Pokemon X/Y comes out tomorrow. So today I am going to talk about my favorite monster collecting game. No, it’s not Pokemon. In fact, my favorite game in the “collect, raise, and battle” genre is a spinoff of the well-known series Dragon Warrior/Dragon Quest. The game is Dragon Warrior Monsters (DWM), and while I have not played it through as many times as I have the original Pokemon, I have loved it a great deal more, and spent more energy on it. It is rare for me to actually write stuff down in a notebook for a game, but for DWM I found myself recording my findings in a notebook for future use. This is due to its unique take on how you collect and battle your little monster minions, even if you raise them just like most other RPGs (yay grinding!)
The story for the first game (yes! There are more than one!) begins with your sister getting kidnapped by a strange monster. Immediately after another monster shows up and offers to help you get your sister back. He takes you to another world and introduces you to a king. Apparently there is a tournament soon, and the prize for winning is a wish. Before you can participate you must train up and qualify, and so begins your journey (which includes other stories as well). I am honestly terrible at plot-synopses because I don’t like to give anything at all away (I believe part of the joy of a story is going into it completely blind). So as per usual I am going to focus my reviews on mechanics.
Most “collect and battle” roleplaying games/RPGs present the player with three core mechanics: Collecting, Raising, and Battling. In most both the act of Collecting and Raising are done via battle, but enough games have mechanics that operate outside of Battling that I will keep all three split.
Collecting in DWM is based on befriending monsters instead of capturing them or obtaining them as gifts. In order to befriend a monster you must defeat it completely in battle (none of that low health stuff like in Pokemon). Once the battle is done there is a chance the monster will “get up” and request to join you. During the battle you can give various kinds of meats to enemy monsters in order to increase the chance that they will join you after, though you also need to be careful as only the final monster to fall will have a chance of joining your party. In this way obtaining new monsters doesn’t feel like capturing them with a lasso or a trap, but more like taming and befriending by offering treats to calm down a wild beast. There are also over 200 monsters to collect, and their designs vary greatly as you can collect more than just animals and dragons, but also zombies, demons, and animate objects.
Just as in most every RPG your monsters gain experience after successful battles, and with enough experience they level up to gain increased stats as well as new abilities. What is truly special about DWM when it comes to raising monsters though, is the act of breeding. Once you have both a male and a female of appropriate levels you can breed them together to produce a – more often than not – completely new monster (which means this mechanic is also important to Collecting). Certain generic combinations exist, but the real fun comes in discovering the special combinations. When you breed monsters together the offspring starts off with an average of the parents’ stats, and have the potential to learn every special move which their parents knew in addition to the abilities native to their monster species. This is where true progression comes from as you will need to level up breeding partners to comparable power levels in order to get the most out of their offspring. The breeding mechanic is also why I started to record data in a notebook; since the game tells you one way to obtain a certain monster, but in fact there are often several hidden ways.
You can bring a maximum of three monsters with you on your journey (and they all follow you!). In battle you can give your monsters direct orders (ala Pokemon), but this option is removed whenever you enter a tournament, so it’s in your best interest to instead use the other fighting mechanic, which is to assign each monster one of three possible personalities/roles. One focuses on pure offense and damage, another on healing and defense, and the last on more strategic support abilities. When you assign these strategies to your monsters you revoke all control and just watch as they fight enemies according to the predispositions you assigned. I think is this actually really cool as it feels more like you have trained a monster to be an effective combatant, and then you’re just releasing it against your opponent. There is no magic voice-activated remote implanted in your pet. Sometimes it can be frustrating if your monster(s) continue to use a useless/ineffective move, but that’s just part of the fun.
So while I plan on buying a 3DS for the purpose of playing the new Pokemon, I also found out that there is a sequel to DWM on the 3DS, and part of me is actually tempted to play that first. I miss breeding zombies and devils together to create a supreme unholy beast to fight alongside my puddle of slime and squidman.