Reviews | Written by Stephen J. Boothroyd 08/12/2021

MONSTER RANCHER 1 AND 2 DX

Monster Rancher 1 and 2 initially came out on the PS1 over 20 years ago, the first one not making it to Europe at all. Back then it was a more relevant title that followed off the back of the Tamagochi/Virtual Pet craze. The premise is pretty simple, obtain a monster, take care and train said monster, battle monster, be the very best like no one ever was.  The premise and timing of the original release obviously drew immediate comparisons with the Pokémon franchise, however, the gameplay itself is more of a management simulation than a strategy or RPG. Although you’re able to give your monster instructions during battle, usually the fight is already determined before it's started based on your monsters stats and your training regime.  Prepping your monster for fights basically consists of managing time with it each monster by either battling it, getting it to perform jobs and giving it a tasty treat.

Looks-wise, like most PS1 games, it hasn't stood the test of time. Hideous polygons and ugly textures plagued the era and this game is no exception, and the sound effects aren’t much better.  This overall offence on all your senses is likely to be the first hurdle of your enjoyment of the game.  Once you’re over that, then it’s the lack of tutorial that’s likely to put you off.  The game just drops you in with no explanation of what you’re supposed to do, or how you’re supposed to go about it.  Luckily, unlike in the '90s when you’d have had to either had to rely on helpful advice from the GamesMaster or watch the end of Bad Influence in slow motion, there are plenty of tutorials and guides online to help get started.

A cool feature of the original game was that you could pop a CD in and it would scan it, and generate a monster from it. Famously, putting in the PS1 Harry Potter game would generate an owl monster. Obviously, the Switch has no CD drive and physical media is less common anyway, but the developers have added a search engine feature that lets you type in the name of a CD and it will generate a monster from that, which is still pretty cool even if it is rather limited.

The Monster Rancher games are as unique now as they were in the '90s, and they’re a perfect gateway into the world of management sims.  Most likely you’ll have no idea what you’re doing, and it’ll seem like a series of random events is happening, but that won't stop you cheering on your Monster in battles and enjoying the unique experience of this time sink.