DS review – Monster Racers
Sometimes you’ll skip on a game because it looks ridiculous, or just lame and cliche. Just looking at the box art and title, I think the first thing that comes to mind is “Pokemon mixed with… Mario Kart?”, and I fully understand. And that first thought is half-true: it does have a lot of similarities to Pokemon. And it also sounds REALLY lame, and I was very reluctant to check it out.
The only reason I even paid any attention to this game is that, each time I looked at DS release lists, I always misread the title as “Monster Rancher”, a game that I am highly anticipating. I decided to check it out anyways, hoping that it would be decent.
So read on and see if it’s just a half-baked Pokemon rip-off, or if it’s actually any good!
Date of Release: May 11th 2010
Platforms: Nintendo DS
Rated E for Everyone
Well there’s really not much to say about the graphics in this game. The areas look bland and boring and the human character design is very clichÃ© anime-style with no identity of its own. The monster design isn’t too bad, but in the end most of the monsters look like Pokemon dropouts. There’s a few really cool-looking monsters (like the Wispagrif), but overall they’re nothing really special.
As for the sound… the music nothing special, it does the job but you won’t find yourself humming it after playing the game. The rest of the sounds are very basic but they sound fine.
At the start of the game, you pick one of 3 starter monsters of different elements. After a really easy “exam”, you officially become a racer. From there, you get access to a basic “field”, where you fight wild monsters and some other racers. After that, you get access to your first tournament. Afterwards, it’s becomes rather repetitive. Get the first tournament in a new continent, win, open up the second one, do something to meet the “Star Seven” of that continent and get the big tournament of that continent started, race against the Star Seven, and go to the next continent. As you progress through each continent, you unlock new tournaments (there’s 4 in total in each continent) and new fields where you can go to capture monsters and train your monsters. Some fields make you find people who are lost, or find certain items, or fight against a Team Rocket-like group. Other than the main 2 tournament in each continent, the tournaments are optional, and they all have special conditions, like “only use a monster from this region” or “only use a certain type of monster”.
While the game flow and overall story might seem similar to pokemon, the meat of the game, meaning the fighting, is completely different. Rather than fighting, monsters in this world are somehow compelled to challenge each others to races. When meeting either another trainer, or a wild monster (represented by yellow balls on the field), you start by choosing which monster you want to use in the race. You’re also told which types of terrain are in the course you’re about to play through, and which of them your monsters are good on.
Each monsters has 4 stats. Speed of course determines how fast you can go. Thrust determines your acceleration and, I think, the power of your turbo attack. Power determines how much damage you do with your attacks, and Spirit is sort of like defense, giving some resistance to attacks. At the beginning of each battle, there’s a random chance that your monster will be particularly motivated, getting a stat boost as a result. There’s a fifth stat called Will, but it doesn’t do anything in battle. When you lose a race, your monster loses Will, and, when he’s at 0, he won’t race anymore, having lost his will to race.
As for the racing itself, it actually works like a side-scrolling platformer. The D-Pad moves you, the B button makes you jump, and the Y button let’s your monster use his turbo skill. Against wild monsters, pressing the A button makes your monster shoot a star. Shooting enough of them lets you befriend the monster and either put it in storage or add it to your team (you can have up to 3 monsters in your team). In the races, going up hills slows you down, as does jumping, and going downhill speeds you up, so finding how to tackle each track is pretty fun. The turbo skill can be used when your turbo meter is full. It fills up overtime, or when you pick up meat power-ups. Using it gives you a huge speed boost and hurts opponents if they touch you. And, depending on the monsters, they can cover wider areas or shoot projectiles.
Speaking of power-ups, there’s various types you can find. One of them speeds you up for a short time, the another gives you turbo power and one of them makes you invincible for a short time. There’s also one that makes you invisible, which lets you pass through attacks and obstacles. Whenever a power-up is picked up, it disappears for a little while, but reappears shortly, and it becomes stronger for the next person who picks it up.
