E3: Monster Rancher 3 impressions

[05.18.01] » The real reason for that huge crowd around the Tecmo booth.

   While most of the show goers crowed around Tecmo's booth were hoping for a sneak-peek at the monster-sized breasts of the DOA3 girls, the company also offered a revealing, if not quite as popular, playable demo of Monster Rancher 3.

   The short sample begins at the Tochikan Shrine, with the game's new assistant Fleria offering the player a choice of several ready-made monsters. The final version will, as previously announced, allow players to generate their monsters randomly using CDs and DVDs. As before, certain disc will result in unique one-of-a-kind creatures, and Tecmo confirmed that they will be customizing this list of special Saucer Stones (as they are now called) for the US market.

   Once a creature is chosen, you must decide which of the five regions on the games world map you'd like to raise it: Coat, a peaceful beach; Morx, a lush forest; Brillia, a snow-capped mountain; Kalaragi, a waterfall location deep within the jungle; or Takrama, a barren desert cave. MR3 doesn't feature a ranch proper, but you're free to move between these locations on the world map at any time, and each offers different training opportunities for your monster. Fans of Monster Rancher 2 may miss the lack of special "errantry" missions to send your monsters on, but the various training sessions offered in the different locations look to have enough variety to make up for it.

   The actual monster-raising in the demo version should be familiar to those who have played the previous games: keep your creature healthy and happy while building up his stats through a rigorous training regimen. The demo only allows for a month of training before a rival rancher challenges you for a battle, and it's here that the game shows its most appreciated changes.

   Battles still allow the player limited control over their monster during combat to move the creature around the arena and execute attack based on range. The interface, however, has been reworked. Instead of using the shoulder buttons to switch between attacks, one ability is now mapped to each of the four face buttons at each range. Combat is much more intuitive because of this small change, and the greater number of abilities (you can now have up to twelve) should result in some more complex battles.

   Unfortunately, the short demo ends after the first combat, so we weren't able to see any of the surprise events that make the Monster Rancher series so charming. But the gameplay offered up so far shows off a streamlined Monster Rancher with vastly improved graphics. The games various locales are rendered in sharp, colorful 3D and the game employs cel-shading for all the monsters. The result is game that is easily mistakable for the MR animated series and the franchise finally has a coat of technological polish to match its addictive gameplay.

   A Sony representative also took a moment to give the GIA a demonstration of the recently announced support for PictureParadise photo transfer technology in Monster Rancher 3. The technology allows players to take any photo from a digital camera or camcorder for use as decoration on monster masks within the game. Using a USB cable, the process was quick, simple, and resulted in a Mocchi somewhat freakishly adorned with the head of the GIA's Ed McGlothlin. You will even be able to use your customized masks in battle against other players. This intriguing technology is currently only available for Sony products, but the company is working on licensing deals to make PictureParadise a true standard for the PS2.

   Monster Rancher 3 is already out in Japan, but should arrive in the US sometime this summer.

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