Monsterseed (PlayStation) review
"They could see me coming. They always could. Waft an unknown RPG in my direction, and watch as the saying "a fool and his money are quickly parted" is proved correct. I'd never heard of Monsterseed, yet there it sat on the shelf, looking cheap and purchasable. I bought it. God help me, I bought it. "
They could see me coming. They always could. Waft an unknown RPG in my direction, and watch as the saying "a fool and his money are quickly parted" is proved correct. I'd never heard of Monsterseed, yet there it sat on the shelf, looking cheap and purchasable. I bought it. God help me, I bought it.
When I was younger, I remember so fervently wishing that more RPGs would get released. Living in the oft-forgotten PAL region, I suffer more so than my over-the-pond comrades, and upon the slow trickle of RPGs that continued well into the 32-bit era, I watched jealously as RPG after RPG never got the port I so desperately wished for. Now and then, something is done to make me regret this wish, nothing more so than Monsterseed.
From the ugly, squat opening with the painfully awful translation, I suffered bravely onwards, even heroically scraping some joy from the game for a small while. The plot (from what I could gather from the mangled mess of the localisation) is the usual simple fare of ye olde generic young boy (imaginatively named Daniel) wandering into a town and pledging to help them against an ominous group of local bandits and malicious roaming beasties; this, keep in mind, after running into said bandits in his travels and promptly getting the snot beaten out of him -- the best part of the game bar none. Now that Daniel has happily signed himself over as the community's slave-monkey, he is sent out on various missions on the town's behalf.
Each mission seems curiously similar to the last, and the game continues this way until you discover the reason behind this; they bloody are. For instance, your first mission sees you storming the malevolent bandits' fortress, the second sees you delving into a crumbling old mine, and the third puts you straight back in the same damn fortress you had previously trodden. There is nothing about this game that doesn't grab you by the throat and scream "repetitive". Not a good trait when what it does offer is as dull as dishwater.
Since the game lacks any plot of note aside from your rather weak grudge and attempted redemption against the rather less-than-impressive bandits who bloodied your nose and are so hated by generic town #256, Monsterseed must turn to its gameplay to make a valid stab at being playable. With this in mind, I openly weep in despair at the fate I placed on the poor, poor currency used in the nefarious and regrettable transaction of this game's purchase.
You don't fight such a powerful and intimidating collection of evildoers with Daniel alone, oh no; you get the chance to raise an army of little critters using various monster eggs you find sitting around the place. The kind of monster you raise from said eggs depends on various factors, such as what temperature you hatch the egg at and what extras you use to help hatch it. The extras can help boost attributes and form, and the temperature allows you to over-- or under -- cook your would-be subordinate, which means that you run the risk of bearing a runt monster in your flock should the temperature be off. If this game has an upside to it, it would be the hatching system; unluckily for all those out there expecting a somewhat enjoyable game, you are quickly made to forget this when you enter your first battle.
The battles are executed via a turn-based system, the very reason I bought this game in the first place -- aside from my obvious and hopefully momentary lapse into insanity. Monsterseed somehow manages to dirty even this, my favourite of genres.
The battles take place using the same sprites the rest of the game employs on a base grid the game doesn't even try to disguise. You get to control your hoard in as slow and jerky a battle system as I can possibly imagine, which serves only to make the fights drag endlessly on. Each of your various beasties has their individual skills, ranging from attacks, status changes, healing and so on, so the speed (or, more specifically, lack thereof) could have been somewhat bearable, but Monsterseed has another cunning ploy up its sleeve: at random intervals, your monster lackeys will spontaneously combust in the middle of a battle. I guess it's meant to give your army a limited lifespan, thus ensuring that you are continuously upgrading your mini-army. In this it could have succeeded, but their untimely deaths truly seem random, as does the unfortunate ex-pets' chance of making a powerful attack upon their demises. It doesn't help that the only way to have powerful allies is to hatch them as such, something your opposition seems to do flawlessly, a feat you must waste endless eggs trying to replicate. It's a slow, boring experience that not even randomly imploding monsters can lighten up.
I've touched on the chunky, stubby graphics which make a poor attempt to create a cartoony feel, but even for a game of Monsterseed's age, they're just terrible. The few sound effects and music tracks that do make an appearance are instantly forgettable and half-arsed. Neither are worth describing in detail, because there is no detail in them. It's bland in every sense of the word. In fact, it's so bloody bland that a new word should be invented to describe this.
This word is snucki.
It has the odd good touch that still fails to pull this dripping pile of snucki out of the true definition of awful. The hatching system is fun to play about with, often forcing you to bear forth runts in the effort of trying to hatch the best beast you can from your egg, and the monsters -- although featuring nothing you've not seen in similar games -- are often distinctly recognisable. Outside of missions, the town offers a monster duel league where you can battle with other trainers for various prizes such as new eggs and better hatch-assisting items. (A league with trainers much more powerful than you in the upper tiers, making you wonder why they needed to wait for a personality-less drip to wander aimlessly into their bloody village to solve all their bandit-affiliated woes. Idiots.) You can also duel with any friends you may have that are unfortunate enough to also be cursed with a copy of Monsterseed.
Games like this make me angry. I look at games like Monsterseed, and it reminds me of the games that never get ported outside NTSC. PAL, and subsequently I, make do without games such as Chrono Trigger, Xenogears and the like and instead gets stuck with horrible games like Monsterseed. Here you'll find a pathetic, by-the-numbers affair without a shred of originality and the lifespan of a chronically depressed lemming.
If you see this game, for the good of humanity, you have the right to destroy it. Flinging holy water at it should do the trick.
Community review by bside (October 25, 2005)
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