Of course, in races, you have to interact with other monsters. There’s not that much interaction in races between monsters. There’s 3 things you can do to monsters: You can ram them from behind, jump on them and hit them with your turbo power. Each time you hit an enemy (or when you’re hit), a number pops up. Rather than actual damage, the number represents how long you or the enemy will be stunned after the hit. If you’re hit in the air, you also fall straight down.
During races, you will find different types of floors, such as grass, sand, fire, snow and water. Each monster has its strengths and weaknesses in regards to how fast they go on each type of floor. There’s 4 levels of “strength” in that regard: average (a triangle), good (a circle), very good (2 circles) and excellent (a star). When they’re “average”, they are slowed down by the terrain. When they’re “good”, they run as if it was neutral ground. When they’re “very good” or “excellent”, they move faster on that type of floor. In addition to those basic types of floor, there’s a few extra types, like ice (which is slippery), quicksand (you can jump when your falling down them) and waterfalls (similar to quicksand).
There’s a few differences between races against other trainers, and races against wild monsters. Wild monsters have 2 finish lines: one at a certain distance in front of them, which moves at the same speed they do, and an actual static finish line at the end of the course. Pass either of those before the opponent to win. The one that moves in front of them is usually VERY easy to pass. Against trainers, there’s only the finish line at the end of the course, and you have to pass it first to win. Both race types can have up to 3 opponents, giving more experience when there’s more enemies.
Racing gives you experience. Enough experience levels up your monsters. Rather simple stuff. The monsters who were out of the race get just a VERY small fraction of the experience. In addition toÂ experience, the monster who raced gets Loyalty points. When you get enough loyalty points, your monster gains a new skill: boosted stats, boosted turbo power, better ability to run through certain terrain, and various other things. Another way to get loyalty points is to find Monster Orbs in fields, and giving them to your monsters. Monster orbs also enable you to change your monsters’ color.
In addition to normally training your monsters with EXP and Loyalty points, you can breed monsters. After talking to the monster breeding NPC, you select 2 monsters you have either in your team or in storage. Those monsters don’t disappear though. Basically a new monster is created with part of the skills from both monters, and you get to keep the 2 “base” monsters. It takes the average level from both monsters, and both the basic skills and a random variety of the other skills. It also gets parts of the monster orbs both monsters have. So if you spend enough time breeding, you can build powerful monsters with great skills.
The last way to train monsters is to give them equipment. That’s very basic stuff. Every monster can carry one piece of equipment. Each of them gives a stat boost, other than a few select pieces of equipment. Some of the equipment is exclusive to certain monsters too, giving higher boosts than the normal equipment. There’s also some equipment to give higher chances of fighting high level enemies, or a ring that gives extra EXP to a monster that didn’t participate in the race.
The game is kinda fun. The gameplay is very simple, but if you really get into it’s rather fun to play. Racing rather than fighting is a fun idea, and the races themselves are rather fun to try and find the fastest ways through a track.
Building a strong team is fun, though it’s kind of a waste of time. I found that the best way to do things is to only concentrate on one monster, and capture strong monsters as you play for when you need them. So that part is a bit on the shallow side.
The story is ultimately lame and a rip-off of Pokemon, and the gameplay gets very repetitive, but if you’re looking for a fun distraction, Monster Racers isn’t as lame and generic as it sounds. It’s not really a Pokemon rip-off as a whole, it’s definitely its own game, but it will never be one of the must-have games on the system.
Pros and Cons
- Fun to play
- The hard races are really fun to play
- There’s lots of playtime if you get into it
- Not very deep
- Can get repetitive
- Training a powerful Â team is rather shallow
- There’s really not that many hard races, most of the time you’ll have no trouble whatsoever winning
The Save Factor
The game has a starting price of $30. And I don’t think it’s worth a lot more than $10-$15. Get it used, or wait for it to get in the bargain bin. While it can be fun, it’s also one of those “love it or hate it” games, so don’t spend too much on it, just in case you end up hating it.
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