Tag Archives: pokemon

FGC #423 Super Smash Bros.

Please join special guest artist Pooch and myself in examining the deadly sins of the Smash Bros.

Lust, Sin of Donkey Kong

This is where it all started for the Nintendo empire: an ape that really, really wants to sling a random woman over his shoulder and carry her Arceus-knows-where. But there is little question what Donkey Kong is going to do when he gets there! He’s a big, naked ape, and she’s a beauty worthy of a Jump Man’s gaze… we already know what happens if you fail to climb that construction site. Donkey Kong Juniors don’t just pop out of eggs! Sure, one could claim this is all borrowed imagery from King Kong, but King Kong didn’t just stand next to Fay Wray beating his chest and smiling all day.

Of course, this interpretation is primarily based on DK’s maiden voyage, and not his later games. You know, the titles where he tries to save his bananas from being devoured by toothy crocodiles. Come to think of it, Freud might have a thing or two to say about that. And that’s even before you get to the part about him banging his bongos

Gluttony, Sin of Yoshi

Yoshi must consume.

He? She? It. It is an eating machine from the absolute moment it is hatched. Give or take a flutter jump, it seems the only way a Yoshi burns excess calories is by producing hollow, projectile eggs. Everything else is ingested, and the difference between delicious fruit and a screaming koopa troopa means nothing to this unrelenting lizard. All is sustenance to Yoshi, all must be consumed, and that never stops from cradle to an inevitably oversized grave. There’s a reason a certain plumber recently seems to leave his “noble” steed at a stage’s goal post; if a Yoshi were to traverse the entire Mushroom Kingdom, the nation would become nothing more than a reptile’s pizza topping.

Envy, Sin of Kirby

Yoshi is an animal. Kirby is unappeasable desire.

Kirby started as yet another 2-D platforming hero at a time when such a mascot character was produced roughly every seventeen seconds. However, Kirby was very different from his brethren, as he had amazing skills right from the moment he awakened. Projectiles? Just a matter of sucking in literally anything that is readily available, including plain air. Extra health? Pep bottles and Maxim Tomatoes grow on trees. Even flight, the most coveted of all platformer powerups? Well, ya don’t need any raccoon tails for this cream puff.

But it wasn’t enough for Kirby. Kirby needed more.

As of Kirby’s Adventure, Kirby gained the ability to copy the skills and powers of his opponents. Later adventures granted Kirby the talent to use multiple skills at once, combine them, or even convert his stolen skills into living assistants. Whom… he could devour again later. Why would he do that? Because Kirby can only have so many abilities at one time, and what is this ability compared to that ability right over there. Who cares if that power is attached to an ally?

And “must have it all” is such an integral part of Kirby that it followed him to Smash Bros. It has shadowed him straight through the series, and, as of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Kirby is capable of gaining nearly 75 different abilities from every last fighter.

But, of all those abilities, Kirby can only use one at a time…

And Luigi is standing right over there…

Is he even using that fireball? I bet Kirby could use it better…

Greed, Sin of Link

Link is often portrayed as a simple boy who claims the sword of a hero, heroically challenges a malevolent despot, and eventually saves an entire kingdom from an awful, certainly pork-scented fate. Link has gone by many names, but often earns a title such as “Hero of Time” or “Hero of the Wilds”.

He also earns literally more rupees than he can carry.

And enough food to feed the kingdom.

And treasure from literally every tomb, crypt, well, dungeon, and castle for miles.

And, in the end, the entire royal family owes him a debt.

And then he reclaims a magical wishing triangle that will gratefully grant him anything he wants.

And to think, he was already looking greedy when he decided he needed two hookshots

Sloth, Sin of Pikachu

Now we shall consult the Pokedex, Book of Oak, Chapter 25:

25:1 When several of these Pokémon gather, their electricity could build and cause lightning storms. … 25:8 This intelligent Pokémon roasts hard Berries with electricity to make them tender enough to eat. .. 25:11 It stores electricity in the electric sacs on its cheeks. When it releases pent-up energy in a burst, the electric power is equal to a lightning bolt.

