiju left or right. The more distance the Kaiju has towards the monster, the more techs they can use to attack them; beware, however, as, sometimes, your Kaiju will become confused when using one of their techs, or their rival will end up dodging their attacks. You also can stun your rival by pushing them back to the other side of the map using the B button.

Winning tournament matches involves destroying the enemy monster or getting the most damage. In contrast, tournaments work in various ways, such as standard tournaments or gaining the most wins. In addition, some tournaments will contain notable rivals for you to unlock upon defeating them in the tournament they’re in.

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What helps make Ultra Kaiju a fun and colorful game is the music that makes it sound similar to old monster movies. It felt nice listening to the music now and again as I trained my Kaiju and its cute little animations of it wandering through the Ranch’s fields. The game also doesn’t have many faults or performance issues when playing on handheld mode, and it was fun playing on it more as the game never slowed down for me.

Although the graphics themselves were choppy at times during certain cutscenes or on the Ranch, those go away when playing on a dock most of the time, although some cutscenes still occasionally slow down. Tournament fights can become difficult at times, and a random move that can send your monster flying could also result in you losing a tournament; that means you need to train your monster harder to win more tournaments in the future.

If you’re interested in DLC and want to make raising your first monster an easier experience, then there is a starter pack to help you gain more items to help you grow your Kaiju.

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Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher is a great crossover spinoff for fans of Monster Rancher as well as fans of Ultraman. If you’re new to the Monster Rancher franchise, it’s an excellent opportunity to get into the franchise itself. Although players will be met with difficulty spikes here and again, it can be solved by some grinding with your monster.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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