Note: If you're looking for the anime of the series, go here.How can you describe Monster Rancher? Take the Mons fad of the late Nineties and early Noughties. Throw it into a simulation/management game. Add an action-oriented battle system unlike just about anything else out there, a unique method of obtaining monsters, and some truly unforgiving gameplay. Put it all in a blender and press "puree." Season to taste with a few odd RPG elements, and you have the Monster Rancher series in a nutshell. note Or perhaps a pumpkin shell, considering the Panchoes...Monster Rancher (known as Monster Farm in Japan) is a console and handheld RPG franchise that combines the heart-pounding battling action and cute critters of a Mons series with the strategy and challenge of a simulation and management game. The premise of most games? You (yes, you, the player) have recently become a "monster breeder"—someone who raises and trains monsters to, well, do what monsters generally do—to fight. Monster battles are an extremely popular sport, and there's good money in raising strong monsters and winning lots of battles. You have a farm or ranch (as the title implies), and every week, you and your monster engage in some activity. You can train them by putting them through exercise routines, go battle, and, occasionally, go on adventures to various regions. The ultimate goal? To Be a Master and win the ultimate cup of the game, whatever that may be. But nothing lasts forever, and eventually, your epic monster will grow old—you must either retire them, or "fuse" them into a new, baby monster and start again. Although a few games have deviated from the basic formula slightly (most strikingly, Monster Rancher EVO which is one long Unexpected Gameplay Change), but in every Monster Rancher game, you know you'll find certain traits.The series has gained some renown among gamers for its extremely unique means of obtaining monsters: Rather than running out and catching them, as is the case in most Mons series, you create monsters from "saucer stones." And what are saucer stones? Ordinary CDs and DVDs! By reading something known as "subcode data" off of CDs, games in the Monster Rancher franchise create monsters from pretty much any disc you can stuff into your Playstation. When the series progressed to the Game Boy Advance, it switched to using "passwords" (simple combinations of letters and numbers). And when the series went to the Nintendo DS, it got three new methods of monster creation: Sound (by using the DS microphone), drawings (using the DS touchscreen), and, in a nod to the originals, by reading the data found on GBA carts in the DS's GBA slot.Despite its semi-famous gimmick, though, Monster Rancher itself remains something of a cult series, at least in America. (It's pretty well known in its native Japan, though.) It did spawn its own late-90's anime series, though, and it did air stateside. If you're looking for a brainier Mons game, you could do worse than this series—Monster Rancher Advance 2 is recommended if you're a total newbie, as it's relatively forgiving compared to other Monster Rancher games.And it's still only relatively. Another thing about Monster Rancher games? They're hard. Really hard. This is partially due to their depth—despite looking fairly simple, there's a lot that goes on in the background. There are, in fact, entire websites dedicated to plumbing their depths. Here's a pretty good one should you happen to need one. And you most likely will—trust me.Monster Rancher isn't a series to everyone's taste, unlike say, Pokémon, but if you get into them, they're actually quite rewarding. There's nothing quite as satisfying as beating an enormous fire-spewing, skeletal white dragon with an adorable, pink-fuzz-covered little girl-monster called a "Pixie."Not to be confused with MonsterHunter. If you should find Hunters on your Ranch, be prepared for some intense territorial disputes.Monster Rancher Evo, Monster Rancher Hop-A-Bout and Monster Rancher Battle Card Game now have their own pages.
The games provide examples of:
Action Commands: They're not quite standard "action commands," but the battle system is action-oriented without the games being full-on action-RPGs.
After the End: In the distant past, there was a horrible disaster that caused the gods to send down monsters to help people. Some monster descriptions (especially in 2) suggests that the "ancient age" was, in fact, our own. Other games, however, don't seem to have this, and are just set in an Anachronism Stew world of their own.
The more typical cover art variation appears too. The most noticeable is for Monster Ranchers 4. The Japanese cover◊ is cute, bright, and colorful - just the protagonist running with an array of monsters. The American cover◊ has a Suezo glaring intensely at us with a blocky picture of the protagonist and some monsters in his eye, set to a black background.