So, to summarize, Pikachu is smart, generates electricity, can summon lightning storms, and can readily expel the power of a lightning bolt. Assuming a lightning bolt’s one billion joules of energy can be properly converted and utilized, that’s enough juice to power a lightbulb for six months. Assuming Pikachu only has a charge that powerful once day (and can’t be infinitely restored in seconds at a local Pokémon Center), a single one of those shock rats could power a city with approximately one minute’s worth of effort a day.

But what does Pikachu do?

Well, let’s just say that the coming energy shortage and associated apocalypse isn’t bothering the yellow mouse one iota. Pikachu has a party hat, and he’s going to use it, dammit.

Pride, Sin of Fox McCloud

James McCloud lost his life to the betrayal of Pigma Dengar, and failed to stop Andross, a mad scientist that sought to conquer the entire Lylat System. Fox McCloud thus inherited a gigantic starship, and the massive debt incurred by the production of such a craft. Fox, strapped for cash and perhaps anxious for a little vengeance, decided to fight back against Andross’s forces, and gathered the Star Fox team to save the galaxy.

And he did!

By himself!

Yes, Fox McCloud may have flown with Peppy, Falco, and Slippy, but who was the one that saved their Arwing’s asses every time they got into a scrape? Fox even piloted an experimental submarine just to show some random marine biology who’s boss. And did the whole team battle the giant floating brain of Andross? Nope. Just Fox. So is it any wonder that when Dinosaur Planet was threatened eight years later, Fox was alone in a rotting ship with a rusted out robot? Of course not. Why would Fox ever ask for help? He saved the damn universe! All by himself!

Team Star Fox has reassembled on occasion, but history has proven it will always be undone by the pride of Fox McCloud. Yes, he’s an ace pilot, but what is the cost of being “the best”? Fox could never maintain a permanent relationship with his closest friends. Fox could never maintain a real relationship with the princess that once left her planet for him. If ROB wasn’t bolted to the Great Fox, Fox would be completely alone in the very universe he saved.

No friends, no items, just Fox, alone, at his final destination.

Wrath, Sin of Samus Aran

Samus Aran is murder incarnate. She has committed genocide at least once, and, in the event said genocide doesn’t take, she gets the call to commit some good ol’ fashioned clone genocide. She has also eliminated fellow bounty hunters that were infected by phazon, and took no time waiting to see if a vaccine for such a condition was even possible. Oh, and there’s the little matter of how she was duplicated by her prey twice, and both times the “evil twin” was exactly as destructive as OG Samus. The “Dark” Samuses were just pointed in an inconvenient direction…

And then there’s the matter of Ridley. Ridley is a space pirate that has committed his share of sins, up to and including killing (and maybe devouring) Samus’s parents. Obviously, he should be punished for such an act. In retribution, should he be killed? That’s a question for the philosophers. But should he be killed over and over, at least four times, by the same person? That seems a bit excessive. And then cloned, reborn as an infant, and forced to desperately survive on the same space station as the hunter that killed him in the first place? That’s not a punishment, that’s a horror movie. And Samus is the pure, unstoppable vision of wrath they put on the poster.

Mario… who… uh…

Um… Mario is pretty alright. Hrm. Guess not everybody is a bad smash brother…

FGC #423 Super Smash Bros.

  • Here come the brosSystem: We’re technically just profiling the original N64 release here… so that one. It was the N64! This might be the most important Nintendo franchise to come out of that system. Or the only franchise to start on that system…
  • Number of players: Super Smash Bros. completely justifies all four N64 controller ports. Mario Kart and Goldeneye are pretenders to the throne.
  • Special Thanks/Credit: Once again, the venerable Pooch is responsible for the art of this article. All of it! Except the screenshots! Duh! Hit Pooch up for some commissioned art when you have a chance. Mention this article and get a resounding, “What? Really?”
  • Speaking of Art: Check out that box art.

