Review by Snow Dragon

"More complexity is not always a good thing"

Being the sequel to what I cherish as one of the greatest breeding simulators ever created, I had high hopes for Monster Rancher 2. It had a more exciting look than the original - almost everything had been improved in some way. My hopes were not totally crushed when I actually sat down and gave Monster Rancher 2 a decent try, but I was somewhat distressed by the complexity that had been heaped on. I liked MR1 because it was so accessible, and anyone with a brain that functioned normally could play it and have fun with it, even though it was a hard game to master. Now, when you go to play MR2, it takes more than a little bit of lateral thinking to raise a monster. Opponents are tougher to battle (still no entrance fees for tournaments - darn) and monsters themselves take more discipline to raise. This and some other things are fine for people just being introduced to Monster Rancher, but are not so great for the long-time fans of the first.

If you are not familiar with the inner workings of Monster Rancher, then I can explain them here. You go into town with your disc stones (CD's to you), hoping a monster can be borne from one of them. This is a supremely annoying exercise in this game. Whereas in MR1 a monster could be gotten off of all but only a few CD's, in MR2 you have a nearly one-in-two chance of being told that your CD contains a monster you don't have access to because you haven't done a certain thing yet. There are probably more secret types of monsters than there are types you start with, as a matter of fact. If you get frustrated by being rejected by the shrine a lot, that's where the handy slate option comes into play. Slates are monsters taken from MR1 data and brought into the world of MR2 as babies. If the frozen monster from MR1 is powerful and has many years of battle experience, it is likely that the slates will produce better monsters for you than CD's can. (You can also buy from the market, but those monsters all suck horribly.) In any case, you then take your monster back to the ranch, hoping to raise it into a rockin' fighting machine. This does not happen overnight, I assure you.

The monsters in this game are so much more complicated than the ones in MR1. Not only do you have to keep them loyally bound to you, but you must now also attend to their likes and dislikes and train them in regard to their attitude. Some monsters are angelic in behavior and are easy to work with; others are bad to the core, and must be raised with stern discipline to be made to fit your mold. In an odd reversal of the caretaking method, it's now easier to be cruel to your monster than it is to make it soft and weak. The monsters are too fickle, like they don't know what they want or something. This fickleness makes it harder to fight effectively as well. It's a lot harder to get the loyalty up so that they won't be confused as often, which happens a lot even in the higher-up ranks. Ultimately, your goal is to raise a powerful enough being so that you can take on the Major 4 monsters - the hardest bunch in the whole game. Once you beat them, you'll have achieved Master Breeder status and technically ''beaten'' the game, although you will be allowed to continue playing.

In light of the fact that Monster Rancher 2 is more complex than its predecessor or even its sequel for PS2, it showcases better graphics than what you saw in the first one. Fights now run more smoothly, and your monsters have better interaction with objects and the ranch itself. They even occasionally come across certain items that might lead to bigger and better things, or more monsters to have access to. The 3D models are constructed better, and there is more motion about your monster than there was in the first one. This time, battles are fought outdoors on raised plateaus, so you have different chances of sunshine or rainy weather or sometimes snow. These weather patterns look nice, but unfortunately, the inclement conditions don't have any effect on the battle. Seeing monsters have to wade through a snow bank just to hit each other would have added a neat twist. The people are not as plain as they were in the first one, and all training exercises are done three-dimensionally now, including the extended ones that cost money to participate in. In these longer training stints, known as ''errantry, '' a monster must pass four unique obstacles in a given area and beat a renegade wild monster in battle to truly pass. You are also told during the training if your monster learned a new move or not, so if you wasted your money, you can reset the game and reload, fighting enough to be able to learn one. Monsters from the original can now learn twice the moves they could in the first, though newer ones may have as few as six techniques total to choose from in battle.

As usual, the music doesn't really get exciting until you reach battle, and then it aids some in getting you pumped as you fight. There are many more sound effects outside of battle other than just selecting something off the menu. Monsters can be heard munching the food they've been given, and make noises as they walk instead of silently treading the premises as they did in the first one. Again, you'll hear circus-like tunes in the marketplace, peaceful and quaint music while on the ranch, and the trademark battle themes that make pitting your creature against others a rush are still in place. Overall, the sound and music have both improved while still remaining essentially the same as they did in the first game.

Before I end this review, I want to bring up one thing that I think Monster Rancher 2 did that was a BIG-TIME mistake as far as the series is concerned. Possibly in a move to combat the popularity of Pokémon, MR2 succumbed to the temptation and tried to boost their ventures at success by adding a Cute Mascot With Little Intelligence But Much Cuteness. This comes in the form of Mocchi, a monster modeled after a Japanese sweet cake. It's the fattest duck I've ever seen, it's no good in battle, and it fails miserably at being cute, adorable, or anything that makes children swoon and buy crappy merchandise. For shame, Monster Rancher .... for shame. In spite of this and other flaws, MR2 is still a decent continuation of its prequel, and will attract more novices probably than the first one did. It's good, but not great.

Master Breeding
--Graphics improved by leaps and bounds over MR1
--Battles are as intense as ever
--More to explore and find

Monster Failure
--Too complicated for kids and impatient people
--Getting monsters off of CD's is, for a while, a frustrating ordeal
--Succumbed to the Cuteness Factor in Mocchi

Score: 8

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 06/09/02, Updated 06/09/02

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