Huge kudos to Tecmo in 1997 then for having the nerve to release Monster Rancher, an incredibly original title that also happens to be a barrel of fun.
At the time, it was following a huge trend of virtual pets, Monster Rancher lets gamers raise, train, and fight randomly generated monsters.Monster Rancher creates monsters based on data it pulls off other CDs, whether game or music. Players can use any readable CD, and the game creates a monster using the CD’s metadata. Certain CDs would result in unique monsters: for example, some Christmas music albums will give the player a monster of type “Santa”. Once the player has two or more monsters in reserve, they can be combined, creating a new monster with traits of both ‘parents.’
Each one will result in a different monster with its own look and attributes. This alone is worth the price of the game, as you never know what you’ll get! Like the same with collecting Pokemon cards you never which ones you will pull from the pack.
Once you’ve got your monster, you can then take it to the ranch and send it to work. Working the monster at different tasks helps level it up by increasing attributes like strength and speed. This then inturn earns you money for each successful job which is then used to further care for your monster. Furthermore, you can send it away to be trained as well similar to a daycare system in Pokemon ,this although this is quite pricey. Eventually a tournament will roll around, and your monster will get to fight, which you control. Other players can boot up their monsters from memory cards and compete as well.
It’s difficult to explain just how fun Monster Rancher is, but it really is addicting. After all the time you’ve spent with your monster — feeding it, scolding or praising it, letting it rest — it almost feels alive similar to tamagotchi’s, and like the Tamagotchi, it brings out strange parental feelings you may not know you possessed.
Monster Rancher excels at virtual life, but lacks somewhat in graphics and music. The monsters themselves may be polygonal, but the rest of the game is very sprite-based, with little pop-up animated windows depicting your creature at work or rest. It’s quaint, yes, but also smacks of old 16-bit games. The music is dated as well, sounding more like a Genesis game than something from a CD. In the end, though, you’re not going to buy Monster Rancher for the music. You’re going to buy it because it’s the only game of its kind available, and it’s amazing.