Monster Rancher 3 Review
I remember first hearing about Monster Rancher a couple of years back. This was supposed to be a "Pokemon killer," if you will, but in turn it featured too many distinct features to even be in the same category as Pokemon. The monsters in Monster Rancher were far larger and weren't quite as cute as those 'other' monsters are. Monster Rancher's only similarity with the Pokemon series is that both games require you to build up and fight monsters in head to head duels. I enjoyed the first two Monster Rancher titles, as they put one over the Pokemon series, something I thought would never be possible. The ability to create monsters by inserting music CDs into the Playstation is so incomparable and ingenious. Thankfully, Tecmo announced a PS2 version of Monster Rancher 3 to be released sometime in 2001. From first glance, I instantly noticed the soft cel-shading effect that Tecmo worked into the visuals, and how everything was vivid and cartoony. Even though my anticipation for this game wasn't boiling, I was still quite interested to see how the title would turn out.
Over the past year or so, more and more games have been treated to a widely spreading visual effect called "cel-shading." The effect was first noticeable in Sega's Jet Grind Radio. Each and every character, and many of the backgrounds featured black outlined edges. The styling made the game look like an animated cartoon in 3D. It just made everything look so darn appealing. Countless other titles used the technique after that, as does Tecmo's Monster Rancher 3. MR3 isn't strictly cel-shaded though; the backgrounds are composed of polygons, while the monsters are cel-shaded. Throughout your campaign to becoming the best trainer, you will visit vivid locales with superb background detail and whatnot. In addition to that, let's not forget the character detail. Each and every character ranges in size, some are infantile, others are mammoth! They all look fantastic, as every monster features his/her own distinct outward feature. As far as texture detail goes, everything is smooth and looks good. Tecmo has done a nice job at creating a lush looking title.
If you've played Monster Rancher titles before, or have interest in monster breeders such as Pokemon, chances are you'll feel quite welcome when playing Monster Rancher 3. Of course, what makes MR titles so distinct and far above everything out there is their ability to let the game produce a monster via any CD. Depending on the music CD inserted into the PSX, you will get a monster that shares a similarity with the CDs atmosphere. So if you put in a Spice Girls CD, you're monster would be a cute pink little character. If you put in something along the lines of Godsmack or Linkin Park, you'd get a dark and edgy monster. Well in the third Monster Rancher 3, DVDs are now accessible for use to manifest new breeds. My first try was The Matrix, but apparently the species that would be derived from the DVD is a mystery and needs a lot of studying, so my first attempt pretty much got me nowhere. On the second try I popped in my X-Men DVD, and lo' and behold what I got was a mutated catfish -with legs- that was supposedly struck by lightning. The game refers to the DVDs and CDs as saucer stones. Your mission in MR3 is to breed the strongest monster possible, and gradually entering it into tournaments for prize items, money and respect. To build up your monsters stats, you will have to order it to train itself by doing various activities. If he/she succeeds a specific stat will increase; if he/she greatly succeeds that specific stat will increase even more.
In addition to the breeding is a level of RPG coating that is quite apparent. As you progress, you will encounter many sequences of dialogue between you rivals. As seasons pass by, you will be allowed to search around your training area for a set amount of time, in order to recover items that will increase many of your stats in addition to a rare random battle. If you take good care of your monster, and be very fair and loving towards it, its love for you will increase tremendously and it will become very obedient during battles. Monsters who dislike their owners will dance instead of fight, they deserve punishment by either being not fed, or scolded. There is of course a two-player mode that will allow gamers to pit their individual monsters against one another. Monster Rancher 3 is quite the deep game, I can go on for quite a while describing every little thing about it. If you've played the previous two, and/or enjoyed Pokemon titles, you'll fall head over heels for this addictive monster breeder. I sure did!
Since the game was DVD based, I would've loved to hear some voice acting come from the characters, in-fact I was expecting to hear some. I was let down when the only thing present was text, but nevertheless I should commend the soundtrack in Monster Rancher. Some of the tunes sound eerily like those found in Chrono Trigger and XenoGears, which is why I felt like it was a big plus. I can't say much more about the sound, there are a few typical sound effects here and there, but nothing extraordinary, not by any means.
Monster Rancher 3's interface is quite easy to get the hang of, since you do very little in terms of controlling your monster. Getting adjusted to the controls is not required at all. The only time you will be required to control your monster, and even that's out of will, is when you choose to do so right before a duel with an opponent. Battling is strategic though, so button mashers look elsewhere. Attacking is based on range, if your monster is at mid-range you will be allowed to use your mid-range attack. If it's at long-range you will be allowed to use your long-range attack, and etc. You can teach your monster a total of 4 techniques. If you would like to teach a new technique you will be forced to delete one, so be careful. As I said, controlling the game is not an issue so this should be the last thing on your mind.
I was quite content with Monster Rancher 3. It offered me a deep breeding experience with addictive gameplay to boot. I thought the soft cel-shading effect was a great touch on Tecmo's part, and brought out a distinct visual appearance in the game. If you enjoyed Pokemon but got sick and tired of its redundancy, MR3 is a breath of fresh air. The fact that you are able to produce creatures by inserting music CDs, game CDs, and DVDs is amazing and adds so much life to the game. On the subject of replay value, MR3 will last you for a good year or so; that is if you are dedicated enough.
10/8/2001 Arnold Katayev