Monster Rancher 2
|Editor Rating:||6.8/10, based on 2 reviews|
|User Rating:||8.0/10 - 1 vote|
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PlayStation fans had a virtual pet RPG before many gamers in the U.S. had even heard the word Pokemon. Tecmo's Monster Rancher, originally released in 1997, became a cult favorite, expanding on the virtual pet craze spawned by Bandai's Tamagotchi. In Monster Rancher 2, you create monsters out of anything on the CD format--music, games, anything. Certain CDs yield special monsters--try out some of Tecmo's previous PlayStation games to get some interesting ones. Don't have a lot of CDs to use? You can select from a few monsters available free of charge at the market.
You take your newly created (or acquired) monster back to the Ranch, where you can train it and condition it to fight in battles. Win, and you'll get some extra money and raise your fame level. Lose, and it's back to the Ranch for more training. While in Pokemon, battle experience is important, in Monster Rancher, training and raising your monster carefully is more important if you expect to go far. You can "catch" monsters when on training missions or expeditions, but you won't fight other trainers outside of official competitions. As you work through the ranks, you may be recruited for special cross-continental competitions or assignments.
In the original, you watched 2D animations while training and raising a monster--that's all in 3D now. There are games you can play with your monster for fun, such as a rock-paper-scissors wrestling game and a first-person arena-style mudball fight game. If you have a monster from the original that you'd like to use in Monster Rancher 2, there's a way to transfer it. There's also a versus mode where you can battle against a friend and his or her monsters.
When battling in tournaments you can choose to control it or let it go on its own. Percentages that change next to your life meter tell you how likely it is that an attack will connect, while your Guts meter (your monster's stamina) affects how powerful your hits are. The more powerful the monster, the more powerful and graphically impressive its attacks are. The winner is determined by the percent of your life still left.
All in all, there are over 400 monster races in the game, with an almost limitless number of variations possible. If you were a fan of the first, you'll want to check out the sequel when it hits stores.
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Set aside a few months if you want to play this to completion. As a fan of the first Monster Rancher, I was happy to see the improvements made to the game--but it's what they didn't improve that hurts it. So many different things happen each time you raise a monster that it's never the same game twice. There's more variety--and more monsters--this time around. Combat has been fine-tuned, cutting down on frustration. The translation is much like the first, with some very awkward English sentences. But where MR2 falls flat is in how repetitive it is. For instance, your assistant, Colt, says the same things over and over again until you're just rapid firing buttons to advance the text. "He's stressed out," "I think we spoil him too much," "You should give him some rest," "You have mail!"--all one sentence per dialogue box. I stopped caring what she was saying, and she lost her usefulness. They should have cut down on that and instead included some kind of option to just view one report that tells you the status of your monster. I also don't understand why PocketStation support from the Japanese version was removed. Despite aesthetic improvements, MR2 is too clunky, painfully slow-paced and not intuitive at all. I liked the first game...but it's two years later, and hardly improved.
If you're going to dedicate as much time as is required to get far in MR2, you'd think the rewards would be greater. Sure, there are a couple of neat parts further in the game (getting fan mail, gaining stronger monsters, going on tricky expeditions) but all in all the experience is rather dull--like the first one in that respect. If you're a fan of the original and don't expect much from a sequel, you'll probably be into this title. But I was expecting more.
F-Tamagotchi...if virtual pet caring is your thing, then check out Monster Rancher 2. It's got a deep monster creating/raising system that can keep you enthralled for weeks...that is, if you have the patience for it. This game is strictly for folks who can just sit there and go through repetitive actions over and over in order to build up a creature (feed, train, fight, repeat). MRi fans might be disappointedly doesn't offer that much new.
You fans of the original Monster Rancher have nothing to worry about: This sequel delivers everything you liked about the first game, only better. You say you're new to MR2's super-Tamagotchi-style of gameplay? Give it a shot. It may look dull (and this certainly isn't the world's most exciting game), but MR2's repetitive formula is fun and, yes, even addicting. Despite its blah graphics and crap dialog, this thing'Ll keep you busy for a long time.