Magic: The Gathering meets Pokemon!
I have confession to make. I am 30 moons old with two kids, a full-time college student, and not only do I game on my PC and Playstation, but I have a Gameboy Color for use on the "holy throne." I was made aware of Monster Rancher Battle Card: Episode 2 for the Playstation because I own the GBC version, and I can't put that down either. Tecmo really has something here, and it spells addictive, quality entertainment.
So what's so great about MRBCE2, you ask? How about an interesting story and addictive gameplay?
Your friend Colt has just had his birthday, and is old enough to become a card "breeder." Master Pabs, your sensei, gives him a "monster plate" on which he can collect all of the monster cards he can. And his most prized gift comes from you, the rarest card of all, the Phoenix. To quench his desire to see the plate full, you loan him some of your cards, and at that instant Colt disappears, magically transported to "Monster Paradise." Now it is up to you to save Colt by collecting at least one of each monster card. Let the games begin!
This is essentailly a card game featuring four types of cards. First there are Monster Cards, which act as your front line in battle. Hit points and monster lineage are shown on these. Skill cards are used for the actual battles; there are both attack and defense skills, which can only be used with their respective monster card.
There are also two more supporting cards. One type allows the breeder to assist in the battle by either attacking, healing, or casting area effect spells. The last type of support card can be used by any attacking monster on your team, and they vary from attacks to special moves.
The game consists of turn-based battles. Each player starts with three monster cards and fifty skill cards. Players alternate playing skill cards to wear down the HP of their opponent's monster cards or deplete their rival's skill card supply. Each side must maintain five skill cards in their hand; if you cannot make a five-card hand you lose the battle. Each move costs a certain amount of Guts (points that are gained by turning in unplayed skill cards). So it's a constant decision to either save your skill cards for the next turn, or sacrifice them for guts.
MRBCE2 lets you use your own CD's (music or games) to create new cards in the classic Monster Rancher tradition. It's a good thing I like obscure music, because if the game has never heard the disc before, you get some super rare cards.
The art is clean and exciting, but the animations for each move are minimal and tend to bog the game down with load times. I turned them off after a couple of hours to speed up the gameplay. Still, the animations look really cool.
RPG fans that enjoy turn-based fighting but would rather do without all of that seemingly pointless wandering around will love the menu driven gameplay. To progress in the game and to collect more cards, you participate in battles. There are occasional tournaments where you can win some pretty powerful cards, and the championship tournament is the only place to earn the infamous Phoenix card. But for the most part, you fight in independent challenges with other clubs. Battles are non-stop, with a little storyline thrown in between to keep things flowing.
There are no puzzles to solve, special items (other than cards) to collect, or areas to explore. Each stop on the world map is just another arena for battle, which really helps with the pace of the game. However, it also means that there isn't really more to the game past the card battles. Most RPG fans will find this somewhat dry and boring.
The biggest flaw in MRBCE2 is the multiplayer, which just plain sucks. It's played in a tournament style, with 1-8 teams of 4 breeders, each player controlling a team. The problem is that the computer randomly generates three of the battles for each team, so each player only actually plays one time. This mean you'll spend some time sitting there watching menus scroll by announcing the winner of every bout. It's just not very interactive and not very fun.
At any rate, this game is so freakin' addictive that I wish I had never started playing. If you have free time in your life that you feel needs to be filled with obsessing on a game, then check this one out. But don't count on multiplayer to provide much entertainment because it won't.