A new monster taming RPG arrived on PlayStation 4 this week in the form of Monster Sanctuary from developers Moi Rai Games. The title is published by Team 17 and is available on PlayStation, Xbox One and Microsoft Windows. Is it worth trying to catch them all? Let’s take a look.
Monster Sanctuary sees you take on the role of a monster tamer, or “Keeper”, just starting out with your trusty bloodline bound spirit monster (you can choose one of 4 a wolf, a frog, a Phoenix or a lion). As a new tamer you must first learn the basics of hatching new monsters and how to battle, with the start of the game being both tutorial and part of the narrative.
You soon discover that the world has seen a rise in hostile beings known as guardians. As a keeper it’s your duty to deal with these creatures while improving your team and hatching new and more powerful monsters.
While the title uses the monster collection formula like that of Pokemon, and it’s many competitors that try to match its success, Monster Sanctuary looks and feels more like a typical JRPG than anything else. I’ve found what I have played interesting enough though with regards to story, and on par with games of the genre without it being overly cookie cutter.
Visually the game uses 2D pixel sprites and art work for the game world. Everything from a rock face to the monsters, it somewhat reminds me of the SNES era. With that said the amount of detail in the sprites is quite good, on top of this screen transitions and battle transitions are short making gameplay fluid
Audio, much like the visuals, are reminiscent of titles of old – Those with a fondness for 90s nostalgia trips should enjoy the music and sound effects. All the sound effects are good and work well alongside the visual elements of the title, leaving little to fault about either. Personally I enjoyed the look and sound, however it’s somewhat unfortunate the title releases the same time as TemTem. While I’m not suggesting TemTem would be the better choice, I fear this title may be overlooked by those who prefer a more modern look to their games and have a itch to play a monster collector.
Iv seen the gameplay of Monster Sanctuary called metroidvania x Pokemon and while I can see why it’s been described as such it feels a little off. Personally I’d describe it as a 2D turn based JRPG, though I suppose both accurately describe the game to some extent. As I said before it’s kind of its own thing, not quite falling into a mould.
Exploration sees you traversing multiple areas of the sanctity in a 2D side scrolling map, each one having its own identity and monster types. The bulk of these areas will be locked off initially and will require you to progress by gathering keys and defeating X Amount of guardians to increase your keeper rank. On top of this a variety of monsters will need to be collected in order to use their abilities to overcome obstacles.
Monsters each have their own field skills, such as the ability to activate elemental orbs or allow the player to glide shortly. There’s a fair amount of these skills and the more monsters you collect the more you’ll be able to utilise these. Initially you’ll find yourself locked out of areas due to this but once you have 10 or so monsters, a lot more areas will become accessible. I enjoyed finding each of the secrets and gathering items while switching my monster to trigger switches or get across a large gap. I want to note that all of the monster abilities are quick to switch between, and you have access to all of your monster abilities at the touch of a button.
Combat in Monster Sanctuary takes place when you make contact with a enemy on the field, a battle instance takes place, and the turn based combat starts. Your 3 man team take it in turns to use the skills they have learned to damage enemies and exploit weakness while balancing ailments and buffs to defeat your foes.
Each combat encounter is scored up to 6 stars, with higher ranks giving better rewards and rare items such as eggs or equipment that you can use to bolster your team. This is much the same when battling guardians, tough enemies that act as the games one of two types of bosses. Guardians are much stronger than normal monsters with more hit points and the ability to attack multiple times per turn.
There are also battles that take place against other tamers with a full party line up, and are both challenging and rewarding. These battles are also the other boss type battle, as evil tamers known as alchemists try to capture your spectral monster.
Overall I enjoyed my time inside the Monster Sanctuary thanks to its story, and the child in me getting a small nostalgia fix. Combat was challenging and offered resistance if you didn’t set up your teams skills and equipment. Exploration saw a lot of back and forth as I gained abilities to check out new areas, but remained rewarding as I gained new items and new eggs to fill out my team of monsters. I wholeheartedly recommend it, if any of my review interests you then you’re likely to find the title just as enjoyable too.
A monstrous JRPG filled with nostalgic adventure and plenty of monster packed battles.
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