    Poor lighting

    Link looks so confused!

  • Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: It is rather amazing how much of “Smash Bros.” was right here at the beginning. They might not be distinct modes, but the start of things like Smash Run or Endless Smash is obvious in the single player campaign, and every bit of the presentation seems like a prototype for the eventual celebration of gaming that Smash Bros. would become. Even the intro seems overtly cinematic… for an N64 game, at least.
  • Favorite Character: It’s Samus Aran. It’s always Samus Aran.
  • Follow your Dreams: According to an interview from 2008 (Brawl time) Sakurai initially just wanted to make a new, four-player fighting game with original characters (apparently it would be called… Dragon King? Isn’t that already a JRPG?). Unfortunately, he knew that new fighting games had a rough time attracting an audience, so he “borrowed” a few Nintendo heavies to put together a demo. Nintendo didn’t approve the project (or the characters being tossed into smash world) until a demo featuring Mario, Samus, Donkey Kong, and Star Fox was presented. And the rest is videogame history.
  • FINISHCome to think of it…: That means “out of his Arwing Star Fox” was created for the demo, and Sakurai didn’t go for an already more established 2-D character (like Yoshi). Of course, it’s not like he was going to throw Ness in there, and Kirby wasn’t exactly meant for polygons…
  • Ridley is too big: Ridley appears in the background of the Zebes stage. With his appearance in the opening of Melee, and his status as a boss in Brawl and 4, it’s pretty clear that his turn as a starring character in Ultimate was an inevitability.
  • Did you know? According to the credits and my ears, the Pokémon of this title all use the original 4Kids English voices. That is why Jigglypuff sounds so… right.
  • Would I play again: That’s a good question! It’s weird how Super Smash Bros. feels simultaneously like every other Smash title, and also its own thing. Each character seems to have at least one overpowered move (thank you, Pikachu lightning), and the balance is completely insane as a result. Why play with this old, broken man when there’s a better boy right there on the Switch? On the other hand, the nostalgia here is strong, and it’s always fun to PK Lightning smash a piranha plant. So hard to decide!

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Brain Dead 13 for the Playstation! From famous franchises to… not so much. Please look forward to it!

Poor petey

A Quick Word about Pokémon Go 02

Puff!This past Saturday was Pokémon Go Community Day, so I decided to get out there and take a walk to catch some lil’ dragon dudes. And what happened that afternoon reminded me exactly why I love my gaming hobby.

Full disclosure: I have basically never stopped playing Pokémon Go. I liked it when I started, and, ultimately, PG requires very little effort to wedge its way into my everyday life. I don’t travel outside of my area code very often, but I travel a great deal within roughly a 50 mile circumference, and there are very few pokéstops I have not hit in that sphere. It’s easy to boot up the game while I’m getting out of the car, and if someone has to wait while I catch an errant Nosepass, that’s their problem. But even more than that, I enjoy walking recreationally, as it gives me a fine excuse to experience that glowy ball thing in the sky every once in a while so I don’t accidently go full albino. And if I was going to take a walk anyway, may as well hatch a few eggs along the way. I’m not going out of my way for raids or to capture some random ‘mon that appeared on my radar, but if you play a game once a week while you’re exercising (“exercising”) for two years, it adds up pretty quick.

So Community Day was an excellent excuse to go out, take my weekly walk on the boardwalk, and capture a few monster eels. And I wasn’t alone! There were a great number of people out there walking the boards and hunting Dratini, too. Some kid was bragging about finding thirteen separate shinies… but come on, man, at least come up with a more plausible lie.

But it was towards the end of the event that the magic happened.

