If there's any purpose for virtual pets -- this is it. Sure they're cute and adorable, but is that really going to hold your interest for very long? They don't fetch papers for you. They don't draw attention from chicks. So they might as well duke it out for glory. That's what I say at least.
You might think that this game is similar in premise to Pokemon -- and you'd be right. I'm not sure which came around first, but I'll tell you that this is the only game on the Playstation that will satisfy your virtual pet battling needs. No children, there's no Pokemon game for Playstation.
The purpose of the game is to carefully raise your monsters to become champion fighters and to indirectly become a master trainer. You'll raise your monsters by feeding them, playing with them, training them and entering them in tournaments. As they rise through the ranks in the tournaments, you'll gain fame and money that is necessary to provide for the monsters. Monster Rancher 2 provides hundreds of different monsters to use (how many hundreds I don't know), making the replay value tremendous for those interested.
When you first start out as a meek, inexperienced trainer, you'll get a free monster from the monster shop. After raising this first creature and gaining some experience, you'll be able to buy new monsters, breed them, or even create new ones from your own CDs. That's right, there's an option in the game that will create new monsters for you by reading data from any of your music, games, or computer CDs. For a list of some of the monsters you can get from particulat cd's, check the GR cheats section. Although doing so is a bit tedious, it's an interesting option that you'll definitely want to try, and the only way to get some of the rare monsters.
Training your monster is done by running them through pre-designed training activities. You can make your monster swim, run, pull things, dodge things, meditate, and much more in order to raise his/her attributes. Attributes include power, speed, intelligence, etc.. Along with raising attributes, your monster will also learn new attacks. You also have the option of sending your monster to special training camps which are expensive, but greatly increase their skill.
Raising your monster carefully is vital to their success in combat. You have to choose the correct foods to feed them, how stern you should be with them if they fail, and how much they should be rewarded for being good. The best thing is to maintain a careful balance between being harsh and a being a pushover. If you're too nice, your monsters won't work hard. And if you're too harsh, they might run away or just plain die.
Combat in Monster Rancher is mostly done automatically by your monster, but you can choose to lend a helping hand. If you do so, you'll be able to provide advice during a battle that your monster will usually take. Basically two monsters are put in a ring and they go back and forth performing their attacks on one another. There is a two-player mode in Monster Rancher that allows you to play your monsters against your friend's monsters. You can also import your monsters from the original Monster Rancher game and put them into the ring.
Monster Rancher 2 is a decent looking game, but it sure isn't using the Playstation's full graphical capabilities. The graphics are cute and simple, reminiscent of Pokemon or Super Mario 64. Although the game uses relatively simple 3D graphics, there are several graphical problems including camera clipping and polygon dropout. The problems don't ruin the game, but overall, Monster Rancher 2 could have looked much better.
Depth is certainly the strong point of this game. With hundreds of monsters, all sorts of ways to train them, and special side adventure games to play, you'll pretty much never be done with Monster Rancher 2. Don't forget you can also sit around all day plugging in your entire music CD collection to see what new monsters you can find. If you're looking for a game that'll keep your kids busy- this is it.
Overall, Monster Rancher 2 offers a lot for what it is- a children's game where you raise and battle monsters. I found it entertaining for a while but I soon tired its repetitive nature. But then again, you might enjoy raising virtual pets. The only major flaw in the game is its own premise- I believe that a virtual pet game similar to the popular Pokemon on Gameboy would be more interesting because you get to raise your monsters while exploring and solving puzzles. In Monster Rancher 2 you're confined to your ranch most the time, pressing buttons in order to raise your monster's statistics. If you're interested in playing with strange little monsters, then this is your best choice. Otherwise, leave it to your little brothers and sisters and check out the numerous Playstation games that are suitable for adults.