Art Evolution: Some of the monster's designs have changed so many times, it's hard to figure out which is the "canonical" version. Many monsters have gone through an art shift or two, but there are some standouts:
Mew: Its original form had a much smaller head, looked as much like a bear as it did a cat, and was called "Nya." Later games flip-flopped between just how "plush" it was—it went from "not very plush at all" (such as in 3 and Advance 2) to having a gingham pattern, and its button eyes fluctuated between designs.
Plant: The Plant originally had three flower heads, with a much different, 3-petaled design, as well as a mouth on its torso with no lips. Later Plants had just one, giant flower, with five petals and lips on its body-mouth.
Golem: You wouldn't think that you could do much to change a giant rock monster, but both its "connectedness" and its head have changed a lot. Golems have ranged from having a very humanoid, Egyptian mask-like face to a simple, flat rock with eyes on it, to many in-betweens. In some games, the rock parts of its limbs visibly float apart, while it others, it's fully connected unless it's doing a special attack.
Color Pandora: Originally depicted as one big caterpillar, with the three "parts" of it only splitting up for certain attacks. It had small noses and more generally "cute" faces. The version in 3 split it up into three parts, and was even cuter, with no noses at all. Later games gave them huge noises, and significantly cut back on the cute.
Joker: Quite possibly the most variable one of the lot, the Joker changed almost completely from its first incarnation—where it was mostly corporeal, and had a Monster Clown face—to its second, where it became a floating spirit with Raymanian Limbs and a blank mask face. Then that changed into a fierce, floating humanoid head.
Art Shift: Monster Rancher 3 was the first entry to drastically redesign the monsters' appearance, skewed towards Kawaii. Perhaps best represented by the Jells, which went from humanoid slimes to 'cuddly' balls of goo.
Artificial Stupidity: In any battle where your monster is forced to "fight for itself," without your instructions—well, let's just say you'll swear they were never that dumb when you were training them.
Awesome but Impractical: Due to their high cost and frequently low accuracy, super-powerful moves tend to be a lot less effective overall than smaller moves used more frequently.
Awesome But Practical: Many monsters have particular move like this, usually because it's both fairly strong and fairly accurate, if not the strongest or most accurate. Things like Tiger's Blizzard, Phoenix's Fire Wave, Suzurin's Aim Boom... most monsters have at least one, making too many to list.
"Blind Idiot" Translation: Various games across the series have had translation quirks, but the standout is probably Battle Card for the Game Boy—the whole thing is a mess of pea-souper Engrish.
Monster Rancher 2 had quite a few, including such gems as "I wonder it buds the flower?".
Body Armor Color Dissonance: In official art, and in the Game Boy Advance games, Zans are depicted as being a teal color (and in the GBA games, even create dark teal hybrids). However, in the console games, Zans and their hybrids are black! We don't get it either.
Boring but Practical: Consequently, spamming your opponent with many smaller moves can be more effective than trying to pull off big ones. The downside of this is that you need to be accurate, or you won't be able to KO the enemy fast enough.
Withering tactics. Using guts burning moves to make your opponent unable to attack or only able to attack with low-class moves.
Blood Knight: Jokers often ask you to participate in fights, and enjoy it thoroughly.
Bonus Boss : Lots. There are monsters that come from bonus tournaments after becoming Master rank, secret matches, post credit battles, unlocked monsters, and more. However the second game is still the king of this trope. There's the enemy class monsters from errantry(Rank A and S) and Legend Cup (the infamous Most and White Suezo). The IMA vs FIMBA match is notable since it's not only hardest in the entire game, it's also the most Guide Dang It.
Advance 2 has a notable one in Ragnaroks. It's only accessible by raising a specific monster, but is necessary to unlock a few Dragon types.
Brother Chuck: Unlike Pokemon, which adds old monsters to new ones, Monster Rancher shuffles its cast around, with some monsters vanishing (and others suddenly reappearing after a long absence). With 71 total breeds and only about 20-30 coded into each game, odds are that your favorite monster won't be available in a new game, unless you happen to like only the mascots Suezo, Tiger, Mocchi, Pixie, Hare, and Golem.
Quite possibly the most bizarre case of this is Advance 1—Hare, considered the most popular monster in Japan and one of the series' staples, wasn't present! It was back good as new for Advance 2, though.
