|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|
In spite of having a wide arsenal of techniques, combat itself isnt all that exciting. Monsters can become confused or fired up, but battles are mostly a matter of move, hit, rinse, and repeat. The animations dont do much to spruce up scuffles, either. I was greatly disappointed that after hours of play, the combat never really evolved into anything more than a simple butting of heads.
When youre not training at the ranch or mixing it up in the ring, you can visit various town sites to take on extracurricular activities or address your shopping needs. You can stop by the guide building to have your monster perform drills, which use up an entire month of their activity time. Drills consist of uber-simplistic Mario Party-style game where you roll a die and move around a game board. You can gain or lose attribute points, nab extra turns, or engage in non-tournament battles. If your monster performs well, theres a chance it will learn a new battle technique. Like most of Monster Rancher DSs other elements, however, drills are a barebones addition that demands little involvement from the player.
In addition to drills, monsters can go on errantry, where youll attempt to walk your monster along a path in search of hidden items and other wandering monsters. Neither the drills nor the errantry are all that compelling, and the payoff doesnt always seem worth the high cost of your time, money, or your monsters meager energy.
When it comes right down to it, there are a lot of different elements in the game that will keep your monsters busy, but there isnt actually that much for you, the player, to be entertained by. Youll summon a monster by either doodling on the touch screen or mumbling something into the DSs microphone, take the creature back to the ranch, mold its lifestyle, battle it, freeze it, and then repeat the process over and over in hopes of one day unlocking S-ranked battles and becoming the ultimate monster rancher. Interaction with your monsters is minimal, and their lack of personality makes it difficult to grow attached to them.
A humdrum presentation doesnt really help the game much, either. The monster models look and animate fine, but the backgrounds are boring and blocky. All character interaction is done through text and still images, and the artwork is generic, not to mention uncomfortably creepy at times. As the seasons change, youll experience a bit of variety in terms of snow and lighting, but youll otherwise see the same few environments repeated throughout.
In keeping with the games bland visuals, the audio is also dull and repetitive. The same battle themes, ranch melodies, and sound effects are recycled constantly, and most of whats on offer here is hokey.
Monster Rancher DS isnt a bad game; what it does, it does fine. Its what the game doesnt do that left me disappointed and bored with the experience. Rather than engage the player with mini-games in order to train your monsters, youre made to sit and watch uneventful, in-game cutscenes. The environments are cramped, uninspired, and the variety is sparse. Its hard to imagine the same development house that gave us Hotel Dusk worked on this latest addition to the Monster Rancher series. The game does little to move the franchise forward, and except for a bit of nostalgia and some fleeting novelty, theres little here to love.
CCC Freelance Writer