Now that’s a series I never thought they would bring back. It had a slow lumbering death. Sporadic releases with better graphics and less content slowly killed my interest in the franchise. Though I am probably getting way ahead of my self. Most people barely remember it. Of those less if them remember it fondly. So let’s set the scene. Late 90s, early PlayStation days, a big chonky TV and large square grey slab hooked up to it. The rush of Pokemon is wearing off. That’s when your mom starts playing a game. A game about ranching monsters.
The game itself wasn’t anything to special. Honestly 1 and 2 are a little restrictive and fairly padded with the time it requires to train a new monster. Which you will do a lot. They get sick, injured, old, and run away. They die at inconvenient times. That should be stated full stop. They die. Around every 3 to 5 years or so they just crap out. So you have to really buckle down if you want to be a champion in the Monster Leagues. Which happens in a set schedule each year.
From.special invitation only matches for big money. To the larger Grade Cup matches that raise your standings in the breeders association. Each monster has to stand on their own to earn the right to move forward. So really you are starting over fresh with each new monster. Keeping your money and farm upgrades helps a bit, but the impatience and boredom of the early seasons stack up fast when you are in the Youth Cup. You burn through a lot of monsters. So where do you get them from? CDs!
So weekly trips to the local library was common. Once I brought in the instruction book and explained it the raised the limit of 4 CDs at a time to 20 if I brought them back and put them up myself within a week. I’d sit down disk after disk writing down what I got. Just Incase I needed to get that monster again. As the consoles got more advanced the ability to do this was actually removed completely. No more door hinges. No more disks in some cases. With the ones who do still have disk drives using DVD or Blu-ray now. Then add into the fact CDs aren’t really a thing anymore. Not in such a degree you could expect the user to have access to enough disks to build a game engine around it.
But what a game it was! That alone was the best part of the game. The anticipation to see what was about to pop up. Did you find a rare monster? Could you track down one of the special disks you pulled a list off line for? The later instalments switched that out for a password system. Which was alright, but nothing will replace the feeling of swapping out hundreds of disks. Sure that’s only the bare minimum of the game’s depth but that part is what drew me in. Connecting my real life to this fantasy world. Much like the dying market of Toys To Life games. You know Skylanders, Amiibo, Lego Dimensions, Disney Infinity, Starlink, and those things. Another casualty of the death of physical media I suppose. There is still plenty to love from Monster Rancher without it. Just a rerelease of 1 and 2 is coming to Switch and PC in December (2021) and it kinda hurts to see this aspect ripped away and revamped.
nestly would have preferred a new remixed title called like 1.5 or something. Now I have always felt more Monster Rancher is better than less so I’m still pumped. Who knows if it does well it might encourage a true new installment built around the modern systems’ design to give a new novel form of monster generation. Not that the other titles, 3 and up, did well when they progressively stepped further from the classics. So it’s a mixed bag in keeping a series alive long after the gaming landscape has moved passed it. Just Monster Rancher falls into the rare niche of becoming less playable as years go by. Yet those lazy Saturday afternoons in the early 2000s will always hold a special place in my heart. Possibly one more meaningful than any other bit of retro nostalgia I have. Scratched disks and load times included.