Continuing Is Painful: Although you won't necessarily get kicked out of a tournament if your monster is KO'd (unless it's explicitly a tier-style tournament), your monster may get severely injured if it's KO'd.
In the first game in the series, if you had low enough will when receiving a blow of sufficient power, your monster could die in the ring.
Continuity Nod: Lots of references to earlier games in the series pop up throughout the games, and species that haven't been heard from in several games may suddenly be referenced (or even become available) again.
To unlock Phoenix in Advance 2, you need to raise members of five specific species and gain their "orbs." These five species—Mocchi, Suezo, Tiger, Hare, and Golem—were the five protagonist monsters of the anime, and it references their role in finding the Phoenix.
In the first Monster Rancher Advance game, you can get a White Mocchi by using the password "Most"—the name of the infamous White Mocchi Bonus Boss in 2. Same case with "Pabs", from the name of Most's owner.
The code "Tesla" produces White Suezo, as a nod to Poritoka, the Bonus Boss in 2.
In 2, it's stated that a dragon called "Ragnaroks" was responsible for the destruction of the ancient world. In Advance 2, you get to raise a monster version of The Chosen One to fight it and keep it from destroying the world again.
Creepy Doll: Wracky from 2. The first time you get it, your assistant not only is freaked out by its appearance but is quite disapproving of its character. Even better, she names it Charles, a Shout-Out to Child's Play.
Crutch Character: Exaggerated (and possibly parodied) with Sueki Suezo in 2. It has maxed out life and defense, one speed point, and other stats that are awesome for a monster straight from the disc. It dies in a week.
Darker and Edgier: The plot of MR4 addresses the problem of monsters being abused, mistreated and experimented on. Your trainer has a Dark and Troubled Past, and so does your assistant Rio. Then there's her visions of monsters being crucified by an evil army.
Ironically, MR 4 actually does away with the death feature despite being Darker and Edgier. Of course, this isn't necessarily a bad thing...
Disc One Nuke: In MR2, using the a save data from the first game, you can transfer your monster from the first game as a newborn monster in the second game, albeit with an altered stats to logically match a newborn monster, which is based on how good the first game version are. A properly trained monster from the first game can produce a monster with a much better stats than a newborn monster that you get from the Market and the Shrine, which make the early part of the game much more easier.
Alternatively using the first game as a Disc Stone in the second game produces a Sueki Suezo who has MASSIVE all around stats including one maxed stats. The Sueki Suezo can only survive for one week, but you can use it to win a couple of Tournaments, including the Free-for-alls to get an extra cash to work with. It is also useful to unlock a couple of a monster breeds.
In the Advance game, entering a proper password can give you a great monster even early in the game. Of course, the problem is the fact that having said proper password without a guide turns it into a Luck-Based Mission.
Early-Bird Cameo: Monster Rancher Explorer, a GB spinoff game, "previewed" several species of monster before they showed up in the main series: Octopee, Gitan, Pancho, Psyroller/Rhinoroller, and Suzurin.
Early-Installment Weirdness: The first Monster Rancher game features Dinos instead of Zuums, a strange design for the Mew (here called Nya), and no Mocchis... among other things, like training taking the form of odd jobs and errands that earn you money. It's rather bizarre in comparison to other games in the series.
Ditto with Colt in 2 (her full name being Coltia) and Cue in the Battle Card spinoff (her full name being Curie).
Evil Counterpart: The Jokers are the evil counterparts of the Gali—both are floating robes with a mask for a face, but Galis have a sunny, godlike appearance (and are even hinted to be gods incarnate), while Jokers are dark, bloodied, and are said to be too fierce to be thought of as normal monsters.
Expy: Quite rampant in the early days of the series. A few of the more "redundant" monsters seem to have been resigned to the "obsolete" bin due to their expy nature, though a Continuity Nod or two will reference them again. In particular:
The Zuums replaced the Dinos in every non-spinoff game since the first. Spinoffs still used them, but as of Monster Rancher 4, it seems to have been Ret Conned to a subtype of Zuum.
