Monster Rancher and Monster Rancher 2 launch next month, December 9, as Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX on Switch, iOS, and PC via Steam. Japan saw similar rereleases before, but it’s the first time those of us elsewhere have gotten a Monster Rancher game in years. Koei Tecmo is celebrating the occasion by expanding Monster Rancher’s competitive scene, too, with a new tournament.
The tournament’s premise is pretty simple. You’ll compete by uploading your Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX data to a special server, and that’ll tell you where your monster ranching skills rank among the top players in the world. Koei Tecmo’s first tournament began in 1997 at Tokyo Game Show, so it only took 24 years for the rest of us to show just what we can do with a collection of Spice Girls CDs. Executive producer Kazumi Fujita announced the whole thing in a new YouTube video—it’s pretty neat to see someone so enthusiastic about a series that felt a bit left behind on a global scale. It’s enthusiasm that I’m hoping leads us to another game.
And if Monster Rancher can make a comeback in 2021, so can I. Those games came out over two decades ago now, and my darkest secret is that I have masterful knowledge of a franchise that lived and died in the shadows of other monster-collecting series. I’m completely serious when I say that I have used that old PlayStation 1 disc every year for almost 20 years. That’s a sentence I’m not sure if I should have proudly written or if it should be scrubbed from public record. Anyway, I like Monster Rancher 2—like a lot a lot.
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So if you are like me and eagerly anticipating its arrival, it’s worth noting it may not quite be just as you remember. This bundled version of the first and second game won’t have CD unlocking functionality, so don’t worry about digging out your family’s ancient collection of obscure Christmas albums and the Titanic soundtrack (a personal favorite from the ’90s) to unlock new creatures. Nostalgia bummer aside, the new system uses a CD database you can search for song IDs in, making the monster unlocking process much faster than before.
There’s the additional quality of life bits, too. Both games come with an added high-speed mode, more freeze slots for the Lab, and a random battle mode. Monster Rancher 2 also gets new musical arrangements and 27 more creatures. They aren’t big changes, but it’s at least enough small tweaks that make an old PS1-era experience something less cumbersome.
With a new…ish Monster Rancher on the horizon, I’ve forgone this month’s Pokemon remakes and opted to indulge in the collection on launch in December. Since 2021 has continued the hell that was 2020, I’m treating myself to a chance at destroying everyone competing for that top spot on the Monster Rancher leaderboards. In all likelihood, I won’t even make the top-whatever list and wind up beaten by someone half my age. That’s fine though, at least I’ll have my bizarrely-named wolf buddy, Tiger.