Monster Rancher Evo Review / Preview for PlayStation 2 (PS2)

Monster Rancher Evo Review / Preview for PlayStation 2 (PS2)

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.

Initially the monsters are trained by your character, Julio. By selecting the appropriate process for each monster you ensure they will bond with you and perform to their full potential. Eventually you can let other circus performers train your monsters for you as each trainer will specialize in different techniques. Circus training devices are a useful tool as they increase the monsters’ stats to get them in shape. New training equipment can be customized from parts available at various shops in town. There are three mini-games that you can play to help train your monsters. They are all button-mashing games that rely on your reflexes and timing. One mini-game involves pattern recognition while another is a rhythm-based music game. The better you do at these games, the more stats you will earn for your monster and the better your overall performance will be.

Combat can be slow. It blends real-time with turn-based. Attacks are dependent on how close or far away you are from your opponent. At first your attacks will be limited simply because you only have a few moves at your disposal. You will earn experience in the form or Anima which you can use to increase your abilities and add more moves. You will gain Anima from combat and taking part in the various action sections of the game such as dungeon crawling. Up to three monsters can be taken into combat at one time. They all share the same power source which continually drains with use, draining faster with the use of more powerful attacks. The source will replenish itself and will do so faster if the monsters are lined up in a row, side by each.

The multi-player mode also lets you bring in three monsters at a time for a three-on-three fight to the finish. It’s good clean fun and the pace can be picked up if your opponent knows what he or she is doing. Don’t expect a lot of replay value from the multi-player mode but if you have a circle of friends that are fanatical about this series you’ll likely spend more time trading disks in an attempt to create different monsters.

The look of the game has changed. It has a more artsy look. The exaggerated cartoon-style graphics are gone in favor of creating a more serious atmosphere reminiscent of traditional Japanese RPGs. It still has some of the anime flair but the colors are less vibrant and the characters are less over-the-top. The conversations are text-based and where there is spoken dialog you can tell that the actors’ main language is not English.

Monster Rancher EVO may continue to please hardcore fans of the series but it’s doubtful that it will recruit many new fans, especially if they’ve played any of the previous four games.


  • Create and unlock hundreds of monsters to raise, train and battle.
  • Perform in the circus and compete in battles to level up your monsters’ skills and attributes.
  • A fantasy world with circus elements creates a unique stage for monster breeding.
  • Partake in real-time, three-on-three battles requiring careful strategizing to create an unstoppable team of monsters.
  • Seven different towns, each with its own story and beautifully rendered, unique 3D environment.

By Mike Chasselwaite
CCC Freelance Writer

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