Review by PUhler

"Whaddya know? Monster Rancher is Japanese for repetitive..."

Monster Rancher 2 is one of those games that could have been so much more if done right. I mean, how cool is it to raise your monsters and train them to fight? Unfortunately, this very cool premise was pulled off rather shabbily, and it shows. What exactly is the problem? Well, read on and find out...

''It's no epic assault on the senses, but it'll do.''

Aesthetically, MR2 is nothing special. Nothing particulary bad or good in any aspect. The graphics look ok, though the monster models look chunky and rough, though the usage of color is handled relatively well. Your ranch looks good, and the character portraits for characters and monsters look quite nice. I really cannot praise nor revile MR2 in this respect.

Aurally, MR2 is delightful, with a, well, delightful soundtrack. The serene track that plays when you're at the ranch, the tense song that plays when your monster runs away, the rousing battle music; Tecmo did an admirable job in the music category.

The sound effects found in MR2 are nothing to get excited about. When a monster roars, it sounds like it roars; When a monster hits the dirt after a particulary violent blow, it sounds like they hit the dirt. there is nothing outstanding in this area, but definitely nothing deficient.

Sound wise MR2 gets the job done, thanks to some great music, and solid sound effects. Too bad MR2 stumbles in the gameplay department...

''As repetitive as it gets''

This is where MR2 falters. The play mechanics found in MR2 are highly suspect. On paper it sounds like a great idea: you're a monster rancher, and you raise said monster to fight in tournaments. It sounds like a cool premise, and the monsters have alot of personality, but there's a dillema... the training for these tournaments is mind-numbingly repetitive.

To train your monster, you have to have it partake in a series of different training missions; anywhere from improving your monsters defense by having him get slamed with logs, to forcing him run a few laps to gain some precious hit points, to sending him on a one-month errand to earn a new attack; there are plenty of different activities to enroll him in.

The problem is you have to perform these training missions over and over and over again, until your brain slowly degenerates into a pile of goo. Train, Train, Train, rest, Train, Train, rest, fight in a tournament; that's how the schedule usually goes every couple months for the whole game. Occasionally things will pop up, such as a scientist wanting to go on a mission with your monster, but this doesn't happen often at all. Maybe once every couple years.

Another problem with this formula is the fact that having a monster that lives more then three years is a miracle. So, since every action you perform takes up a week (training, fighting), and errands take one month, you can see that there's not much time to spare into making your monster a lean, mean, fighting machine.

Battles in MR2 are fairly fun, for what they're worth. Battles involve you walking back and forth, and mashing the attack button. There's a little bar at the bottom of the screen that will tell you what attack you can perform, based on the distance you are away from the opponent. It's a bit tough to figure out at first, but you should get the hang of it soon enough. There's really no strategy to the battles... just mashing buttons as fast as you can, occasionaly saving up your action points (think of it as your stamina) for a big attack.

I could've over-looked the repetitiveness of MR2 if the game wasn't pretty much impossible. Maybe I was doing something wrong, but three years is simply not enough time to properly raise your monster to battle in the higher classes (mainly S-Class). It's so frustrating to have your monster die when he's only half a year from competing with the big boys, then have to start up another monster. If Tecmo could've rectified this, MR2 would be a great game, repetitive or not... too bad they couldn't.

''Neat little extras and a funny translation''

There are some neat little extras in MR2. In town you can freeze your monsters, and when you have two frozen monsters you can fuse them, many times with interesting results. The coolest feature is the MR2's ability to create monsters from CD-ROMs. Yes, pop in any CD and you can get a brand spankin new monster... but there's only one problem with that... you have to beat A-Class to open up the ability to use most of the monsters you get off of these discs, and since that's nigh-impossible (to be anyways), I never got to take advantage of some of the more powerful monsters hidden away in my CDs.

I also had to bring up the translation. It's hilarious! Your cute little co-trainer, Colt (with the typical 'cute anime chick' look) has so many hacken-eyed lines it makes you wonder who the heck is translating these games!

''Fin''

Well, if you can overlook the extreme difficulty and repetition, and want a game that can really eat away your time, I whole-heartedly recommend Monster Rancher 2. If you prefer your games to be more then monotonous excersises in futility, you'll have to look elsewhere. As it is, give it a rent to see for yourself.

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Pat is suprised he's not a bigger fan of Monster Rancher 2 then he is; he is big fan of repetitive hand and wrist motions after all...


Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 01/21/01, Updated 01/21/01


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