There are a number of Pokémon Gyms on the boardwalk, but one has become special. See, there’s been a lot of construction going on in the area (turns out a pile of wood constantly exposed to the elements maybe requires a little maintenance), and a lot of it has been focused in one area. As a result, one Pokémon gym wound up right in the middle of a construction site, and is wholly roped off by all manner of barricades. Mind you, this “construction site” is only active during very limited hours (it is Winter, nobody likes to work in the cold), and is otherwise fairly safe. Thus, somehow, this gym that cannot currently be lawfully accessed sees a bit of gym turnover, because of course it’s an excellent spot to earn coins. At least the whole situation makes it slightly more difficult to knock out your Tyrannitar.

I have a problemAnd then, in the middle of Pokémon Go Community Day, a Rayquaza raid popped up in that very gym.

I was already in the area anyway, so I made my way to the gym’s general area. There, I found a trio of people roughly my age debating hopping the barricade to go participate in the raid. I made some comment along the lines of “room for one more?” and snuck on through with the rest. We collectively decided that it would be a bad idea to be so obviously on the wrong side of the fence, so we attempted to duck down a nearby (but still in range of the gym) alley. I say “attempted”, because we quickly rammed into about forty people crammed into that alley. We were all surprised, and one fellow toward the back said five simple words:

“Welcome to Pokémon Fight Club.”

For the sake of posterity, Pokémon Fight Club consisted of, but was not limited to:

  • A healthy number of adults playing a children’s AR game.
  • A number of children that seemed genuinely impressed that so many helpful adults were around.
  • A grandmother playing with her grandchildren. To be clear, grandma was absolutely playing the game with them, as they were having a lengthy debate about when it’s proper to use a golden razz berry.
  • One Pomeranian looking dog, who seemed a little annoyed at the crowd, but was otherwise civil.

I know there were over forty of us squeezed in there, because at least one guy was attempting to organize everyone by team for at least three raids. And, for the record, organizing this wad of nerds wasn’t that difficult, as everyone seemed to group up effectively… even if they couldn’t actually physically move.

Frankly, against this Pokémon Fight Club? That Rayquaza never had a chance.

I’ve been playing videogames for three decades, and I’ve never experienced anything like that. I’ve grouped up with people for “raids” online, and I’ve even participated in similar events in real life a few times for conventions and alike. But there in that alley? Finding Pokémon Fight Club? Possibly the most wholesome Fight Club ever imagined? That was new, and one of the most unique events I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing.

So, yeah, that’s why I’m still playing Pokémon Go. And that’s why I love videogames in all forms.

Ray!

FGC #380 Pokémon (Ultra) Moon / Sun

DawwPokémon Sun & Moon is the first Pokémon game to feature a memorable story and characters.

It’s also the first Pokémon game to feature dynamic camera angles, dedicated cutscenes, and full animations for as many of its humans as its pokémon.

Gee, what could be the connection?

For many people, the plot of any given Pokémon game is about as essential as a story in a fighting game. In fact, you could easily make the argument that the Pokémon titles are fighting games. Sure, there’s a complete JRPG GUI, and you talk, level up, and manage your ‘mons as if they were straight out of Final Fantasy Legend, but the battles are the main draw. And, while that’s true of many JRPGs, most JRPGS are not two player, and even less are head-to-head two player. For a countless number of Pokémon fans, the “main campaign” is a way to tinker with random party configurations at best, and a complete waste of time at worst. The real appeal is producing the best team ever, marching into your local poké-tournament, and cleaning house with your Level 100 Medicham. Or, like fighting games, popping online to play with the “meta game”, and feel really great when you wipe out a Mewtwo… that was trained by an eight year old. You monster.

And, for about the last every Pokémon game ever, it seemed like Game Freak agreed with the audience that didn’t give a damn about plot. Yes, every Pokémon game even going back to Pokémon Green had a whole plot with unique characters and trials/villains to overcome, but the plot was always completely secondary to the sheer weight of one day becoming the Pokémon champion and scooting into the postgame. Slow?Hell, in one of the later Pokémon titles, a cyclopic, light-haired bad guy raised an entire evil castle from the Earth while summoning some manner of god- mon… and I can’t even remember which game contained that event. I want to say Black/White? Maybe? Look, I’m still anime racist, and I can’t tell these silly magic emperors apart.

