Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX is the perfect fun game for millennials

But may not appeal to anyone else

I have so many vivid memories of Monster Rancher grow up. For those who did not know, this was a monster training game (and anime!) Where players used their In reality CDs (the things before MP3s took over) to generate monsters. So imagine a whole generation of players ripping through their collection of Backstreet Boys and Sum 41 CDs to find out which ones would yield the coolest and most powerful monster in the game. Or maybe ask their dad for every AC / DC CD (that’s funny to say!) In the hope that “Back in Black” might provide something other than another Suezo (the one-eyed poster kid for the series).

It was an absolute blast and one that just hasn’t been repeated for obvious reasons. In fact, I guess there was one Digimon handheld device that scanned barcodes in the store to give you another Digimon. It was really nice too! But therein lies the problem: this shit is so late in the 1990s, and to be honest I’m not really sure Monster Rancher holds for anyone who is brand new to the idea.

Seriously, does anyone under the age of 24 own a single music CD?

Screenshot of Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX Tournament

With the new DX version of these games, the CD hunt has gone out of the way.

Instead, Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX players simply enter an artist or album they want to use, then click on the CD they want – and it’s done. Again, it’s fun to be millennial and think back to all the amazing artists we used to (and probably still do) moan out to. I did not need a reason to remember Blind Melon’s self-titled album and see what abomination the game spat out after me, but I really enjoyed doing it! But would anyone else who has no nostalgia for the game and the time period? Probably not.

So for the uninitiated and soon disappointed, after generating a monster using masterpieces like No Doubts Tragic realm, players take their monstrosity back to the ranch (hence the title) and train it. This is a very passive event; players simply select an exercise program, and then watch the monster do so. Sometimes they fail, sometimes they cheat, the little bastards. Statistics go up and down depending on the training program, and occasionally monsters can go on larger training programs to learn new movements.

It all culminates in the monster fighting in tournaments. The battles themselves can be passive or active, but even the active method is not very mechanically engaging. Monsters go monstro a monstro (laugh please) and sting back and forth while performing attacking moves. Players can tell their monster which move they need, but only if they are at the right distance from their opponent. Early monsters will sometimes not listen, making it even more … exciting? To be honest, it’s a bit lame to describe, but hey if I’m not hyped while shouting at my little shit for not listening or missing a key attack. There is a hard to describe captivating nature of it all.

And it’s such a thing? Eventually, monsters will die of old age or even run away. They can be frozen and melted in line with the monster-seeking madness of the 1990s, but it’s still a very passive game. For me, though, this is perfect. Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX is a low-stakes, chill-out kind of game that is perfect for lazy afternoons and holidays. The music is noisy and funny (and remastered!), While the PS1 aesthetic brings me back to my youth in all the best ways.

Maybe I’m wrong – maybe a new generation can stumble upon this one day and appreciate it for all it is; there is something to be said for watching your monster grow up, stop cheating on its training and reap the benefits of future tournaments.

I think it’s important to note that I’m honestly not sure there’s any appeal in playing the first one. Monster Rancher. When I play it now, I’m pretty sure I’ve never played the original before. It just feels like the second game, only worse.

Outside yours nostalgia comes from OG Monster Rancher, the only real feature here is the second, more robust successor. That DX version automatically saves often, which is wonderful, as well as having a fast-forward feature (not as useful as those in many of Squares ports) and monster sharing and combat online. Great features, but apart from the better automatic save, none that I personally am overly interested in. I just want my little weird monster to eat his fish, hit rocks and fight giant crabs.

Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX Suezo screenshot

The Nintendo Switch port is fine, if not a bit disappointing. There are buttons in the margins that offset the difference in aspect ratio, but you can not actually touch them on the touch screen. You have to press the corresponding button.

It’s worth noting that the screenshots in this article are from the Steam port, and as far as I understand, these buttons are clickable with a mouse, although I can not personally comment on the usefulness of the mouse and keyboard control scheme – read Steam reviews, it is not fantastic. Even fast forwarding only works from a menu. So either everything is in fast forward or it is not. Not to mention that I had no idea it was actually the option for fast forward because it’s just called “FF” without context.

So even though I do not believe it Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX is here to sweep a new generation of fans up and drive the series into another wave of popularity, I think it hits all the right nostalgia buttons for my generation. This is not a case of a bad game that we now realize is bad because we are older; it still has the same charm and wonder that it used to, I just do not know if it translates well to a new audience without the physical media and monster collecting craze as context. But to borrow a phrase from the younger generation, play Monster Rancher again while the coziness of my pajamas is for sure a mood.

[These impressions are based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

Patrick Hancock

During the day, he teaches high school children history. At night, he kicks them in competitive games like Rocket League, Dota 2, Overwatch and Counter-Strike. Revelation: I have personally backed up Double Fine Adventure, Wasteland 2, Dead State, SPORTFRIENDS, Torment: Tides of Numera, PENALTY and The Binding of Isaac: Four Souls. I have previously written to and continue to support them whenever possible (like HumbleBundle).

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