There are those games where when you talk about them people often look at you and think you're crazy when brought up in a normal conversation. Monster Rancher is one of those games, and today I'll review the newest game in the series; Monster Rancher DS.
This game, like all the other games in the series, you're in a fantasy world where the past-time sport is raising monsters to participate in battles in order to become the best monster breeder in the world. Now alot of people may think that this is just another cash in for a slice of the fame from Pokemon, the one franchise that made the "gotta breed 'em all" RPG/sim sub-genre popular, but this game does quite a bit of things that Pokemon never did.
In Monster Rancher DS, and in pretty much every game in the series, you play as a monster breeder who owns a farm where you attempt to raise the best fighting monster ever (Now, this may have seemed like a silly concept for a game back in the day, I can just imagine the board room meeting that went on when this game first came out). Never in my life have I ever thought this concept would be so addicting. This games addictiveness factor is divided into two halves, one half is simply getting monsters, the other is rasing them.
Let's talk about obtaining monsters first, this in itself is alot of fun. In the older Monster Rancher games for the Playstation systems you can get monsters from CDs you have lying around the house. When I was a teenager and first got the first two games on the Playstation I was looking around for CDs in my house like a hungry dog looks around for scraps of food that fell of the dinner table. In the DS version you obtain monsters by either speaking into the DS mic (the game calls Incantation) or drawing on a large grid (Magic Field). The Incantation method determines the monster's species, sub species, and stats by the sounds it picks up in the mic. The Magic Field method has you drawing on a grid full of squares, and it determines the monsters stats by what squares on the field are coloured in. Of course, this game is still kinda new, so nobody really knows what you can draw or say to get an uber powerful monster in it yet. Also in the games you can complete side quests to unlock permission to breed new monsters, which I tend to find a little frustrating about the games, since alot of times you get monsters you don't have permission to breed, and the game doesn't tell you what you need to do to unlock them, forcing you to resort to the internet for help.
Now that we have a monster we have to raise it. In the game you have a farm where your monster can train, you can put it through excersizes to raise specific stats, like attack power, accuracy, speed, etc. But your monster is a living thing you have to take care of, meaning you need to buy food for it, let it rest when its tired, calm it down when its stressed, and keep it on a good diet so it won't get too fat or too skinny. Keeping your monster in shape is important, if it's too fat it'll get tired easily and won't perform well in battle or train well, if it gets too skinny it'll increase the stress the monster has and stress can shorten a monster's lifespan. Yeah, you heard me, monsters have a lifespan, meaning if they get too old or get gravely hurt in a battle they can die.
Monsters in all the games have personal preferences which gives them their own personalities. Some monsters like to eat certain foods and hate others. If you give your monsters the things they like they'll get spoiled and won't take their training seriously, causing them to either fail the training completely, or cheat during training and not get good stat build up. But being too strict on a monster causes it to mess up on its training more, not listen to you during battles, or run away.
In the end, Monster Rancher DS is one of the most addicting games I ever played, I remember yesterday I started playing around the time I got up, and next thing I knew it was about 4pm when I looked at the clock. This is one of the most fun and longest games I ever played. If you want an addicting niche game to play then I recommend any of the games in the Monster Rancher series, especially MR2 on the Playstation, or MRDS.
I give Monster Rancher DS 8.5 out of 10.