Continuing my series playing monster-catching games, Monster Racers is a charming game for the Nintendo DS, released about 10 years ago. So far, it's the only catching game I've played that doesn't involve battling - instead, you race monsters against one another on a sidescrolling platformer.
I adore it. I haven't finished it, but it's the most novel and clever of the games that I've played. It also makes me daydream about a potential alternative reality where it's a racing game - instead of a battling game like Pokemon - that became the break-out hit. Imagine all the racing imitators, each having a different spin on the genre.
* The game is set in the real world. Each continent has different tournaments ("cups", including multiple cups with different entry criteria in each continent - encouraging you to use more than one 'mon), and monsters mostly based on the actual flora and fauna of that continent. This is really exciting, and each location has a genuinely different feel to it. It also demonstrates how you could do a multi-region game: you'd have key locations in each region, rather than the whole region map. * There are different-coloured orbs that boost your monsters' stats. You can adjust your monsters' palette based on how many orbs you've given them. This is a simple idea that's lot of fun. * 'Types' are the terrain types that the monster does better on. You can also try to breed monsters to give them better terrain type coverage. * You can race against one or many opponents, and catch wild opponents by "shooting" stars at them (these slow you down and require some manoeuvering and timing to do right). * After a power up is collected, it refreshes at the next highest level - so there's an elastic band effect where those that are losing get better boosts. * You feel like you're progressing because you develop a fan base. * There are recurring characters, like a bickering family that's found at every destination that you visit. * There's a single hub for shops, the breeder, etc., instead of having them spread out across many towns like in Pokemon. * You're a member of an elite band of racers. * Because the tournament runs through the entire game, you keep bumping into your rivals at different stages, and race against them several times. It feels much more like being in a League than Pokemon, where you fight most trainers just once. * You meet the "Elite 4" equivalents early and often, so they're known quantities you can anticipate beating in the future. Sometimes you don't even realise they're the Elite 4 when you first meet them!* Because there are recurring characters, they have portraits with different expressions. You also have expressions when responding to others' dialogue - better than just having "...". When you race, your portrait changes expression based on what's happening in the race. * You get Tools kept in your inventory instead of HMs (people have wanted this in Pokemon for a long time)
Someone's done a Let's Play on YouTube if you're interested.
Thanks for linking this. I watched a few videos (there are not many!) of the gameplay and it really is pretty interesting. My concern about modes-of-play like this are the burden to artists to create useful sprites, but I also would love to explore ways to incorporate non-traditional gameplay modes that utilize resuable content.
Bumping into rivals often is fun. I spent a lot of time playing Suikoden II as a teenager and that game (and the rest of the series!) has an enormous amount of playable characters and story members. Personally, I do like the idea of a game universe where there are many people in it, and other that you may bump into often, rivals or otherwise.
The expressions on the trainers faces are a nice touch. Adds a lot of drama and emotion to the game.
I certainly wouldn't try putting it into the mainline Tuxemon game! But I do think it'd make a lovely side game. I've been, very slowly, working on a proof-of-concept for just such a game.