Review by HYPERMECHA
"Who Were the Parents of Dogz and Catz? Animal Breeder, Of Course!"
Animal Breeder 2 is a creature-breeding RPG that could be considered a "cute" version of Monster Rancher, or the 2D anime-style precursor to the more current "Dogz" and "Catz" game series. In 1998, Pokemon was firmly established, and pet collecting/breeding type games were coming out of game developers from every direction, some good, many bad, so it's not even really worth trying to figure out who copied who. Let's just look at this game without taking any other titles into consideration. There is an Animal Breeder 1, obviously, which I don't own (and AB3 & 4), so I can't say how similar or different this game is from the first one. Looking at screenshots of the first one, though, it doesn't seem to be all that changed, and probably only has some minor alterations to the same basic game engine, with some new options like different critters to breed.
GAMEPLAY ~ 8/10
AB2 game is in Japanese-only, and I do not speak, understand, nor can I translate, Japanese, but I didn't have too much trouble navigating myself around the game, and it wasn't too difficult, either, to figure out what was going on or being said. Every Gameboy, from the original GB right on up to the Nintendo DSL and including everything in between, is region-free, which means any game from any region can be played on a console from wherever. That's why I like the Gameboy systems so much; you can play import games without needing to do any modifications. If you've played Monster Rancher, Dogz or Catz, or Tamagotchi in any form before, then you will already have a very good idea what to do with AB2. It's a little bit like MR and a Tamagotchi combined. You start off by picking from a basic selection of creatures, some of which include, but are not limited to, a tiger, a turtle, a peahen, and snake. There are a few others for starters, but you won't get to raise the plethora of other creatures until you prove yourself with your first pet and it matures enough to mate. I opted for the tiger. Like I said, they're cute and sort of SD-style (stubby-looking) anime.
The game engine is basic, which is a good thing in this case. Too often these type games can get overly-involved with excessive details that can lose sight of the objective of the game - just to have fun. With AB2 this isn't the case. You can customize a lot, which is a plus in my book. Like I mentioned earlier, I don't speak Japanese, but I managed to navigate myself around the game fairly well once I was familiar with it, and it wasn't too hard to figure out what was being said. I made myself a chart of all the menus after some trial and error and thereafter I found myself around the game with ease.There are a few times when I was asked some questions and I randomly picked from the options (besides yes or no answers), not knowing what I was picking, but it didn't seem to have any adverse reaction and was usually something to do with what event I wanted to enter my animal in after agreeing to perform in a public competition. The menu options do change a little as you progress and other options open up to you, but the overall structure stays the same.
STORY ~ 8/10
Like the more familiar Monster Rancher, you have a helper-girl who I suppose could be considered your handler, and stops by every now and then to lend a hand and inform you of various notifications and public competitions, performances, or ratings that arise. These competitions will become available to you the more time goes by, and the more you train your pet with practice runs through things like racing, hurdle jumping, balancing acts, swimming, etc. Your animal starts off immature, frisky and undisciplined, and it is up to you to whip the critter into shape and teach it different tricks and talents so that it may go up the ranks and become popular. The more popular it becomes, the more it will win public appreciation, and the more extras open up for you. You will begin to get more credibility as a breeder. As you work out your pet, of course it becomes necessary to take care of all its necessities such as exhaustion, food consumption, sleeping, exercise, etc. Unlike Monster Rancher, however, you don't pit your animal against another to do battle. The only competition that goes on are olympic-style races and such, and sometimes shows of artistic skills like painting or singing performances.
The game is not severely demanding, nor do things progress too quickly for you to be able to figure out what needs to be done before any real "damage" to your pet occurs. You can take it easy and explore the various activities without wearing out your pet, including taking them on trips to the forest, city, or playground, or sending them on retreats where they learn to paint, or read books. Even if you fail at first with the public competitions, which you always have the option to decline, it won't drive your pet into inconsolable despair. Nothing that can't be fixed with a couple slabs of meat or bowls of milk, and a few days rest.
