Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher review (Switch) - A fantastic, challenging crossover
Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher is a very interesting intersection between two things I genuinely love. Both are likely to be considered niche loves, but I stand by them. This particular game fuses Monster Rancher, the classic monster-raising video game series, with the Tokusatsu franchise Ultraman.
It boasts over 200 Kaiju from the various Ultraman series, and that’s pretty impressive. It feels like a title that was inspired by some bizarre manga from the mid-2000s. While this is not a perfect game, it’s a beautiful, fun one, and offers just the right amount of challenge for me.
Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher combines two classic franchises into one
While these two franchises don’t really have a lot in common, I’m a big fan of wacky, over-the-top choices like this. It’s something that many people might overlook, but if you’re even remotely a fan of the classic Monster Rancher games, you definitely need to come take a look at what Bandai Namco’s got on offer here.
I have quite a few friends that are fans of classic Ultraman too, and so they were just as excited as me. Even if you’ve never watched Ultraseven, Ultraman Mebius, Ultraman Ginga, or any of the other series, there’s something to like here. You don’t have to have knowledge of either series to dive in and start raising Kaiju - giant monsters.
The gameplay loop is a pretty simple one but still manages to offer significant challenge to players. In Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher, you summon and raise a number of powerful, giant Kaiju, and put them in friendly, competitive battles with other ranchers. Your monster will do chores, train with others, and compete in tournaments.
How to recruit and train your Ultra Kaiju
Before you can do anything, you need to summon up a Kaiju. You will receive your first monster very quickly, which you will, of course, get to pick a name for. In the City region of the game, you can head to the Altar, where you will find your monsters in Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher.
If you choose Use Memory Board, you can use any NFC-related item to scan against your controller. This will give you a Kaiju, depending on what you utilize. Unfortunately, and this is my biggest complaint, you cannot use your Amiibos. I have no idea why this wasn’t considered.
Enter Keyword replaces the classic Monster Rancher tradition of using CDs. Back in the day, we could put our music CDs into the PlayStation, and receive monsters as a result. Now, you will need to enter Main Keywords and Sub-Keywords. Depending on what you decide upon, this will give you a variety of Kaiju as well.
However, another sort of frustrating thing is that there are "locked" monster species. Even if you have the correct keywords to unlock them, you won’t get them until specific requirements are met. Thankfully, LegendCup has a database that is being filled by members of the community. You can go there to search keywords, and see what the results will be, provided someone has already submitted it.
There will also likely be special events or giveaways that result in codes being offered. In this case, you’ll use Enter Code to receive your Kaiju. Finally, you can simply receive a seasonal Kaiju for free. The selection will change periodically, so go and check regularly to see if it’s a monster you lack.
If you summon a Kaiju and decide you don’t like it, you can leave it with the Field Guide and come back for it later. Or never, if you’re a heartless monster. You can only train one Kaiju at a time though, so choose wisely.
Back at the Ranch, your Kaiju can undertake a series of Drills in different terrains. Each raises and lowers certain stats, and each Kaiju also seems to prefer drills. Either way, it almost always seems to raise my "Anger" stat, too. If your monster’s Anger meter fills up, they will go on a Rampage. There’s a good chance an Ultraman will show up to stop them.
If your Kaiju damages property, you’ll have to pay for it, but thankfully, money does not seem to be a problem in this game. I never seemed to be short of cash, thanks to dominating tournaments.
As you defeat other opponents and meet characters, you’ll unlock the power to go on Errantries. These are month-long excursions where your Kaiju can learn new skills, grow in power, and develop friendly rivalries. They are costly though, so be careful.
In addition, at the start of each month, you’ll pick out a food to feed your monster. Be aware that in Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher, they are often picky. They also won’t appreciate being fed the same food every single month, so mix it up with different spices, and things of that nature.
As you increase your stats and gain new powers, you’ll want to get ready to head to the Arena and start competing in tournaments.
Competition is easy but challenging in Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher
In Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher, each turn is a week. There will be periodic tournaments, which you can see in the schedule, by simply heading to the Arena. They all have their own requirements, whether monster rank or class.
They start at “E” rank in Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher, but, they can take part in battles to increase that rank as well. You can only go up through “C” rank without a Rancher License; that is where the game really starts kicking up the difficulty.
That battle only occurs twice a year, so you have to plan and prepare for it, and also have a monster strong enough to win the bout. But how does combat actually work? In fights, your Kaiju builds up a Guts meter over the bout duration.
You’ll see a series of icons at the bottom of the screen, each depicting a particular range away from the other monster. If you’re the wrong distance away, these abilities are marked out. They also have a Guts cost, and a visible chance of hitting.
Battles are short, so you have to really consider everything you do - how hard you can hit, and how fast your Guts recharge, in particular. Not all monsters are fast, either. You can dash in, thankfully. You move back and forth with the L/R buttons, and that will put you in range for your various attacks.
If time runs out, whoever has the most HP will win, but you can also claim an easy victory by knockout. You have so many types of moves, too. Beam attacks, status ailments, knockbacks, and more.
I love the combat, and even in defeat, I wasn’t too upset. I could easily see how strong or weak I was compared to other monsters, but the hit rating always felt incredibly low. I seldom had over a 50% chance to hit.
That said, combat is a lot of fun, and it feels very tactical. Just spamming whatever attack you have available is not going to be a smart strategy for success. All monsters feel like they have something that makes them useful, and I love that.
Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher is fun, but very grindy
Each Kaiju in Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher has a competitive lifetime, usually a few years. So, you will want to make the most out of them before you retire a Kaiju, and put him forth for fusion with another monster. That’s right, you can also fuse them together! I haven’t done much of that though. Frankly, none of my attempts amounted to anything great.
However, the game is incredibly grindy, and you will spend a lot of time doing tedious, mindless busy work, and preparing to go to tournaments. That doesn’t bother me, but it may bore some people. Most Monster Rancher fans know what they’re getting into though, and it’s definitely true to the classic games.
Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher is also quite pretty, but does have framerate issues
I love the bright colors and visuals of Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher. It’s a beautiful little game, and each of the Kaiju feel accurately represented and reproduced for the purposes of this game. The music is fitting as well, and I adore hearing the various roars and cries of the monsters!
Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher really brought me back to when I was a kid. However, I did notice some framerate stuttering and drops. They weren’t frequent, but just enough to mention it. It happened most often for me while in combat. The Kaiju are poorly animated, but I feel like that was on purpose. That way, they meander and wander like they did on TV.
While yes, this is a grindy, slow game that can feel like it takes forever, that’s what I expect from Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher. It was a joy to play, and I loved putting in CD names to see what sort of monsters I was going to get, just like I did as a kid.
Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher is a weird monster-breeding simulator, like the classic Monster Rancher games, but with a Tokusatsu twist. Would I have rather seen something like Kamen Rider or Super Sentai? Absolutely. That said, I adore what this did, but that said, it’s still really just for a subset of gamers. If you’re a Monster Rancher and/or an Ultraman fan, then you'll appreciate it equally well.
These Kaiju, even if they look creepy, are somehow still adorable and a joy to raise. The challenge is finding the right way to raise each monster, what skills work the best for them, and how to overcome your opponents in battle.
Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher
Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch (code provided by Bandai Namco)
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Developer: Koei Tecmo
Release Date: October 20, 2022
Abu Amjad Khan