But Pokémon Sun/Moon changed all that. It introduced Lillie and Nebby, and, in one fell swoop, flooded Deviantart with more Pokémon fanart not featuring a naked lady version of Pikachu than anyone ever thought possible. Lillie not your thing? Don’t worry, we’ve got rude boy Gladion and his beloved Type:Null to keep you company. Hau ain’t bad, either, Team Skull is unforgettable, and Lusamine is a great villain because she’s such a threat to not only “you”, but the people you inexorably care about as well. Sure, every Pokémon villain has threatened the world with flooding or ghost dinosaurs or whatever, but how many of those rogues had the sheer malevolence to torture a lil’ dude that has been living in a gym bag? For the first time in Pokémon history, the people of Pokemon Sun/Moon are more memorable than the ‘mons, and, considering they’re competing with Rowlett, that’s no small accomplishment.

But, sad to say, you don’t care about Lillie, Gladion, or even Professor Kukai because of their personalities and design (though, admittedly, you might like the Prof for his topless lab coat fashion combo), no, you the stars of Pokémon Sun/Moon shine because of scene direction.

Yay!Other Pokémon games had heroes, friends, and villains, but they all lived in a decidedly primitive JRPG world. Pokémon X/Y , Sun/Moon’s direct ancestor, had excellent graphics (and outfits!) available, but every story beat played out with protagonists that may as well have been Dragon Warrior sprites. Lord Whatshisname is threatening the planet with his pokémon-based death ray, but I can’t remember his damn name because he just stood there like a doof and generated text box after text box of “dialogue”. Yes, you’re a generic bad guy, I get it, can my gyrados eat you yet? The average Pokemon villain is no more threatening than the bug catching kid on Route 1, and it’s all because they’re presented in exactly the same way. In fact, that kid in the shorts might be more threatening, because he’s there when you just started, and your most effective offensive measure is to friggen growl at your opponent. By the time you’re stomping down Team Rocket, your favorite pokémon has evolved into a rhobeast, and the average battle takes just long enough for you to open a menu. Looks like you’re blasting off again, Giovanni, compliments of six different hyper beams.

But Pokémon Moon/Sun does something completely different. PSM actually treats the camera like a tool, and not a necessary evil. There are close ups of character’s expressions. There are mad scientists that giggle when they think no one is looking. There are villains framed against their helpless captives, and screens that convulse and shake as cherished Nebbys are beaten and hurt. When you first meet Hau, it’s a happy occasion, and everything about the direction, from the angles employed to the joyful music playing, tells you that. When you first meet Lusamine, you know something is up, because the direction reminds you that something isn’t quite right here. And when you find yourself trapped in another world with a raging, monstrous Pokémon, you don’t have any questions about the stakes of your next battle. Pokémon Sun/Moon goes the extra mile to tell its story, and everything about the “ignorable plot” of the title sparkles as a result.

And it’s a damn shame more games can’t take a page from this new Pokémon book.

Yay!Somewhere in the history of gaming, we started to think that “plot” simply meant “more words”. You could blame it on the possibility of more words (Newer words! Bigger words!) with the expansion of game storage space, or you could just point to the success of Final Fantasy 7 and call it a day. Super Mario 64 was only kind of a hit, and it had like a paragraph of words; Final Fantasy 7 was practically a novel… so clearly what the public wants is more words! And it doesn’t matter that Final Fantasy 7 had amazing visuals, set pieces, and “sprites” that may have looked like Popeye’s spikey haired cousins, but never stopped emoting; no, what’s important is the big, long plot and all those precious words. It doesn’t matter if we pump out a JRPG where heads just talk to each other for hours at a time, and the average infodump is accompanied by maybe one still image, what we need is as many words as our typing monkeys can spit out! Throw in the word “evil” over and over again! That has to be interesting, right? A couple of dudes sitting in a non-descript room talking about what is inevitably going to be the final boss and how it fought some brave hero twelve billion years ago? More! “Press X to advance text” is the most exciting thing a person could do with a controller!

