Monday, 23 March 2015

The Glories of Monster Rancher

My girlfriend and I have a terrible secret that I am prepared to share with the world. Think of this as a Wonderings Exclusive.

We're both big fans of the old Monster Rancher game.

As a youngster I was first acquainted with the brand through the anime. You remember it right? It was the one with the weird yellow eye with a tail and mouth. And a villain whose name probably made a lot more sense in Japanese.

Evil Moo, in all of his presumably-bovine glory
If I was a pedant, which I absolutely am, I would point out that this game is actually Monster Rancher 2. The ol' "not releasing a game in the West" trick those wacky Japanese love to pull. Them lovable mischief makers.

The artist formally known as 2 is a monster raising game of the "nurturing" sort, as I like to call it. Unlike your collect-athons - the Pokemons and Dragon Warrior Monsters of the world - Monster Rancher revolves around taking a monster and taking a lot of time and effort raising only one monster at a time. It combines the visceral action of battle with the heady thrills of parenthood.

So you have a monster. You feed the monster. You train the monster. You force it to fight in tournaments, even if it doesn't want to, because food doesn't buy itself dammit, and you want a nicer house. Then, upsettingly, one day it dies.

The beauty of the game is that the raising of the monster is a time consuming process that involves difficult decisions. It asks you to balance the well being of the monster with the need to push it hard enough that it becomes a killing machine of any worth, as such you form a fairly specific relationship with each monster. After a while it seems like they have their own personality.

The really unique part of the game is your ability to create monsters from whatever miscellaneous disk you have lying around your house. Being as well acquainted with the rich Monster Rancher lore, which I am sure you are, you'll remember that monsters could be extracted from ancient stone discs. The game allows you to take out the monster rancher disc and put in a CD or a non-DVD computer game or Playstation game, and then converts that into a monster. It adds an exploration element that can be fun and surprising. It can also be highly tedious too.

There's a surprisingly low level of cuteness in the game. The series mascot, Suezo, looks like a piece of Cronenbrug body horror that has been re-imagined by a crayon wielding five-year old. I suspect that Pikachu's job is safe for the moment. Maybe this is why it's but a dim 90s memory next to the continuing behemoth that is Pokemon, but I know which one I would choose.

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