Review Simulation

Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX – Review

If you’re like me, the name Monster Rancher might bring back fond memories. Whether they’re of the anime or raising your own monsters back on the original PlayStation, it brings back a lot of nostalgia. But after all this time, how do the earlier games hold up? We’ll take a look at Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX and find out.

Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX - MR1 Ranch

To Be a Master

For those who are new to the series or need a refresher, Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX is about raising monsters and then battling them. There’s a bit of story, but it’s mostly summed up as you and your assistant need to raise monsters and then win the championship.

Monster Rancher 1 & 2 are essentially the same in this way. And in many ways really. While there are some differences, you’ll spend most of your time in both training monsters, with the occasional battle to rank up and earn money.

Several different types of training are available to you. You can choose to put your monster through training that raises a single stat or multiple stats, at the expense of another and more fatigue. If you have the money, you can also choose to put it through a training course, with the chance of it learning a new move for fights.

It’s important to manage your monster while you do this. It’s not just battle stats that you need to manage, but health, loyalty, and more. Keep feeding it cake and it might listen to you – but it won’t exactly be fighting fit! Do you punish it when it fails training? How you raise the monster will determine everything from how long it lives to how it acts.

The raising system itself is surprisingly good, especially considering that this is a pre-2000 title. There are a lot of factors to manage and a ton of customization – especially when you get to combining monsters, which will be discussed later.

Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX - MR1 Battle

To Battle

While most of the time is spent raising monsters, the overall goal is to win the championship. This means battling your way through several tournaments.

Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX works on a calendar system, with you spending a week doing each activity. The main tournaments happen every few months – complete these to rank up and open up the next level of tournaments. But there are plenty of weeks with extra battles to earn money and items between these.

The basics are similar between both Monster Rancher titles. You can manually control your monster to some extent – move them towards and away from the other monster. Choose an attack, though it’s limited to whichever attacks are options based on your range. You need to spend ‘Will’ for attacks, which generates over time. Loyalty has to be high enough for them to listen to you too.

There’s some strategy to battling if not much. You can see what types of attacks are more effective and try to remain within that range. Some enemies won’t have attacks at certain distances, so staying further away might advantage you. That said, you can auto-battle. I found that I only won slightly more often when manually controlling the monster.

One notable difference between the titles – Monster Rancher 1 felt more different between ranks when it comes to difficulty. I’d clear D-rank without an issue, one-hitting enemies on occasion. Then rank up and get easily beaten down on C-rank, being one-hit by enemies occasionally. It felt a bit more of a gentle slope in the sequel. The second title also had far more variations on tournament types too, rather than the constant round-robin battles of the first.

More and More

Raising monsters and battling is what you’ll spend most of your time on, but there’s certainly more. Later on, you can do things like exploring ruins for rare items – though this can come with a risk of temporarily losing your monster. There’s upgrading the ranch too. These only come along occasionally.

One of the more important features is combining monsters. At any point in your monster’s life, you can freeze it and revive it. This lets you switch over to raising another monster and is great if you want a change. Or if you want to create some (possibly horrid) mishmash of two of them. Possibly with some items thrown in to influence things. There are absolutely tons of possibilities, with monsters often taking on the shape of one monster, with the patterning of another type.

Some may do things differently, but I found my loop to be raising a monster until I’m warned it’s almost time for it to retire. Then I’ll freeze it. Wait until I’ve got two near the end of life and then combine them. This then gives a baby monster with better starting stats. Rinse and repeat and you’ve got the gameplay loop and the way to move closer and closer to grabbing the top spot in the battle area. More and more items and features are unlocked along the way to help you out too. This helped to keep a feeling of progress. You might only reach rank C at first, but then slowly crawl your way up to B, A, and then beyond.

Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX - Disc Selection

No Searching for Mystery Discs

A feature I’m not sure how I feel about is the new ‘disc system’. It used to be that players needed to find a CD, pop it into their PlayStation, and then a random monster would be generated. It’s not really practical these days, especially on the Switch version.

In Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX you need to search a database and choose a CD. By typing in the title and/or artist of an album, it should pop up – in theory. Several CDs I tried didn’t show up, so I’m not sure how expansive the database is. Then again, the search is a bit finicky too, so I might’ve missed them. It only seems to come up if the keyword typed matches the first word in the album, so searching Earth won’t come up with ‘The Best of Earth, Wind & Fire, Vol. 2’ for example.

While I understand the necessity to change the feature, it does feel like it’s missing a bit of that ‘magic’ the original had; of searching around the house for a CD that hadn’t been tried yet and seeing what happened. Maybe it could’ve been replicated with a paired app and scanning barcodes? This way is a lot more convenient though.

More New Features

Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX contains both of the titles, but with some additions. Extra save slots, freeze slots and more are certainly helpful. Though I do wish they added extra item slots too – those run out quickly!

Playing Monster Rancher 1 first and then moving onto 2? You can’t transfer monsters between titles exactly, but you can spawn a new baby monster in 2 from the save data of any frozen monsters in 1. This lets you play the first title, raise up some monsters with great starting stats and then get a boost in 2.

It’s possible to download monsters from other players online to fight them in versus. This adds an extra challenge.

Most useful of all and not really explained in-game is the ‘FF’ feature. Presumably meaning ‘fast forward’, it lets you speed things up significantly. This is incredibly useful for practically all aspects of the game, other than manual battles.

Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX - Mariya

Why Not Both?

You may notice I’ve collectively reviewed both titles for the most part. As mentioned, they’re very similar. While I’m sure some will enjoy playing both titles, I do have to say that Monster Rancher 2 is essentially Monster Rancher 1, but better.

There are more variations in tournament types. Certain aspects are explained better. Even the menu is more convenient. Small touches are included in the second title, like hints are given specific to the enemies fought. I felt that Monster Rancher 2 had better balancing too. Even as a bonus, Monster Rancher 2 comes with an optional remastered soundtrack.

In a way, this is a bit of a downside. The casual player might only want to play the better second title but has to buy both. Admittedly, it’s not a pricey title, so this isn’t a huge issue. And players in Europe may not have played the first – it was never released here, with the second title just being called ‘Monster Rancher’ here. It’s something new to experience.

It’s Not Pretty

My first impression of graphics was not good at all. The videos look to be the same ones used in the originals, in all of their 20 or so-year-old glory.

Fortunately, the graphics of the game itself hasn’t aged so badly. The pixel art still looks good on the backgrounds and sprites for the most part. That said, there are certainly many points where the age shines through. Text on images is sometimes barely readable as a particularly obvious one. Normal text is perfectly fine though.

Don’t expect much improvement in the graphics and you won’t be disappointed. Just keep in mind that those nostalgic memories are rose-tinted.

Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX - Training


I find myself conflicted when it comes to Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX. It still remains the same great game I enjoyed as a youth in many ways, but perhaps it hasn’t stood the test of time in others. The second title is certainly the better of the two, and I’d happily recommend that. It could still be improved, but it’s better. As a package though, perhaps it’s worth waiting.


Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC (Steam)

If you would like to read about Simulation games, you might be interested to read this review of To The Rescue.

Many thanks to KOEI TECMO for a Nintendo Switch review code for this title.

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