monran

Monster Rancher please come back to gaming

In the mid 90’s, gaming saw a huge influx of games about raising monsters and battling them. Whether it was for personal gain or the fate of the world, monsters were everywhere. Amongst all the clones, three franchises stood out. We all know Pokemon and to a lesser extent Digimon; but there was one other, while not as popular, easily the most innovative. I know that word gets thrown around a lot these days but I’m talking about true innovation. I am talking, of course, about Monster Rancher.

The rarest and most sought after dragon, Moo!

How was this game innovative you may ask? Instead of running around and counting on random encounters to secure the desired beastie, in Monster Rancher, the player used what were called disc stones to generate a random monster. What makes these disc stones so special? First off, stop asking so many questions, I’m going to tell you. Secondly, disc stones were actually your CD collection. All you had to do was pop in a disc, sit back, and take bets as to what was coming. I spent hours cataloging my entire collection. If you were lucky, certain discs couldn’t be unlocked until certain conditions were met in game. The final results of these special discs were usually rare and powerful monsters. This was ground breaking stuff when I was growing up. Later iterations of the series would even include DVD’s.

Once you picked your monster, your ranch hand would escort you to the farm where you’d spend most of your time. From here you could train your monster in various stats on a weekly basis. Now you weren’t confined to just training. There were errantries (which were basically month long training sessions) and expeditions. Expeditions acted differently as you couldn’t go on them when you wished. The required character would have to visit your ranch and ask for your monster’s help. Here, rare items could be found and some special monsters unlocked.

What would a monster game be without battles? All throughout the game, on different weeks, battles were held. The nice thing about this was that you could check in advance and train your monster accordingly. Some battles were just for money (you know, because raising anything is expensive) and some would increase the monster’s rank.

As I stated before, the word innovation seems to follow every word that comes out of a developer’s mouth these days. But what do they mean? Wave your controller around and win the game, shout at your console to do things? You don’t see innovation the likes of Monster Rancher’s disc stone system. The closest might be the game Spyro Skylanders where your figure is your in game avatar but all that really is is a way to get people to spend a lot of money. Monster Rancher took something that everyone had (digital downloads weren’t really around yet) and made it part of a whole new world. Suddenly, my house was filled with potential monsters just waiting for me to find and raise them to glory!

One of the last entries of Monster Rancher we received in America was for the DS. While not having every monster, it did a fantastic job of making the game accessible on handhelds. It also was able to capture the charm of the first two games that later entries seemed to lack. Monster Rancher DS kept up with the innovation factor. The touch screen was used to scribble anything your imagination could muster and generate a monster based on what you drew or wrote. The microphone could also be utilized for monster creation. (You think they knew people might abuse the crap out of it? I know my friends and I sure did.)

The walking armor, Durahan!

With Blu-Ray discs and downloaded files or programs, I’d love to see a new Monster Rancher game. I miss the excitement of wondering what might be lurking in my collections. With flash drives and hard disks, perhaps a newer Monster Rancher could read stored data. Perhaps have console specific monsters. Gears of War might generate a Locust themed monster. Disgaea could even feature a Prinny monster. The possibilities are there. While the others may have died out, Pokemon is still growing strong and I really think a new Monster Rancher game could work following Pokemon’s popularity. Come on Tecmo, give Monster Rancher another shot!



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