Monster Rancher

Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX

These 20+ year old titles still manage to stand the test of time.

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With Pokémania sweeping the world in the late 1990s, many developer didn't hesitate to hop on the trend and produce a monster battling series of their own. Digimon and CardCaptors are perhaps the two most recognisable faces, but there were many others such as Monster Rancher that were sadly lost to time. Calling the PS1 home back in 1997, the original Monster Rancher differentiated itself from the pack, as it focused more on the act of raising monsters. It also featured a unique mechanic too where players could spawn new monsters by entering CDs (yes CDs!) into their consoles.

In total, the Monster Rancher series spawned 14 entries and sold 4 million copies, but things have been awfully quiet as of late. With the series' 25th anniversary looming there has been some signs of life, though, as Suezo - Monster Rancher's mascot - made an appearance in Super Monkey Ball: Banana Mania and a brand-new compilation for the Switch and PC was announced. Titled Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX, this double-pack combines together the series' first two outings and makes a few changes across the board to make them superior to the PS1 versions.

Right off the bat, I should set expectations straight and note that these aren't major remakes or remasters. The visuals and overall performance is pretty much identical to the two decade old originals, but a few additional features have been added. First of all, 27 new monsters are present and this includes some that were exclusive to the English and Japanese versions. A few nice conveniences have also been made, as a new high-speed mode reduces the grind and enables players to train their monsters faster, and the amount of freeze slots has been upped from 10 to 20.

Just as I mentioned earlier, much of your time in Monster Rancher is spent deepening the bond between you and your creatures and enhancing their skills. After selecting between one of three starter monsters, you'll take them to your ranch, and here you can feed them, send them out of training drills, or allow them to sleep if they are too tired. The standard training drills need thought before selecting, though, as they improve a monster's stats in one area but lower them in others. Training then is a strategic process where you must study your creature's stat profile and consider which particular stats might be lacking.

Monster Rancher
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What's the point of all this training you might ask? Well, if you're familiar with the genre you should know well. There are several tournaments that you can partake in each month and these are ranked in difficulty by the letters of the alphabet. Unlike Pokémon's turn-based style, battles here are action-based and you are only given a short time limit. You don't have full control of your creatures, but you do have several commands at the bottom of the screen you can select for different attacks. Here's where your training really matters, as creatures are likely to ignore your moves if you haven't raised their loyalty, and having a higher speed stat enables them to evade more attacks.

This 1vs1 tournament style I found to be pretty refreshing, and I felt that much more attached to my monster on the battlefield given that I'd spent time mothering it beforehand. All I can criticise on battles is that I wish the game would stop encouraging you to compete in them too early on. I found myself getting steamrolled in the first few tournaments due to my lack of preparation, but NPCs kept peer pressuring me like an unhealthy friend.

Obviously, with the Switch being a cartridge-based system, the old quirk of reaching for your CD collection to spawn new monsters is not present. There has been a workaround, however, as you can now search through a digital database and select some albums from your favourite artists (pre-1999). It's fun to see what monster emerge from different CDs, but the personal element of using your own music collection has been removed. The other way to get new creatures outside this mechanic is to freeze your old ones and combine them together in the lab. This allows you to blend the stat profiles of two monsters and its pretty hilarious to see some of the monstrosities that you can create.

Even two decades later, Monster Rancher remains an enjoyable take on the creature collecting genre that Pokémon helped establish. Spending time with your monsters and training them makes you feel that much more connected to them, and it was fun experimenting with what creatures I could create from different classic albums. This collection though doesn't completely overhaul the original two titles, so if you weren't a fan two decades ago, it's unlikely to win you over now.

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Monster RancherMonster Rancher
Monster Rancher
07 Gamereactor UK
7 / 10
Training your monsters is fun. The new version adds 27 new creatures. The action-based battling system is unique.
They are pretty much the same games as 20 years ago. The novelty of using CDs has been lost.
overall score
is our network score. What's yours? The network score is the average of every country's score

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