Monsterseed (PlayStation) review
"As soon as he walks on screen, you can tell the ferociously-named Daniel is your heroic protagonist. Wearing last summers generic hero apparel, the blocky and squat graphics do what they can to represent him in shiny silver armour, complete with the manly headband that stereotypically adorns the slopping brow of only those chosen by fate to rid the world of evil."
Obscure RPGs have long been a guilty pleasure of mine. There has always been something about an unheard of game that catches my interest so readily. It's quite vexing, but some dark little corner of my mind always latches on to the possibility of unearthing an undiscovered gem, or being one of the few to grab hold of a title that slips through the net, the ones known only to a select few. Upon spying such a title, it's a safe bet that I will gamble my money and risk the unknown. Such titles are so pregnant with possibilities, so poignant in their appeal....
And sometimes, quite often even, I discover that the reason these games are obscure is because they don't deserve to be anything else. No game has taught me this more than Monsterseed. It's not all this abysmal failure manages to teach me either; I can at least walk away from the experience a little more learned then I started. Still, if I had to pick out the shining example of knowledge gleamed from my time wasted here, it would be one of the latter lessons learnt:
Lesson #07 -- Monsterseed is the worst RPG ever made.
Quite the strong statement, isn't it? But I assure you, it's quite true.
As soon as he walks on screen, you can tell the ferociously-named Daniel is your heroic protagonist. Wearing last summers generic hero apparel, the blocky and squat graphics do what they can to represent him in shiny silver armour, complete with the manly headband that stereotypically adorns the slopping brow of only those chosen by fate to rid the world of evil. Chatting away happily to himself whilst aimlessly wandering the world, Daniel strolls along innocently until he reaches two suspicious figures blocking his path.
Lesson #01 -- When you stumble across two shady characters you've never met while traveling through parts unknown, eavesdrop on them. It'd be rude not to.
Using their satanic powers of darkness to 'sense' the guy in bright, shiny armour standing not two feet behind, the dastardly duo spin on the spot to confront a static Daniel. The vampiric Murdoch and his bullish sidekick Dryden exhume campiness while they rip into our beloved hero with the ferocity of a wet paper bag. Daniel responds aggressively with 'Ummms' and 'Errs', showing the world that he is the most loquacious of heroes ever to strike fear into dark hearts. He also drops into the animation he'll forever adopt when standing still. Both arms will swing rhythmically back and forth, while he bops up and down on repeatedly bending knees.
Lesson #02-- When faced with the prospect of getting your arse handed to you by two random hooligans, do the monkey!
Unimpressed by Daniel's ability to get his groove on whenever he feels the need, the rambunctious pairing's patience runs out as Danny's stuttered retorts fall on deaf ears. Outnumbered and out-powered, Daniel's case becomes even more desperate when Murdoch initialises the game's very first monster summon. It seems that the two sudden rivals share a career, as it is revealed that Daniel too is a 'ruler', one who has the power to summon diabolical beasts to do battle on his behalf. The scene is perfectly set for the two rulers to butt heads, to test their wits and the strength of the monsters they command!
The only flaw being that Daniel had sold all his monsters previous to setting out on his travels.
Outnumbered now three-to-one, it seems like you'll have to fight your own way out of the predicament. You approach one of your foes, your movements made achievable on the tried-and-tested grid system that has been more successfully employed in games like Final Fantasy Tactics or Vandal Hearts. Once you reach your destination, a drop-down menu in which your options are displayed becomes accessible. With no monsters to summon up, you are forced to try to fight on your own power. You only have one attack at your disposal, so that choice isn't a hard one. Selecting 'Tornado Uppercut' from the attack menu, you highlight the unfortunate victim who will fall pray to this tremendous sounding blow.
Lesson #03-- If you are going to steal Capcom-patented moves with such lawyer-on-speed-dial blatancy, you'll probably get away with it if you make said move as physically intimidating as a slight breeze.
Watch in wonderment as Daniel launches himself into the air, twisting his body around like a corkscrew, thrusting out his fist upwards in a mighty cleaving uppercut, no doubt using every bit of restraint he has to resist shouting 'Shoryuken!' whilst doing so. The wonderment will stay with you as it clocks up truly pitiful damage, its weakness only eclipsed by the spectacularly homosexual in-battle taunts that proceed and close every last attack that takes place. Without the ability to even graze his harder-hitting opponents, Daniel will be mercifully pummelled by the superior forces, and left to die a deserved death on a dusty, abandoned mountain pass.
This is why it's so damn annoying that he wakes up some weeks later in the well-furnished bedroom of a stranger. It would be too easy to poke fun at the fact that Daniel is still in full battle armour when he awakes, so I'll just get on with things. His grizzled rescuer, Wolf, looks on sternly as the vaguely feminine looking Kal fusses and worries over a still recuperating Daniel, who stands unmoving in the corner.
