Monster Rancher 4
|Editor Rating:||6/10, based on 1 review|
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After two PS1 hits and one PS2 game that's better forgotten, the fourth Rancher takes a very back-to-basics approach. The idea's the same: raise cutesy monsters (five at once this time), enter them in tournaments, and have them tag along with you in adventures across a generic RPG land. Where MR4 differs is in the approach--instead of navigating menus, you actually control your critter-lovin' scamp this time, running him around the ranch and spending quality time with your herd. The adventures are much more RPG-like, too, with dungeons and hidden areas accessible only by certain monsters. Unfortunately, just like in MR3, none of this gameplay is fleshed out enough. Simply put, the game's stupidly easy--you can take your first five monsters, raise their power and speed stats aggressively, and use them to whiz through the entire story. Despite this miniscule challenge, the game still takes up mounds of time: Tending to a full five monsters feels more like work than play, and the dungeons are vast, empty and repetitive. I think Tecmo had the right idea here, but it didn't quite follow through.
MR3 was so disappointing, I began to think it was time to put the series to sleep for good. But this fourth title is a step away from the needle. First off, MR4 ditches the craptacular cartoon look from the previous title in favor of traditional visuals. The gameplay's deeper, too--Tecmo's added features like real 3D dungeon exploring, multipart training regimens for your beasts, and the ability to raise multiple creatures. Now, all Rancher needs to do is break from its tedious, menu-driven shackles.
Unlike Kevin and CJ, I loved MR3. It was my favorite of the bunch--and it still is. There was a purity to the gameplay and the, er, "craptacu-lar" graphics that I really enjoyed. That's why MR4 is a bit of a letdown. As a whole, the game seems to offer much more than its predecessors, with its dungeon-crawling side quests and customizable ranch. But taken separately, each of these new elements isn't very impressive--or fun. It's still Monster Rancher, though, and it's still great for fans like me, but it's not the step forward I was craving.