|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Cing/Tecmo||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: UFO Interactive||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Aug. 3, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Tony Capri
As an old-school gamer, one of the coolest things Ive seen come along for the medium is simulation games. After many years gaming on the PC, I was bowled over by series such as Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing. Tecmo has now resurrected one of its own creations from this niche collection of franchises, but is Monster Rancher still relevant for todays gaming masses?
Monster Rancher DS does have a story, but alas, its not one most folks will likely care about. Youre a new monster rancher registered at the Bomba Academy, and as luck would have it, youre assigned an assistant who just so happens to bring with her a storied past. The plot is barren of any depth whatsoever, and even fans who ranched on the original PlayStation may have a tough time overlooking the terrible dialogue and lackluster presentation.
Though the title Monster Rancher seems to suggest a collect-em-all fest similar to Pokémon or Dragon Quest Monsters, this latest adventure for DS is a more laidback experience full of minutiae and repetition. Theres a fair amount of strategy and doodling to keep players busy, but the game isnt very engaging.
If youre new to the series, Monster Rancher is pretty much a pet-training simulator. Youll focus on a single monster, train it to raise individual attributes (speed, defense, power, etc.), feed it, oversee its general health, battle it (of course), as well as have it participate in various other activities. Your monster can essentially perform one type of activity per week, and as the months pass by, your pet ages to maturity. Once your monster ripens to an old age, youll then want to freeze it, so that it can later be combined to create an even more powerful, new creature. After this circle of life is complete, the entire monster-nurturing process starts all over again.
Theres obviously a segment of the gaming community who go in for this sort of thing (myself included), but much of the actual process of nurturing your monster is streamlined to the point of making ranching a pedestrian affair. Training sessions consist of deciding which stats you want your monster to work on, but you dont actually play through any sort of mini-games in order to earn those stats; you press a button, and the outcome is decided for you.
In terms of raising monsters, your main role is merely that of a babysitter. Youll decide what to feed your monster each month, and if your assistant suggests a monster is getting fat, youll know to feed it leaner vittles during the following month. Monsters also tire from training and other activities, so youll need to balance rest, diet, and supplements accordingly.
All this training isnt just for show, of course, and you can schedule your monster to compete in upcoming battles marked on your calendar. Competitions vary in rank, with S-ranked battles being your main goal as a monster rancher.
Monster Rancher has a simple but mildly enjoyable combat system thats controlled via the DS touch screen. Monsters go head-to-head in small arenas, and you can move your monster backward or forward by touching and holding specific points on the battlefield. There are three attack ranges, and setting your techniques strategically is important to success in battle. In order to attack, you simply tap on the opposing creature.