The Undine is essentially a watery expy of the Pixie, with no wings and a Jell-like body. Both are also Cute Monster Girls. Since the Pixie is one of the Big 6, it stayed around while the Undine has been somewhat forgotten. (In fact, in 4, there's an ordinary Pixie subspecies called Undine now.)
The Beaklon and the Worm are both brown insects with big horns, while the Worm is more "larval." In fact, it was possible to carefully raise your Worm to become a Beaklon in MR2. They also tend to create similar styles of subbreeds. The newer Beaklon has remained while the old Worm has only popped up in the online games.
The Momo (3) has a very similar raising style to the Kato (2), with very high Speed and decent Attack and Int, but low Defense and Life. They also have some similar attacks (sharp claws, tail whipping) and both carry Iconic Items (Katos have bottles of sake/"oil", Momos have giant walnuts). However, Momos are more "cute" in design.
Ghost from 1 and 2 looks like Casper except without legs, a beige tint, and a magician's hat.
Fartillery: The Hares have a "Gas" attack that does Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Bakus also have the "Foul Wind" attack, which... well, you know. Also, the Apes have their "Blast" attacks that are even more dead-on than the Hares' version.
Game-Breaking Bug: DS (the translated version of Japan's DS 2) seems to be positively riddled with them. Most of them are freezing bugs, which are nasty since resetting the game incurs massive monster penalties—the most peculiar of which involves monsters finding textureless white items during the Kawrea Volcano errantry. But one Magic Spell glitch can prevent you from combining monsters forever. Ouch.
Genius Bruiser: Dragons have very high attack and intelligence, balanced out by sub-par speed, very slow guts regenartion, and extremely short lifespan.
Genre Shift: Monster Rancher EVO, which was much closer to a standard RPG (with, uh, rhythm game elements) than a simulation game (which Monster Ranchers traditionally are).
Getting Crap Past the Radar: The card entry for the Kasumi (Pixie/???) monster says "Its breasts tend to get more attention than its battles". Could possibly averted by the fact that the first Dead of Alive game, which is required to get the monster in the first place, is rated M .
Glass Cannon: The Hares; they have high speed and physical attack, but their average HP and Defense are... lacking. On 2, Katos are intelligence versions of Hare. Suezo has good accuracy and attack stats, but lacks in speed, defense and life. In some games, a monster can't become a pure Glass Cannon due to Power and Intelligence factoring into defense calculations.
God: Oddly enough. He appears only in the backstory, however; a disaster struck the world, the people called for help, and the monsters of the game were the result. Then the monsters only caused more problems, so God, exasperated, sealed them away in disc stones.
Gonk: The current design for the Colorpandora is far less cute then its two previous designs. Although, some people find them to be Ugly Cute.
Good Bad Translation: Some of the series' less-good translations over the years have gone on to become classics. "Durahan" is an example of Japanese Ranguage, but calling the monster "Dullahan" (after the actual mythological creature it's based on) would just feel... wrong. Similarly, the Hare/Pancho cross has been called "Jackoranta" since its first appearance, even if that has the same problem.
Hard Work Hardly Works: A sort of meta-example in DS. In all the previous games, the idea has always been: even if you're training a Gali, Monol, or Magic—which are supposedly gods in human form—you have to train hard and work a lot to get a truly butt-whooping monster. Then the DS game introduces the Xenon species, which is better at everything and can dominate with its basic attacks due to their high damage, accuracy, and Guts drop rates. Sorry, Gali...
Happy Birthday to You: In 2, Colt comes up with various... uh... "creative" birthday songs for your monster. The monster doesn't always approve.
In DS, it's worth noting, the devs got away with using the lyrics to Happy Birthday, but not the melody.
The Mew is just a stuffed kitty brought to life...with wolverine claws. One of its attacks involve shacking a rattle in front of an enemy with one paw as a distraction before stabbing him in the face with the other.
The Ducken is a children's wooden block toy in the shape of a duck. It tends to fall apart when it's disappointed.
The Doodle is a living stick figure. It attacks by blowing up its own head, summoning giant stiletto heels from the sky to stomp on its opponents, and by running them over with a chicken on wheels. No, really.
The Monol is even better. It's a giant floating faceless rectangular slab of rock.
And your Mons are nameable too. Which can cause abuse and giggles, like with Colt, your assistant in 2 saying things like "My butt is well".
