IGN Preview of Monster Racers
Least you think Koei plans to churn out nothing but Dynasty/Samurai/Orochi Warriors titles until the end times, they've geared up to put Monster Racers on your DS. And if you think you know exactly what the game is based on the name alone... well, you're right. You do.
In Monster Racers for the DS, you play a wistful youth who decides the best use of his time will be to engage in the fantasy version of dog racing. Players can either jump in with a quick race with a few of the eighty fleet-of-foot creatures, or crank up the RPG mode (not playable on the floor) to explore Star Island, earn their Race License, and start unlocking more customizable monsters by beating them in a race. You can also customize your monsters. Yes, you can pimp your monster out, just like in Need For Speed. Colors are a certainty, but our KOEI contacts were less certain about shifting abilities around.
Variations that we saw included a red dragon, a Pegasus, a triceratops, a pig-thing, a wyvern. The designs are more Digimon-based that Poke-based, and render fine on the small DS screen. They're all classified as Cute, Cool, or Small, which presumably equals fast.
Given you're on the IGN Nintendo DS page, this probably sounds vaguely familiar.
Most races are four-thing heats, but for my first try I went head-to-head with a very nice KOEI booth babe named Kale. I selected a white bird-thing named Phoechik totally at random, she took green bipedal lizard Leefee (presumably all the names are subject to change, as I've already seen several variations on each), and we were off.
The thing that immediately jumped out was that for a race, nobody really seemed to pour on the speed. Your animals friends all gallop and a leisurely pace. The background does nothing to convey acceleration other than pass on by. One nice touch, however, is that different monsters excel at different terrains, and snow was not Phoechik's element. After a few moments plowing through the powder, it started to pile up in front of him until I jumped over it. Leefe didn't have that problem, but I still didn't have any problem smoking him.
Maybe that's because accent is more on running combat than mere running. Bouncing on enemies stuns them momentarily, but you also have a turbo meter in the lower left that primes your special ability when it maxes out. It also auto-fills. I watched two bars light up while Ms. Kale was just talking me through the controls, though grabbing meaty mid-race snacks fills it faster.
The race itself was mildly fun when griefing opponents - and probably better when the four player capability is used - but it's tough to see it being diverting for long as a simple racer. The real meat for players who sign up with be for the collecting, the breeding (I asked about interspecies romance; nobody knew), and other Poke-fun... assuming they don't just do that with a Poke-game. Honestly, no game involving weird beasties with funny names and special powers that you catch, enslave, and press into gladiatorial competition against other beasties can possibly avoid comparison to the Big P, but thus far, Monster Racers seems content to take a sliver of that cake and Xerox it.
Already out in Japan, you can get your monster on in the new world on August 25.
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