Well, I say unmoving...
Lesson #04 -- When confronted by a stereotypical old wizened warrior and a probable love-interest, do the monkey!
I'll skip over how Kal wants you to repay her kindness by finding a lost book of children's stories that is harder to obtain than the Necronomicon. Because I'm trying with every ounce of fibre I have to forget, I won't delve too deeply into Kal's overprotective monster friends, which consist of a yellow penguin/platypus hybrid and a florescent pink mutant bunny sporting a kangaroo pouch. We'll forget that the game's "missions" are given to you by the town mayor for no obtainable reason whatsoever. There's a lot more of the game's dynamics to wade through.
Eventually, you'll finally get the chance to captain your own mini-army of creatures. In an attempt to show that Monsterseed certainly isn't a Pokemon-esque cash-in, you have to hatch them from various seeds you find along your travels. The kooky title make a little more sense now?
Taking your seeds to a breeding centre will net you a free go on the incubation machine within. Here, you will get the chance to custom-set the temperature to incubate your seeds in. After a few seconds basking in your heat settings of choice, the seed will split open, and instead of some strange alien plant-life, a little critter will burst forth. If you so desire, before hatching the seed you can add various implements to the procedure to try and fortify certain alignments of your monster-in-creation. Although most of the time, the items, which cost a small fortune to purchase, either do nothing or have adverse affects. Moreover, the entire thing is as lame as it sounds.
But a word of caution to the curious of heart; each seed comes with a recommended temperature. Straying outside this might lead to the birth of a more powerful ally. Instead of a sappy looking puppy creature with a bow and the odd healing spell, deviate from the script and perhaps you'll end up with a tiny scale-model T-Rex, possessing more teeth than IQ points and an angry disposition against anyone you set it upon. On the other hand, you might stray too far from what is safe, and give birth to your very own albino monkey, who's only real skill is to trip over its own feet while giving its selected foe a gently applied dry slap. Of course, you'd have to stray pretty damn far from the limits for such an unfortunate happenstance. The hatching system doesn't reward risks, rather it will give a random new monster if you wander from the ideal setting by but a small margin. There's no hit or miss if you ignore the suggestions completely, no chance of getting a better ally the more you gamble. Overdo it, and congratulations; you're the proud father of said albino monkey or similar reject.
Lesson #05 -- Only the brave heat things up more or less than directed. The results could haunt you for the rest of your life.
You'd hope that upon re-entering the grid-based battle system that things would be more manageable when you didn't have to rely on Dan's less-than-stellar Ryu impersonations alone. That perhaps having commandable creatures around you makes it a less bitter pill to swallow, and for a while, things don't look as bleak. It's more than a little irksome that you've so little control over what allies you hatch and what skills they possess, but it's just a simple case of weeding out the weaklings and finding out which of your beasts of war have acceptable uses, right? At some point you'll have to breed an abomination of use; one that can violently tear the throats from your enemies, or blast them with their unspectacular looking spells. And you will; at least one in four hatchings will prove something of worth. Want the catch?
Lesson #06 -- Monsters aren't for life, they're just for Xmas.
They have a life-span. A really short one. Some ten battles into their career, and the poor little buggers will implode. Sometimes they'll pull off a swan-song attack that will heavily affect their opponents, and sometimes they wont. It says a lot about the game when randomly exploding monsters fails to even brighten things up. By the time you're deep enough into the game's dungeons to encounter the tougher battles, the odds are most of your bigger hitters would have succumbed to old age, and withered away -- be it with an accompanying bang or without one.
If that wasn't enough, the battles themselves are so painfully drawn out that even the easiest of skirmishes will take about 20 minutes to complete. Those engaged in battle will shuffle around the grid like they need the assistance of zimmer frames to get around the place, and the cringeworthy battle commentary that brackets the laboriously slow attacks don't help speed things up, either. If whatever slight joy you may have gleamed from hatching and commanding a small army of gremlins wasn't killed by their curious need to go kablooey, then the fact they must take part in this charade of a battle system will.
And, astonishingly, there are more mishaps still; somehow Monsterseed manages to have crap on tap. Every last thing Daniel does throws up more questions than it solves: Why is the town so desperate to hire him when he was so effortlessly defeated by the very bandits he must struggle against? Why not just employ one of the many more powerful rulers that take part in the town's aptly named 'monster league'? Why do the missions that he is hired to undertake deposit him back at the same locations as earlier ones, ensuring you have nothing but a dull cycle of the same poorly-made backdrops over and over again? Unlike Daniel, I hold a straight answer. Come on, say it with me:
Lesson #07 -- Monsterseed is the worst RPG ever made.
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