PS2 REVIEW: MONSTER RANCHER EVO

The concept of creating monsters from digital information is definitely cool; it's just too bad Tecmo can't seem to progress past that idea. by Mike Chasselwaite

April 26, 2006 - If you feel that the Monster Rancher series has not been living up to expectations, it's simply because the series has not evolved past the core gameplay of creating monsters, training them and putting them into combat. Monster Rancher EVO (which is short for evolution) just manages to put the wiener in a different kind of bun - let's say pita pocket for instance. It looks different, it feels different, it tastes different but when all is said and done, it's still a hot dog.

In EVO, the Monster Rancher series incorporates more traditional RPG elements into the gameplay. The storyline is a new direction for the series, and if you're going to be playing the same basic core gameplay, you might as well do it in different surroundings with different characters. There is an undeniable Pokemon quality to the gameplay which over time can become quite wearisome. It's nice to see that the developers have acknowledged that this series does indeed need to evolve but it needs to evolve the core of the gameplay if it's going to survive. It's survival of the fittest in the process of digital selection and Monster Rancher seems to be gasping for air.

The Monster Rancher series' most renowned gimmick is the ability to create unique monsters by inserting your own CDs and DVDs into the PS2. As long as the disk has data on it of some kind, the CPU will read it, process it and turn it into a monster for you to take possession of. There can be no doubt that this idea was a stroke of genius. Players can trade their disks with other players so they can create similar monsters. Basically all you are doing is unlocking creatures that have already been created but there are monsters that can only be unlocked by specific disks. It's a great concept but it's beginning to run a little thin.

Once you have created (or unlocked) your monster, it becomes your property - or responsibility. You have to train it and then use to help you on missions which you will perform for various characters that you encounter. In addition to these missions there is also some dungeon crawling and monster combat to take part in. The training process tends to drag on and the combat isn't much more exciting. There is a lot of repetition to the gameplay which is not conducive to playing this game for hours on end. It's best enjoyed in small doses.

We're not on the farm anymore, Toto. The monsters have joined the circus. A young orphan named Julio has been adopted by members of a traveling circus. He's in charge of the monster act in the show. One day his star monster has had enough and decides to bust loose. Without a star performer Julio is at a loss until a young girl with a talent for creating monsters joins up with the traveling circus. She prophesizes that Julio will one day become a great monster trainer and breeder. Brimming with confidence Julio begins a new chapter in his life as he begins his monster training in earnest while traveling to the various towns as part of the circus, looking for new monsters to train while partaking in numerous adventures.

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System: PS2
Dev: Tecmo
Pub: Tecmo
Release: Apr 2006
Players: 1 - 2
Review by Mike