So congratulations to Pokémon Moon/Sun for advancing the storytelling capabilities of not only the franchise, but the entire medium. Nobody had to do such a thing, and we would have been perfectly okay with another preteen saving the world from old men and their rattatas, but you went the extra mile, and created an unforgettable experience. Congratulations, development team, you are Pokémon Masters.

FGC #380 Pokémon (Ultra) Sun / Moon

  • System: Nintendo 3DS for all time.
  • Winner!Number of players: As many players as there are on the Global Trade System, so probably something approaching the total population of Europe.
  • Ultra Moves: I’m going to consider this “review” as something that applies to the Ultra versions as well. Give or take a lame sidequest with Looker, the Ultra versions are better in every way than their less interesting ancestors, and there’s pretty much no reason to ever go back now. They even included a surfing minigame that makes absolutely no sense! That’s always good!
  • Favorite Pokémon (this generation): Okay, yes, I know Rowlet is the breakout star of this generation. But did you know that one of the other starters turns into a freaking angry wrestling black cat? How could I ever say no to that!? Its signature attack is a spinning lariat of doom! Dooooom! Keep your round boy, I’ll go for the lucky cat any day of the week.
  • Think of the children: Look, I get that we all like big, showy Z-Moves. But it’s one thing for a torchic to use scratch on a psyduck, and it’s quite another thing for a Lunala to suck an opponent into another dimension, focus a multi-beam laser on its target, and then spit the poor sucker back out on the ground. That’s just bad sportsmanship.
  • Other cruelty: Immediately having the choice of adding a poke to your party or sending them back to the PC is great! I just feel like there could have been a better way to phrase it all…

    LOSER!

    YOU GET SENT TO THE BOX!

  • So, did you beat it? I am the very best.

    Winner!

    Like no one ever was.

  • Did you know? There are only two new dark type pokémon in this generation: the previously mentioned Incineroar, and Guzzlord, Snorlax’s evil cousin. Given dark type is my favorite type (because it’s the only type that contains a Godzilla), I take personal offense at this choice.
  • Would I play again: This is the most recent Pokémon generation as of this writing, so, yes, I’ll play it right up to the very moment a new Pokémon generation hits the streets. I’m very predictable that way.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Diddy Kong Racing for the N64! Time to race a wizard pig for dominance of a genie elephant. Or something! Please look forward to it!

Winner!
Bahamut got nothing on this

FGC #360 Monster Rancher

You never know when some particular piece of media will strike you. Monster Rancher might be the most personal game I own.

Let’s start with the facts: I played Monster Rancher a lot. How much is a lot? Well there are these stats:

Double Winner!

720 Wins! And add that to the slight fact that that screencap was taken in the Monster Rancher year of 1062. The game starts in 1000. My player avatar has been a monster rancher for 62 years! Holly, the ever-present assistant monster rancher, should be in a retirement home! I can’t even remember my first monster!

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start with the basics: Monster Rancher is a Playstation 1 game that was released in 1997. To be clear on the timeline here, that would put MR’s release a solid year before Pokémon Red/Blue hit the states in 1998. And the comparisons between Monster Rancher and Pokémon are appropriate. They’re both games about loving and raising unusual creatures, and then forcing them to fight for your amusement/money. The big difference here, though, is that Pokémon started with 151 fairly unique creatures (electrode and voltorb are objectively similar), while Monster Rancher mostly relied on less than a dozen “types”, and mixed and matched their attributes in a couple hundred different ways. Tiger plus Eyeball = Hairy Eyeball isn’t exactly as original as a Jigglypuff, but it still leads to a larger bestiary. And where do you find these fantastic beasts? In Pokémon, they’re hiding in tall grass, but Monster Rancher was a little bit different. Monster Rancher concealed all of its monsters in much more mundane locations…

