Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher Review
Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher’s title should be “Monster Rancher featuring Ultraman”. That’s exactly what it is. If you’ve played Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX, this is basically that game with an Ultraman theme. For Monster Rancher fans, this is more of what you love, with little innovation. Ultraman fans are definitely going to get a kick out of the 200+ kaiju offered by the game. But there aren’t non-Ultraman kaiju like Godzilla, Gamera, Power Rangers villains, etc. And, unfortunately, like the original Monster Rancher games, there’s not much depth to the gameplay.
The gameplay cycle is addictive though. It involves choosing a kaiju, raising it on a farm, and battling it against other kaiju. Choosing the kaiju is actually my favorite part, and is also Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher’s most unique gameplay evolution. The original PS1 Monster Rancher games had a gimmick where they would get data from a CD swap, and provide a monster. A huge part of the draw of playing those games was trying out different CDs, and seeing all the different monsters. Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX had a Spotify-like database of music artists and albums that could be searched through.
No CDs? No Problem.
Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher scans cards with NFC chips, like membership cards, and employee IDs. Strangely, Amiibo cannot be used for this Switch-exclusive game. Fortunately, because NFC chip cards aren’t as common as CDs, Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher also has a keyword search. Just type in a combination of words, and see what you get. Sometimes they just result in an error message. I tried entering “Suicide Squad”, because of the kaiju joke in the movie, and it got me nothing. But that was the only time I got an error. I used my bus pass to create an Alien Metron, and found it to be better than any other base kaiju I ever received.
Raising the Kaiju on the monster ranch is basically a series of choices and funny cutscenes that result in stat boosts. The player selects what kind of food their kaiju should eat for the month. Each week the kaiju trains in different ways, or rests, and the combination of these choices alters their stats, Eventually, kaiju can be entered in tournaments, and if they win, money is gained, which leads to better stat increase efficiency. It’s a simple system without much depth.
Combat is strange. It involves building guts to be more successful at landing hits. Building up guts allows a kaiju to use more expensive techniques. Most hits will miss, and the key to victory is to build up hit percentage. Higher guts costs mean moves are more likely to land. Kaiju can move towards and away from each other. Certain attacks need a certain distance to maximize their ability to land. It’s an interesting take on old school turn-based JRPG battle systems, but because player focus is on one kaiju at a time, it can get pretty boring.
No Narrative Goal? Big Problem.
Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher would have really benefitted from some kind of narrative. Or any other driving purpose to play. It’s an endless gameplay cycle, but the cycle of each kaiju is also short. They retire after a few in-game years, and the player just picks another kaiju, and starts the process over. There’s no gameplay growth. No end goal. Because of this, Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher is a fun novelty that cold be picked up and played again for a few hours every year or so, but it’s a very shallow experience that got old quickly. Friends can thankfully battle their kaiju online now, but again, it’s not a deep combat system.
The Ultraman content is a very fun theme. The kaiju are massive versions of the Monster Rancher series monsters, but most of them are taken from various Ultraman series. My knowledge of Ultraman is small. There was a craze in the early 90s I loved, involving a TV series called Towards the Future, a terrible Super Nintendo game, and series of gigantic action figures. My memories were fond enough that I watched the original Ultraman series when it was first released on DVD in North America. The kaiju in Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher are definitely more of the 60s-style than the ambitious and terrifying 90s designs. Think more Showa-era Godzilla, and less Guyver.
Those Sweet Kaiju Sounds
Some of the monster audio has to come straight from the older Ultraman series. It can be hilarious in the best way. Lots of the kaiju sound akin sound like roaring dragons, but I was lucky enough to get one that sounded like a older Japanese salaryman having a quiet chuckle to himself. And the sounds Ultraman makes whenever he appears are perfect. I used to show the first episode to friends, just so they could hear how hilarious he sounded, and Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher nailed it. Shuwatch!
In conclusion, Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher is only for Monster Rancher and Ultraman fans. If you’re not familiar with both, a lot of the humor will mean nothing. Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX is a better starting point for the Monster Rancher series, despite the added online combat in Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher. But the other reason that I have a hard time recommending Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher is that it’s almost a full-priced game. This is a shallow, repetitive game, and one that I’d imagine 95% of people who play it will only spend a small amount of time with. I would have an easier time suggesting the curious check it out if it was budget-priced. But as it stands, Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher is only for people who want more Monster Rancher, or love 60s Ultraman.
***Switch code provided by the publisher***
Perfect Ultraman audio
Great sense of humor
Repetitive, shallow gameplay
No narrative, or end-game
Extremely niche appeal