Game Over Online ~ Monster Rancher Advance 2

GameOver Game Reviews - Monster Rancher Advance 2 (c) Tecmo, Reviewed by - Fwiffo

Game & Publisher Monster Rancher Advance 2 (c) Tecmo
System Requirements Game Boy Advance
Overall Rating 78%
Date Published Tuesday, January 21st, 2003 at 08:43 PM

Divider Left By: Fwiffo Divider Right

In Monster Rancher Advance 2, you're a "rancher" of sorts but instead of herding up Texan cattle or EDS felines, you're dealing with monsters. Situated on Age Island, you're responsible for spearheading attempts in breeding monsters, training them and then pitting them in battle against others. Assisted by your executive assistant Holly (female intuition), you set out after a short introduction to accomplish the dreams of every good monster rancher.

In your attempts to create a fighting machine and also foster good work ethics in your monster, Monster Rancher is not unlike the Pokemon series or Black and White on the PC with the exception that Monster Rancher conducts itself in a turn-based setting. You basically issue one task per week and the game proceeds on weekly increments. Holly will inform you of your monster's status and then you can decide what to do with your monster. Similar to titles of this genre, you're allowed to pamper your monster, reward it or punish it for its performance on a week-to-week basis. And because your monster's upbringing is unique, the treatment it gets will become part of its identity. A megalomaniac tyrant of a master will breed some very evil monsters.

Your monster won't exist in isolation though. You can choose to introduce it to another monster and hope it picks up some traits from them. A very lazy and spoiled monster, for example, might become more diligent if it interacted with a more studious monster or vice versa. Monster Rancher even allows you to import monsters from this title's predecessor, enabling you to have more monsters in the mix.

All of this caring and rearing, sadly, only points to inevitable violence against other monsters. Like most of the current world leaders of today, overt action is the only outlet for your efforts. Combat is essentially lining up an assortment of moves that work at certain distances and then hoping your combinations, place on the field and monster's inherently good (at least I hope they are when you pitch it into combat) attributes will overcome the opponent. It's difficult to really describe it but you really only have to "push" the other monster off the field to win. This isn't Mortal Kombat where fatalities and limb severing is needed. But all in all, it will take some time to catch on to how combat works.

The part that will grow on you will be the interaction between you and the monster. The developers have instilled a lot of detail in rendering emotional attributes to the monsters. Many of their responses are convincing. They'll actually be unhappy when they start losing fights and there are certain rites of passage that a virgin monster will often have to go through before it becomes molded into a memorable being. Maybe after a string of losses, your monster will actually start working to improve itself.

I found this part the most enjoyable in the game. It's unfortunate that everything must boil down to tournaments and battles though. The week-by-week observation of your monster can be repetitive but because you have (and will develop) a vested interest in the monster's progress, it neuters the criticisms of watching the same repetitive training animations over and over again.

A game so amiable to the handheld format is tough to find. One area of improvement that would help Monster Rancher is possibly a quick battle mode where you can pair different monsters against each other. The beginning of the game involves a significant tutorial portion. Holly, for example, babbles a lot and in the traditional two or three line Japanese style dialogue - that means a lot of scrolling and buttons pressed before you get to the meat of the game. A battle scenario builder would have been a great help in improving what's on the table.

In terms of affability, Monster Rancher certainly has it in spades. The music and visuals, particularly around the resort-like Age Island, are pleasing overall. How affable it is to a market run rampant by Pokemon is another question altogether. Despite its best attempts to explain the concept of monster breeding through the story, veterans will be able to get into Monster Rancher quicker than newcomers. The learning curve for winning battles, moreover, will make the trigger-happy demographic even more impatient with the game.

My father criticizes me quite often for bearing an unusual love for artificiality. Artificial aquariums, Sony Aibos and an affinity towards the vision presented in Spielberg's A.I. makes me a lover for anything and everything artificial. But this is something that you either love or hate. If you think spending time incubating something that "doesn't exist" is dumb, then Monster Rancher will likely strike you as a futile timewaster. If you can actually harbor some affection for 0s and 1s, silicon and pixels, there just might be a rancher in you.


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