There’s nothing wrong with nostalgia. Nostalgia is a big box office and television draw; nostalgia can make you feel good, even though it was long thought to be a type of mental illness in the days of old. Newskool has taken the idea of nostalgia and run with it in their aptly titled Monster RPG 2, which is an RPG with monsters in it.
However, while the game has an aesthetic appeal for fans of old school SNES RPG’s, the whole product ultimately falls flat. From the get-go, players are dropped into a story that has very minimal punch. Protagonist Eny is out collecting mushrooms with her friend Tig. While scouring the forest, Tig and Eny stumble upon a dropped wizard’s staff that turns Tig from a blank slate friend NPC into a blank slate villain. It’s a clear homage to the beginning of Secret of Mana, although the staff doesn’t just unleash monsters, it also possesses Tig. Suddenly he’s bent on destroying the world. He sends Eny to prison after nearly killing her in the first battle of the game, but fear not! The way out the dungeon is so simple that there’s really no tension to Eny’s imprisonment. Eny then sets out to save her friend from the staff’s dark influence, and ostensibly collect the bag of mushrooms that she dropped in the ruckus.
There isn’t really any tension in the game’s story or characters at all, which is a bit of a shame. The party boasts up to nine characters, all of whom could have really interesting storylines if the developers actually went anywhere with them. They join the party so quickly after the game’s beginning that players will find their roster half-filled before the one hour mark. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, given that Monster RPG 2 is at least a six to seven hour long play through. But I can’t help but feel that if the roster had just been a bit shorter, there would have been more time to flesh out the party a little.
Clearly Newskool was going for a homage to the SNES era Final Fantasy games. The overworld looks pretty much like the Blue Planet from Final Fantasy IV; the sideways battles with animated battling sprites are reminiscent of Final Fantasy VI’s 16-Bit battlers. Mode 7 even makes an appearance at one point. These are all very nice touches, and it does make one nostalgic for the good old days of 16-Bit RPG fantasy games. Newskool obviously holds games of that type in high regard, because a lot of love did go into the look and feel and sound of Monster RPG 2. It’s just a shame that there wasn’t enough focus on character development or even gameplay in general.
All the typical RPG elements are here: an overworld, dungeons, levelling up. However, the controls don’t pair well with the computer platform the game is played on. There’s a strange mish-mash of directional movement via the keyboard, and having to use point-and-click to make selections from the pause, party and battle menus. It isn’t entirely distracting, certainly, but it can be a hindrance when, in the heat of battle, you forget that you have to move your mouse to select your target.
Although Monster RPG 2 boasts several continents to explore, there’s nothing very interesting about any of these areas. Going from continent to continent is rather quick to the point of feeling rushed; the dungeons are boring despite some truly catchy music, and the random encounters aren’t balanced enough. I myself had to reload after reaching the mountain dungeon because, to my surprise, the game doesn’t offer any way of reviving fallen party members from the outset. Anyone who has played classic RPG’s can tell you that at least having an inn, a church or even a tent is a necessity.
It does feel a bit unfair to be so harsh with this game. It is, after all, from a small developer. It does succeed in doing what I think Newskool intended to do—feel like a nostalgic jaunt to games of yore. But it takes more than just being a throwback to classic RPG titles to make a game worth playing. Were Monster RPG 2 a longer game, with time to get to know and appreciate every character and make the story a bit richer, it wouldn’t feel like such a grating experience. And if it was smaller, without cramming in so many characters in the party in favour of focusing on a more streamlined plot, then it would be worth devoting the few hours of your life it takes to play it.
While it is a nice nod to the games it’s trying to imitate, there are better indie RPG’s worth playing. When it comes down to it, there are better mainstream classic RPG’s worth your time.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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