Reviews: Monster Rancher

Monster Rancher DS

DS (really, the Japanese DS 2) is a game with some issues. For one thing, it doesn't seem to know exactly who its target audience is supposed to be. The presence of more "tutorial"-type material suggests that it is aimed at newbies to the series. But the difficulty of the game (especially to someone who doesn't know the general tricks of the series), the presence of old favorite monsters (after long hibernation), and general semblance to Monster Rancher 2 suggests that it's trying to play the nostalgia card. The increased difficulty in particular seems like it's calling out to the older players, urging them back after the relatively easy EVO, for example. The handholding is bound to put off oldbies, as will the much slowed-down battle system, while the difficulty may frustrate newbies. In particular is the save system, which only lets you save on quitting—and failing to do so results in punishments that make Resetti look like a blessing. Oldbies

There's also the extreme glitchiness of the release. Glitch reports pile in, of an improperly-translated spell system (that still sometimes tries to recognize Japanese symbols), glitchy errantries, and plenty of random freezes. Considering the game was delayed a number of times, one has to wonder what happened.

This is not to say the game is irredeemable. Indeed, it has a number of strong points: The MR 2-style gameplay will probably give older players nostalgic feelings, while the introduction of things such as Overdrive and a whole new range of souped-up healing items will allow monsters to reach new heights of brokenness, and if the RNG is on your side, drills can churn out ludicrous stat boosts. Throw in the fact that combining is better than ever, and your monster pals will kick more keister than ever. Unfortunately, to balance out the player's stat gains, the dev team seems to have decided the proper solution is to make the CPU even more of a cheater.

Hardcore MR fans will find their thirst for more Monster slaked by this game, but the glitches and weird presentation beg for more. It's like bacon bits when you crave the real stuff—it'll do in a pinch, but it falls short.