Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX review for Nintendo Switch, PC

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Also on: PC
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Developer: Koei Tecmo
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-2
Online: No

It?s interesting that Koei Tecmo decided that now was the time to re-release the first two Monster Rancher games. After all, when they first came out, it was at the height of the initial Pok?mon/Tamagotchi/Digimon craze, which meant it was hugely overshadowed. Now, the first two games in the series, Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX. have been re-released in North America nearly 25 years later, and it?s not only still being overshadowed by Pok?mon and Digimon, it also has to contend with a host of other monster-breeding imitators that includes (but is by no means limited to) the likes of Nexomon, Monster Sanctuary, and Monster Crown. To say that Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX faces a bit of an uphill battle would be an understatement.

It doesn?t help Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX?s case, either, that it kind of sucks.

To be fair, Monster Rancher is somewhat different from those other games. It places a much heavier emphasis on breeding and training your monsters than you find in Pok?mon. You need to decide how intensive you want their training regimen to be, whether you want to coddle them or be a strict disciplinarian. You need to build up your relationships with each monster, to make sure they trust you, and you have to pay close attention to their morale. You even need to contend with your monsters gradually aging, and eventually either retiring or dying. There?s a lot more going on here than simply constantly levelling up your favourite monsters so they can win in battle.

The problem, of course, is that Pok?mon has conquered the genre so thoroughly over the past twenty-plus years, it feels alien to play this kind of game any other way. What?s more, while I can certainly appreciate that some people feel nostalgia for this different approach, it?s hard not to feel like the more streamlined way became more popular for a reason.

Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX probably isn?t helped by how dated it looks, sounds, and plays. These games first came out on PS1, and it shows. Notwithstanding the promise of more save slots and the ability to fast-forward through some of the more arduous training sequences, there really hasn?t been much done here to make it seem like the past 20+ years have elapsed. Again, I see how that will appeal to some people?s sense of nostalgia, but if you?re playing these games for the first time now, you have to be willing to make a lot of allowances.

You also need to be willing to accept a fair amount of trial and error, since Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX doesn?t hold your hand when it comes to telling you how it works. In fact, that may be an understatement: it mostly just drops you into the game and assumes you?ll figure it out yourself. It expects you to have a lot more patience with the game than it seemingly deserves, which adds to the feeling that you?re playing a relic from another era.

That said, it?s important to note that the game makes one major concession to modernity. The original Monster Rancher games apparently allowed you to insert any CD into your PlayStation, and it could then read the data to create unique monsters. That doesn?t work anymore for pretty obvious reasons ? do CDs even exist anymore? ? so, to compensate for that, the game includes a pretty decent-sized database from which you can draw. It?s not quite the same, but given how little else here acknowledges that it?s not 1997 anymore, it?s nice that they made that one change.

But that change isn?t enough to get around the fact that Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX relies far too heavily on nostalgia as a selling point. If you loved the games back in the ?90s, you may enjoy reliving your youth, but for everyone else, there are plenty of other more modern games worth your time and attention.

KOEI TECMO AMERICA provided us with a Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX Switch code for review purposes.

Grade: C-