Eye of the Tiger!Let’s rewind even further in this inevitably autobiographical article. I was a gigantic videogame nerd as a child, but music wasn’t really my thing. Or, to be more precise, I simply happily listened to my parents’ oldies stations, and I was fairly convinced The Beatles and The Traveling Wilburys were the be-all end-all of harmony. This belief had a brief hiccup in about fifth grade, when I discovered “Weird” Al Yankovic and proceeded to demand his every last tape. So, while I wound up with Amish Paradise, I passed on every last Gangsta’s Paradise or practically anything else that was supposed to be interesting to my generation. Yes, this means I missed Nirvana. But I had Bomberman to keep me company, so I didn’t much mind. It wasn’t until my sophomore year of high school that I started to listen to my own music.

And then the floodgates were open.

Ignoring a few “comedy albums” (technically, my first CD ever was a Simpsons soundtrack… I regret nothing), I still remember buying my first three “real” CDs: Squirrel Nut Zippers – Hot, Ben Folds Five – Whatever and Ever Amen, and Jethro Tull – Greatest Hits. My tastes are very… eclectic. From there on, I started collecting albums like I collected videogames. In fact, since this was a time when Playstation titles were at an all-time low ($40 brand new across the board), buying a new CD of any kind, game or music, was roughly the same financial decision. And, given this was also the first time in my life I had a disposable income (welcome to teenage employment!), I quickly amassed a glut of CDs of all shapes and sizes (okay, they were all the same shape and size, but their covers were different!). Now who wants to listen to the Barenaked Ladies discography and play Mega Man X4?

Don't look directly at itSo enter Monster Rancher. At first, MR appeared to be another random monster raising game. Yes, we all knew about incoming Pokémon at this point. Yes, I’m pretty sure we were all at least dimly aware of Digimon, too. All the ‘mon games were on the cusp of global dominance, but before all of those, we had Tamagotchi, the insidious little “virtual pets” that were crying and (virtual) pooping “augmented reality” experiences before the term even existed. For anyone that missed that trend, we’re talking about electronic babies. You had to care for them at all times, react to their insistent beeping, and, if you were a good little monster parent, you wound up with a twenty pixel dragon or something. As if you can’t tell from my present level of disdain, I loathed the little (wannabe) monsters, and, as a result, even the likes of Pokémon sounded like some lame cash-in on the monster-raising fad. I eventually played Monster Rancher, not because I wanted some of that cool, monster ranching action, but because I wanted to rent a videogame, and literally nothing else available looked like any fun. Congrats, Monster Rancher, you were the absolute last choice.

But to say that “last choice” worked out well is something of an understatement. The main hook of Monster Rancher? Stick any CD in that Playstation slot, from Butthole Surfers to William Shatner Sings the Hits, and you’ll get a brand new monster. Your favorite album might create a winged dinosaur, or that demo that came with your CD wallet could produce a hulking golem. The CDs are seemingly randomized, but they’re consistent, so if you find a monster you like, keep that disc handy for breeding later. And some discs are decidedly less random, which would explain why I bought a Madonna album exclusively for its unique Pixie. Yes, in an age a solid decade before DLC, Monster Rancher found a way to get its dedicated fans to go out and buy Billy Joel’s Greatest Hits for some inexplicable reason.

When I first discovered the hook of Monster Rancher, I’m pretty sure I didn’t actually play the “game” for a week. I had collected my CDs in real life, and now here was a virtual world rewarding me for such hoarding. I was on cloud nine. What’s more, I was spending all my time on that cloud scanning every last disc I owned. When that ended, I went through my dad’s entire CD collection. By the time that had ended, I’d already bought the game (and a Van Halen album that contained another unique Pixie), and started monster ranching in earnest.

