Koei Tecmo has been re-releasing some older games recently. While the last couple made great sense to me, I was pretty surprised to see Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX pop up. These are ports of the mobile ports, which were also ports of the PlayStation 1 originals. They still have the hallmarks of a mobile port. I’m honestly not sure how much of a fanbase Monster Rancher still has. But whether or not this will be worth picking up will almost certainly come down to how fond of the series you are. Naturally, the question stands: is Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX worth it?
When you start up, you’re greeted by a launcher that lets you pick from one of the two games. There doesn’t appear to be a way to quit out once you start playing, however. This isn’t too uncommon for ports of older games, but still. Both games are letterboxed, so don’t expect to see them in widescreen. Resolution options are also surprisingly limited, and you can’t run either game at anything I’d refer to as a high resolution. You can play both games exclusively with a mouse, as both ports retain the touchscreen functionality from mobile, down to prompts asking you to tap the screen.
There are also buttons you can press off to the sides that let you do various things. I hadn’t ever played a Monster Rancher game before and, after doing so, I can’t imagine that many newcomers will be interested in these ports. For one matter, I’m not sure why anyone would want to play the first game when the second one is here, as they’re extremely similar, save for the second game having much more in the way of 3D visuals and having some improvements. The games are interesting, but they’re more complicated and convoluted than similar titles. There’s definitely depth here, but it’s almost exclusively going to be enjoyed by the already initiated.
Put some ranch on it
Each game starts out with you either picking your first monster from a market in town or by typing the name of a music CD into the shrine to get a monster that way. The original versions of the game actually required you to put your CDs into the PlayStation, but you just search by artist and title in this new collection. I picked Alice in Chains’ “Dirt” for both, getting a weird water monster in the first game and some kind of anthropomorphic animal woman thing in the second. I wasn’t able to get the database to find a single Iron Maiden album, which disappointed me greatly.
From there, you take the monster to your ranch and train them. You can either send them away to train for a month or train them up manually, which raises individual stat points. Every action consumes an entire in-game week, and there are different tournaments to participate in based on your monster’s rank. Early on, your monsters won’t be loyal, so it appears to be better to leave them to their own devices during fights. The combat itself is clunky and weird, and there’s no tutorial in either game explaining its intricacies.
A meter bounces back and forward and you’re meant to tell monsters which move to use. Their chance of landing attacks increases and decreases, so picking times with a higher chance of hitting will make it more likely that you’ll land attacks. Similarly, speed lets monsters dodge attacks more. Due to how dated the games are, I can’t imagine Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX being worth it for anyone other than series fans who want to play Monster Rancher 2 again.
I wouldn’t wager most will see much reason to go back to the first game at all. Kind of a weird thing to re-release, especially since there are PlayStation 2 games in the series. That being said, I do know that the second game does still have a fanbase that’s likely to get a lot of mileage out of this version. So, if you’re a diehard, you may very well be happy to be able to have a playable version of the game that can run on convenient hardware.