Subverted in 4; while you can name your character whatever you like, your character is only male, unlike the previous games whether you can choose to be male or female, and later revealed to have a Dark and Troubled Past.
Holiday Mode: DS uses this with a weird combination of Video Game Time. In the in-game week that would correspond to your real-world birthday, you'll get a free gift—so if your birthday was August 25th, you'd get a present in the fourth week of August.
Hot Librarian: One of the characters in MR 4 tries to invoke this (she claims her boss likes it when she dresses that way).
Idle Animation: Very nice "standard" animations for all the monsters, too.
Improbable Weapon User: Not only do some monsters attack with things like yodels, walnuts, and bells, but there's an entire species of monster (the Monol) that is pretty much its own improbable weapon.
Inconsistent Dub: Is it Ducken or Dakkung? Colorpandora or Koropendora? Zuum or Zoom? To say nothing of the "Mew/Nya" debate, where the fandom is still divided on whether or not they're separate species.
In 4, the Ancient Documents you can collect are filled with misspellings and a complete inability to keep the gods' names straight... even in the same entry.
Similarly, even in games which use the "Colorpandora" rendition of that particular monster's name, they still tend to use "Koro" to refer to the original monster units (Like the Puppy Koro).
Jack of All Stats: Mocchis. Unlike many other monsters, which have large spikes in certain stats and large drops in others, Mocchis have fairly balanced stats all around, and even their "weaker" areas don't tend to be too terrible. Zuums as well.
Averted with the Phoenix species in 2, which just fly away to 'return to nature' whenever they get too old, what with Phoenixes being known for their reincarnation, and all. The effect is pretty much the same, though. They never return.
The same might be said for Metalners, except instead of flying off to unknown parts of the planet, they fly back to their home planet.
Lightning Bruiser : Tons of them based on stats growth. Xenon in the DS game are some of the more notable example. Surprisingly, Mocchi is naturally this in the second game. Other than that, combinations can result in this both starting stats wise and stats growth wise.
Wracky in 2, especially by this trope's standards. He has pathetic starting stats and is a pain to raise. He can be one of the most lethal Fragile Speedsters in the game if trained right, and he has the longest lifespan in the game.
Colorpandora. Pathetic stats, but REALLY good and varied movepool and a long lifespan gave it a huge potential.
Mana Drain: Guts drain, actually. Loads of moves use this.
Mighty Glacier: The Golem species. Their attack is so high, they can defeat many monsters in one hit—but they're sssssoo ssssslow...
Beaklons are pretty much an insect Expy of the Golem. High attack. High Defense. Slow as molasses.
Durahans are also incredibly strong and tough, with their horrible speed being their only real weakness. Unlike Golems and Beaclons, they won't miss constantly due to a decent skill stat. They also have longer lifespans and are easier to raise.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Central to the main plot of 4: Phayne took the fall when his friend Wit broke the school's biggest rule and read the forbidden book. Wit goes on to unseal and revive the ultimate evil.
Nintendo Hard: One of the many common complaints among casual gamers, which reduced the series to cult status. They've gotten slightly easier recently. Slightly. The first two Playstation games, however, were absolutely merciless.
No Export for You: The first DS game was never released outside Japan. However, thankfully, its sequel was released in August 2010.
Unfortunately, the same can't be said for Monster Farm Online, the MMORPG. Even if you go through the trouble of singing up for a Japanese account, you can't play it because it blocks all foreign IPs.
No Fair Cheating: Turn off the DS game without saving, and the monster's combining potential will be drastically lowered.
Obake: The Baku species, although they don't seem to bear much resemblance to their mythical counterparts. Also, the Ripper species.
Our Mermaids Are Different: The Undine species from Monster Rancher 2 have a rather transparent, Jell-like appearance and can even float in the air. They are similar to Pixies but tend to favor a lot more magical attacks than physical ones.
Palette Swap: More or less every monster was this in the Advance games. They all had different stats and growth patterns, though.
Pamphlet Shelf: The Ancient Texts in 4 are supposedly ancient books that you can have translated for you. Volumes average two to four 'pages', usually with only one sentence per page.
