Review by MisterPanda

"M-M-M-M-M-M-Monster Rancher. Monsters rule!"

Monster Rancher Advance 2 is the sequel to not only the first Monster Rancher Advance on the Game Boy Advance, but also the popular Monster Rancher series on the Playstation. The title would lead you to believe that it was a Pokémon-like title where you had to catch them all. It couldn’t be farther from the truth. Although you can try to get every monster in the game, that’s not the basic premise. In Monster Rancher, you’re actually training the monster to fight. In most catch-em-all games, it is actually the other way around. That’s what makes this monster game different from the rest.

Gameplay: In Monster Rancher, you must actually breed and train the monster of your choice to compete in tournaments. First, I will explain the process of obtaining a monster as it is very interesting. At the shrine, you must insert numbers and/or letters on a tablet. Basically, it’s like a password that you must input to receive a monster. Each password gives off a different monster. With 300 monsters, it’ll be hard to find the monster you want by randomly inputting passwords. Fortunately, once you unlock a monster the first time, you can immediately get back the same monster whenever you want. At first, you will only be able to input 4-letter passwords, but as you get to higher classes during the game, the amount of numbers and/or letters to input will be higher. Naturally, the more letters/numbers in the password, the more powerful the monster obtained will be. The diverse monsters range from Hare to Tiger to Mew to a cute favorite, Mocchi. This is a very unique system and is a great substitute for the CD method of unlocking monsters in the original Monster Rancher for Playstation.

Now, the actual breeding is what makes this game truly unique. After receiving your monster, you head to the ranch with Holly, your guide. There are a number of training exercises that increase either your attack, defense, speed, accuracy, intelligence, or life. If you register a contract with another monster, it acts as a coach to the other monsters. The training exercises that a coach helps with usually raise a monster’s stats higher than regular training exercises. Additionally, you gain a little extra of another stat, but lose a little from yet another stat.

As you breed your monster, they eventually age into adulthood. Carefully choose your training exercises as child monsters will not be able to perform difficult training exercises, though once it becomes an adult, it will perform those same exercises with ease. Also, after too much training, you will have to let your monster rest or it will get sick and need to go to the hospital. Train your monster to the fullest, because after about 3-5 years, the monster is likely to have reached old age. At that point, the only choice for the old monster is to freeze it for later uses or have it become a coach for your other monsters. Choosing the former will allow you to combine frozen monsters into super combined monsters that are usually stronger than regular monsters. Choosing the latter will allow you to have a strong coach provided you had monsters with high stats in some categories. Whichever choice you choose, the legacy of your previous masters will remain alive.

Finally, as I said earlier, you’re training to fight. And there are many opportunities for tournaments. The primary tournaments are the official AGIMA tournaments. If you win these tournaments, you move up a rank. The higher the rank, the more powerful monsters you have the opportunity to get. Many other tournaments take place and can either be regular tournaments, single elimination, specific breed tournaments, or even specific skill tournaments. Whatever the case, you’ll want to try and win the cash prize for as many tournaments as you can because buying food for your monster every month will set you back a bit.

The actual monster battles are some of the most innovative combats I’ve ever played in a game. Basically, the two monsters battling will be sent to the arena. You each have guts (sort of like MP) that progressively increases throughout the battle and is required to perform moves. Each monster can have up to 6 moves. (Your monster learns moves by sparring.) The moves usually cause the opposing monster to lose life or guts. The moves to use are either specifically used for far, normal, or close distances. The move to use depends on how far you are from the enemy. And if you time it just right, you can counter an attack from an opponent. If regular monster breeding doesn’t get you hooked, the interesting battle system certainly will.

And if that much wasn’t enough, special new features added will surely grab your interest. The expedition mode puts Holly in a jungle or mountain like setting where you must look for items or find monsters. How long you last depends on how much energy your monster has. A new feature is the soul mate. Your monster can be soul mates with another monster and special soul moves will be learned for the both of you. Finally, there’s always the obligatory trade and fight with friends using the link cable.

Some flaws are that there is really only a small handful of monsters. The other monsters are simply the same monsters with different color palettes. Also, as you play, it does get repetitive if you reach the highest ranks. Every time you start over with a new monster, you are basically doing the same things you did with the previous monsters from the beginning. However, with 300 monsters, the moves are certainly varied and will keep you thinking of different strategies to fight different opponents.

All in all, Monster Rancher Advance 2 is very fun and a nice change from the catch-em-all and turn-based battles from other RPGs.

Rating: 9/10

Graphics: The graphics are surprisingly nice. It feels 3D like for a 2D game. However, a disappointing aspect was that many monsters were just different color palettes of other monsters. However, the monsters still looks good, and the attacks look even better.

Rating: 8/10

Story: You want to become a great monster breeder, and are given a guide, Holly, to help you do so. Many different side quests appear to get new monsters and fight them as you work your way to the coveted S rank. They include looking for the orbs for the Phoenix, having guests stop over, and random monster attacks. The story gets thrilling near the end, but it starts out slow and continues that pace until you discover all there is in Monster Rancher.

Rating: 7/10

Music/Sound: The music is repetitive and gets annoying. You’ll want to listen to something else for this game. One shining factor is that the battle music really gets you going for battle.

The sound in the game is average at most, and does feature actual sounds from the monsters themselves. Whether it’s a cat meowing or a dragon roaring, all monsters make their own sounds.

Rating: 5/10

Replayability: Yes, you will find lots of opportunities to keep playing this game as it really doesn’t ever end. You just go through the process of breeding and retiring a monster over and over again, attempting to get really strong monsters to win high rank tournaments before their retirement. Prepare for a long ride.

Rating: 10/10

Rent or Buy: It’s definitely worth buying this one. There is so much innovativeness compared to your average monster RPG. Granted, it’s no Pokémon, but this fun title will certainly keep you entertained whether or not you enjoy monsters.

Final Rating: 9/10

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 07/07/03, Updated 07/07/03

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