Monster Rancher 2 (PS1)

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More monsters and less plot this week. You play as a faceless monster trainer who wants to be the VERY BEST like no one ever was. With his faithful assistant Colt he or she will put their monster on a strict — or lax — training regimen and face other monsters in tournaments or in the wilds until it’s you vs the Champ.

History

Monster Rancher 2 was made by Tecmo and based on a semi-popular anime cartoon… and that’s basically all I know about it. The show was pretty well received. Its story about a group of adventurers who need to defeat the monster emperor Moo by finding the Phoenix monster who will resurrect all of the monsters Moo has destroyed. That being said, the Monster Rancher Cartoon is only vaguely related to the anime series. The monsters are the same but the plot is absolutely not. Now the world is a Pokemon level of nonsense world where monsters duke it out for human entertainment.

Monster Rancher 2 was released on February 29th, 1999. It’s competition was Final Fantasy VIII (PS1), Silent Hill (PS1), and Pokemon Snap (N64).

Experiences

ZUUM

Zuum concept art

The monster that I remember training the most was a Zuum who’s name has been lost to my memory. The little green bastard was born with a love for fighting — seriously his like from week 1 was fighting. This raptor was tenacious, hit like a truck, but couldn’t take a hit. He was a glass cannon with grit —  he actually had a hidden trait that could allow him to endure a knock out blow with 1 hp. One tourney he got knocked out and suffered an injury, the injury was deemed a serious one but came back in a mere 2 weeks. He was tuckered as hell but one week of rest later he demanded to go to the tourney next week. I sent him back out and he was absolutely joyful to be back in the action, I was terrified he would aggravate his injury again. In the course of the tourney he took revenge on the monster who broke him by knocking him out in return. The whole thing was like a great Pro-Wrestling story-line and totally emergent.

Gameplay

Monster Rancher 2 is a variant of the Life Simulator type game. The game is split between monster acquisition, training, and battling. Acquisition is a simple affair you can “buy” them from the market which sells the regulars and one seasonal monster with average stats. Or you can go to the temple and summon one from a disk by using your real life CDs. Summoned monsters tend to have more erratic stats and genetic combinations. Also in town you can freeze your older monsters and combine them together, sharing stats, and unlocking more advanced techniques they’ve learned.

Once you’ve got your monster you can pet him, love him, call him George and take him to your ranch at which point the training begins. Training consists of feeding it the right foods, giving it useful items, having it perform drills, and letting it rest. You can also, at a significant cost, send it on a month-long wilderness training excursion. You might not want to open up with this option though as the more your monster fails the more likely they’ll get hurt but… it is their only way to learn new techniques.

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Monsters will also occasionally make demands of you, decline and you run the risk of disappointing them.

When its stats and loyalty are high enough it’s time to send it to a tournament. There it will face opponents of roughly similar strength in either a round robin or single elimination format. You can give it orders yourself or let it command the fight on its own. During a battle your monster will generate guts which it can use to attack its opponent with techniques that are segmented off by its distance from the enemy. If your monster’s loyalty is too low then it’ll waste the guts and try to get some yuks from the crowd or taunt the enemy, leaving it open to attack. Come out on top and you’ll get some money with a little extra for every opponent you knocked out or an item prize.

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The arena designs might be simple but sometimes the camera has sweet action shots.

The Gush

The monster designs are simply cool. Every one of them has a pure form but also has a pallet swap when its combined with another monster which can lead to some impressively awesome or silly looking creatures.

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I don’t know what this thing is but it’s absurd and badass all at once.

Every monster is also pretty expressive, especially for late 90s creatures. They all have animations for showing off their happiness, displeasure, apology, and other feelings. Learning your monsters tells is also a great way to earn its loyalty… and it’s fun.

RANDOM EVENT! This game has them. From expeditions to foreign lands or a sale at the store for a rainy month. It’ll pay for you to be vigilant and keep your monster in top form whenever possible. You never know when you’ll be called on for something special or limited.

The Kvetch

This game’s translation and localization really holds it back. You’re gonna need a guide to figure out what item descriptions are supposed to be indicating. I was totally lost in some conversations, especially way back in the day.

Actually, you’ll need a guide for everything in this game. There are a lot of hidden statistics and other mechanics that aren’t really hinted at by the game. From a monsters good/evil rating to their guts production or fat/thinness even monster unlocking mechanics are made secret to the player.

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WHAT IS ALL THIS MESS?! WITHERING?! SHARPNESS?!

Oh yeah, you don’t start with the ability to train every monster. You can’t even have these locked monsters as a subtype of another monster. Worse yet, the game never explains this when you summon a monster from a CD it makes it seem like the CD has no relevant data on it. Let me clarify that every disk has a monster on it. If the disk doesn’t function, that’s one thing, but if the game says they can’t give you the monster then try again after you’ve reached a certain rank or won a certain event. But considering they don’t tell you that you’ve unlocked something it’s really a lot of guessing and checking.

The Verdict

I don’t know how you’re gonna get a hold of this one but if you can find a copy at your local pawn shop or flea market then I suggest you get it. It goes on Amazon for 25-180 dollars so unless you have a time machine it’s gonna be hard to come by.

Next Week: The Dark Tower

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