Monday, February 16, 2004

Dragon Warrior Monsters 2: Tara's Adventure (GBC)

Rating: 4 out of 5
Pros: Some fairly unique ideas, great gameplay, lots of replay value
Cons: Occasionally repetitive, barely average graphics and sound

During the bulk of this review, I will refer to Dragon Warrior Monsters 2: Tara's Adventure as DWM2, even though two nearly identical games make up Dragon Warrior Monsters 2. The other game is Dragon Warrior Monsters 2: Coby's Journey.

Whenever I refer to DWM2, I am specifically referring to Tara's Adventure, but it usually applies to both games. Tara and Coby are brother and sister in the first Dragon Warrior Monsters game, and you got to play as Coby, because Tara had been kidnapped.

DWM2 is the sequel to Enix's first attempt at cashing in on some of the success of the ever popular Pokemon games. DWM2 shares a lot of similarities with those games, but also brings some unique content of it's own. Most of this was present in the original Dragon Warrior Monsters game, but has been improved upon and given an over-haul for the second version.

You move to a magical island, which you previously visited in the first DWM game. After a little accident, the island's "plug" is removed, and it is in danger of sinking. A magical little critter hops in the hole to plug it temporarily, but it is up to you to find a more permanent fix.

You must travel far and wide to long distant lands looking for a suitable plug, and there are many dangerous monsters you must face along the way. Lucky for you, the monsters you control do all the fighting for you, similarly to Pokemon, and you just stand around like a lark.

You can have tons of different monsters, though only three can be with you at any given time. You must also give each of your monsters attention, or they will disobey you during battles. To make them like you and obey again, you must take them with you on some of your travels, and/or give them treats.

Monsters are fairly easy to catch. Sometimes a monster will join you after a battle, other times you must feed it treats during the battle to lower it's "wild" statistic first. In either case, only the last monster you have destroyed in a battle has any chance of joining you. So if you want a certain monster, make sure to kill it last, and consider feeding it treats before you kill it.

One of the absolute greatest features of DWM2 is the monster breeding system. This system was present in the first DWM game, and it is one of the things that got me hooked on it in the first place.

As your monsters fight battles, they will gain experience. After reaching level ten, they can be bred together at the Starry Shrine to create a new monster. When you breed two monsters together, they will disappear, but the new baby monster will usually be better than either of the parents.

This is the only way to get most of the rare monsters in the game, and one of the most fun things to experiment with. Also, since there are a few hundred monsters total in this game, it is something you can play with for quite a while without getting the same monster every time.

Tara's Adventure and Coby's Journey are nearly the same game, but there are a couple minor differences. If you are one of those people who has to find every secret and explore every part of the game, you will either need to find someone who has the other title, and a link cable.

Some monsters are only found in one game or the other, as well as some of the keys you will need to access different lands. They can be traded back and forth, much in the same way as Pokemon Red/Blue/Yellow/Green.

There are a couple of other neat options for use with a link cable. You can battle head to head against a friend, trade monsters, or even breed monsters. When you breed a monster with a friend's monster, you both receive an egg with the new baby monster in it.

Gameplay is really fun, despite being a bit repetitive. There's a lot of walking through random maps and killing things, but the monster breeding portion helps you to maintain your sanity. With so many combinations of monsters to breed, this game will take a while, and sports some pretty good replay value to boot.

If you go straight through the game without exploring any of the bonus places or trying to breed ultimate monsters, it should take you between ten and twenty hours. If you aim for the stars, and try to explore the whole thing, you are looking at weeks or even months of gameplay.

Game controls are simple, with only a few buttons to use. Everything is done through a turn based menu interface, making it easy for even a young child to figure out.

The graphics are pretty good actually. The bulk of them are taken directly from the Dragon Warrior games for the NES. They look like it too, with the squished and deformed sprites on a 2D background; but what do you expect from a Gameboy Color game? It's a typical first person view in a typical role playing game setup.

Everything is well drawn and full of color. The distant lands you have to unlock and fight through are all randomly generated maps, and the few hundred monsters in the game boast mostly unique graphics rather than recycled graphics using a different color palette.

The sound is right on par with the Dragon Warrior games as well. If you have played any of those games, you will recognize most of the music and sounds in this game right away. Not all that great, but they certainly worked for me, as I loved those games. A bit catchy, but fairly standard RPG music. The battle theme is fast paced, while the town music is light and uplifting.

Overall, I would recommend this game to anyone. Especially if you like Pokemon or the original Dragon Warrior games. If you like Dragon Warrior Monsters 2: Tara's Adventure, I would also recommend the above games, as well as the first Dragon Warrior Monsters game.

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