Rare Candy: In various installments of the game, there are items which are basically steroids: You can stuff your monster full of them to increase their stats, but it greatly decreases their lifespan in the process.
The DS game provides a tamer varient with the Ability Fruits. They increase one of your monster's stats by a small amount. However, since they can be found in large amounts on errantries, you can in fact earn some decent stat gains from exploring.
Shout-Out: A variation in some games, where certain discs will result in exclusive monsters so close to the title or subject of the disc that it's blatantly intentional. For example, a Dead or Alive game disc creating a Cute Monster Girl based off series heroine Kasumi, or the Rush Hour soundtrack giving a "Kung-Fu Bunny"
And you get a living samurai armor suit called a "Shogun" with "Brave Fencer Musashi" in 2.
There's a handful of titles that will produce unique monsters. Most of the mons produced from these discs often had names that were obvious puns on the title or artist. Just from the original game you had Gallop from Patti Smith's Horses, Tank from The Clash's Combat Rock and Gooaall! from INXS' Kick.
Errick in DS, after Cleo misinterprets his mumbling as talking about a "curse," says a curse might not be so bad: "Black magic woman..."
Password system in advance. The system has a special calculation to generate the monster, however sometime this can result in some words resulting in special monster. There's also in game given password that produces special monster that doubles as Shout-Out. For example a variation of Kenshiro's infamous battle cry produces a special Raiden, a martial artist bird species.
Silent Scapegoat: MR4 has the hero, who took the blame when one of his friends stole a book of forbidden techniques, and got expelled from the academy over it.
Spam Attack : The series has several moves that can upgraded into its higher level version, many of which are this. The second game, instead employs a system where you need to use the same move over and over again until it reach the necesarry number that is required to learn the upgraded version. Essentialy, you need to spam attack to learn a spam attack.
Speaks Fluent Animal: Your assistant in MR4, Rio, can understand monsters. And she was despised by many for this in her childhood.
Squishy Wizard: The Pixies, who have very high Intelligence (thus powerful magical abilities), but low Strength, Defense, and Life. They're pretty fast, though.
Stalker with a Crush: Errik from DS. More or less the first words out of his mouth? "Definitely not a stalker!"
Stone Wall: The Monol species. Both figuratively and literally.
Niton from 2 also qualifies, but in a figurative sense, of course.
Super Mode : Every game has special status effect that give status modification or special effect to a monster in specific condition. Theres some that is a species exclusive. In the second game, two is available to every species depend on how good/bad they are.
Joker's Real status effect is a good example. When you are having a huge advantage (mostly by hitting with your moves several times in a row), Joker get a huge status buff and damage/hit rate/evasion buff to every stats for a limited time. It's also a case of Power-Up Letdown and/or Deadly Upgrade though. When it ends, you get a huge penalty on your stats so much that if it happen early in the match, you might as well forfeit, making it a sort of Heroic RROD (or in this case, Villainous, since Jokers definitely aren't of the heroic type).
Too Long; Didn't Dub: The Suzurin species' name is a Japanese pun that doesn't particularly translate well into English, so it stays despite not meaning anything in particular in English.
For the curious, the pun: The Suzurin is a monster made out of bells, which also happen to make it look like it's wearing a robe. Its overall outfit resembles a Japanese feudal suzeran lord. That's the first part. The second part is that "suzu" is Japanese for "bell," while "rin" is the onomotopoeia for a bell ringing.
Unexpected Gameplay Change: Pretty much the entirety of Monster Rancher EVO falls into this category. It changed the training/raising with gadgets to mini-games in a circus. So, now it's up to you the player to determine how well they do by button mashing.
Unusable Enemy Equipment: A number of games, such as 2 and 4, feature special monsters that show up either as wild opponents or bosses. While you can get info on them, you can't use them for yourself. Especially frustrating in 4, because those bosses frequently represent past species, but you can't get them.
Use Your Head: So many species of monsters have headbutt attacks, it isn't even funny.
Video Game Time: The games use a timeframe based on years but while your ranch can run for well over a hundred years, the characters stay the same. In fact, in MR Advance 2, your assistant, Holly, will always say that she was a representative of the monster league FIMBA until "last year"—even if she's been your assistant for decades!