That’s about when the OCD really kicked in.

MURDERYou can summon monsters from real world CDs, but some CDs are “locked”. While you can acquire an absolutely rocking naga from any old disc, some of the more unique monsters, like dragons, magicians, and giant robots, may only be summoned if you’ve “earned” that species in the game proper. So, yes, Billy Joel can provide a unique ape, but you have to earn the right by careful monster rearing, battling, and some good ol’ fashioned luck on expeditions. This infuriated me. Here I was, entitled to some awesome monsters for deigning to own Tecmo’s Deception, but, no, I can’t have the little biters, because I haven’t played the game enough. I’ll show ‘em! I’ll show ‘em all! I’ll earn every last monster in this stupid game, and then I’ll finally have a completed personal bestiary. It’s not about catchin’ ‘em all, it’s about knowing that every last disc I own is equally accountable.

And then I played the game for 62 years.

Did I enjoy every minute of it? Of course not, this is a ranching sim, so a healthy amount of Monster Rancher is just navigating menus and killing time. Battles are long and tedious, and, while they’re not entirely unpleasant, they do involve a lot of time invested before potentially losing everything (you could easily win six matches, take an unlucky crit in the seventh, and literally watch your monster die as a result). Expeditions are a necessary part of unlocking any interesting monsters, but, even with perfect stats, they’re little more than reskinned slot machines. And, in general, the dialogue is perfunctory and randomly accusatory (I’m spoiling the monster? Really? He only gets fed once a month!”). Monster Rancher unquestionably has its good points, but the minute-to-minute of the experience is sorely lacking.

I was a teenagerBut that didn’t matter. To this day, Monster Rancher is still one of my favorite games, unmatched by even its sequels. It was, for all purposes, a particular moment in time, crystallized in a videogame. By just a few years (maybe even months) later, I’d be hording MP3s, and buying entire albums would become a part of grandpa’s generation. New Playstation titles would rise in price, and, for a little while (poor college days), I’d barely buy a new game at all. Had Monster Rancher dropped just a half year later, it would have been a random rental I’d forget about forever. But, no, Monster Rancher was there just when I needed to indulge my ridiculous collector tendencies, and it became as synonymous with my teenage years as my first girlfriend (who, incidentally, got a monster named after her in my save).

Monster Rancher might not have been the best game, but it is one of the best games to me.

FGC #360 Monster Rancher

  • System: Playstation 1. Given the central gimmick, I’d say this one is nigh impossible to emulate/port without bringing the rest of the late 90’s with it.
  • Number of Players: Two! And you can import a buddy’s monsters for battles, too! I… I never found another human being that owned this game.
  • Speaking of Discs: You can play this game on the Playstation 3, but I did not test if the central CD summoning mechanic still worked. I don’t want to push my poor backwards compatible Playstation 3 disc reader any further than I already have. I need that thing for LPs!
  • Favorite Breed: Pixies were always my favorite as a teenager, as I was a teenager, and a half naked lady monster is naturally going to seem appealing. As an adult (and when I actually wanted to beat the game), I usually went with the humble golem or magic. To be clear, there’s a monster that is just named “magic”. It kinda looks like Michael Jordan. This is a weird game.
  • It’s good to have fans: There’s a popularity gauge for your monster in this game, and filling it can lead to some excellent fan mail.

    Winner!

    I am great!

  • Did you know? For whatever reason, all monsters are assumed to be male, so male pronouns are used universally. This is very odd for the clearly female pixie breed. “It” should be allowed when you’re talking about a creature that eats raw meat off the ground.
  • Would I play again: I love this game. I love it more than I’ve loved some other particularly dear inanimate objects. But I’m probably never going to play it again, because it is very much a product of its time. We’ll always have the memories…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Psychic Force 2012! Journey to the marvelous future of 2012, and join the Psychic Force! Or fight them! Please look forward to it!

Don't you look at me
We do not talk about Doodle in polite company