While the game progression is nothing that can't be supposed ahead of time, the "story" more or less writes itself depending on your performance, rather than relying on a pre-set storyline. This is nothing particularly new or exciting, but for what it's meant to do, it does it very well. The better you get at raising your pet, the more options open up for you to become a top breeder and breed some more diverse creatures. There are many unlockables, which, basically, is the whole fun of this type of game. While you want to stick with one critter and make it the best, you are driven, too, to find out what creatures you can earn due to your own prowess and decision-making. It has great potential for replayability for this reason. You have a breeder log book which records every animal you've come to own. When your pet matures and is old enough to mate, you can go to the Pet Groomer and chose the option to mate. She will pick a mate for your pet and they will come together, and if everything works out, you will have a new critter, a hybrid creature! When my tiger mated with a creature that looked something like a marmoset, the resulting critter turned out to be a cute monkey thing with large tiger paws and a tiger striped tail. There's no species-with-like-species-only mating in this game! There are 223 possible animals to get in this game, and I have only a fraction, so I can only imagine how long it will take to fill out the entire log.
GRAPHICS ~ 10/10
For an original Gameboy game, the graphics are excellent. They're not too basic, nor are they overdone, thus getting that blurry, "crowded" look that some games tend to turn into when they try to put too much detail into a tiny area. The game translates very well into color, and it was one of the games that was made specifically for the Super Gameboy, so it makes excellent use of color (no bizarre, inappropriate colors chosen randomly), and has some very cool border graphics if you DO use it with the SGB.
SOUND - 8/10
Cute music, cute sound effects, everything is adequate. Surprisingly not repetitive or annoying. For some reason, I find older GB games' music much more interesting than newer games...perhaps because it was so basic to begin with (simple midi), game developers worked to create some real memorable tunes for it. I can think of some GBA games with mind-numbing music loops that I had to turn the sound down on, but with AB2 this isn't the case. Songs change for each different area, there's a nice diversity. Good stuff for what you've got to work with.
PLAY TIME & REPLAYABILITY - 10/10
Playtime could easily go over 100 hours, especially if you're hellbent on getting all 223 monsters. The replayability factor is very high, considering that each and every creature needs, at the very least, several hours to bring it to peak form. You could easily spend 10+ hours on each animal. You have the option of putting any animal you're currently working with, at any time, in suspension and taking out any other animal you've bred, picking its career back up where you left off. What you're not able to do, is just wantonly breed through one animal after another, being that the animal needs to mature first and age a bit. This is good because it keeps the player from going nuts with the breeding option and sticking with bringing up one creature at a time. While a game like this has a bit of a repetition factor, on the other hand it also has humongous potential to be played for a very long time, and I especially appreciate that in a game. There's something, too, about these type of breeding games...they have an addictive quality that makes you keep coming back to see how many different animals you can breed, and to see how far you can take them.
OVERALL ~ 8/10
For what kind of game it is, it's a great game and fun to play. It's not perfect, it's got some flaws and repetition, but they're negligable because the fun factor is there. I'm not saying that, compared to all games of all-time, this game is a 9/10, but for a Gameboy game,
at the time it came out, it not only is a fun game but it does the whole "critter breeding" thing very well. Hell, even for today, it's just as much fun, if not more so, than the Dogz and Catz series. Monster Rancher fans would like playing this game, if they can get over the whole "which game came first" argument, and just take it at face value without comparing it with all the other poke-clones. If you ask me, I would say that Monster Rancher took its queue from Animal Breeder, and went on to perfect it with the fun of getting random monsters through CDs.
Also, if you like obscure Japanese titles, collecting older games, or the whole cutesy anime thing like I do, then this game is win. I would not say it's aimed at only a young audience; it can be enjoyed by anyone (even adults, like me!). I am a total Tamagotchi-head, ever since the very first Tamagotch hit American shores, and I never tire of cyber pets. Animal Breeder is the Dogz and Catz (and Tigerz and Dolphinz and.......) of the 90s. Unlike those games, however, you get 223 pets in one game, not only one species! There were four Animal Breeder games, all of which are floating around game importers for a very nominal price online, and *ahem* the roms can be found as well if you're too cheap to spring that 4 bucks for the actual cartridge, so what are you waiting for? Get breeding!
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 04/07/08
Game Release: Animal Breeder 2 (JP, 05/15/98)
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