The joy of Monster Rancher games is happening upon a creature to raise and doing all you can to make them amazing in a certain period of time. Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher is that, but with Ultraman cameos from both massive opponents and the tokusatsu hero himself. That fact might be off-putting, but don’t let it scare you off from a pleasant simulation game.
While kaiju encounters would be harrowing in any other Ultraman situation, in Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher, these are big buddies and not big baddies. While the Hero of Light (Ultraman) needed to seal them away into disc stones years ago, the people of Latour Island now consider them friends. As a recent graduate of the Breeder Academy, you come to Niesk ready to start raising kaiju. Since your information got lost along the way, a familiar face named Holly acts as your mentor/assistant as you find your footing and unleash monsters upon the island.
From there, Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher tends to follow the series’ basic formula. You determine the kaiju’s food for the month, as well as if there are any spices on it. This can influence if they fear you or not or are dependent, as well as affect weight. You can talk to them, which can influence things like loyalty and anger. You set the character’s schedule each week. Activities can involve a Drill at a location, which will influence stat growth and potentially make an area the kaiju’s territory. (If that happens, the character’s stat gains will be positively influenced.) You can take part in an Errantry with another trainer you’ve met. This charges them with raising your character for four weeks for a set fee, with a chance of learning a new technique if you do. If your monster is fatigued, you can send them to rest for a week so they can recover. (This also means they’ll have a better chance of succeeding during Drills and Errantries.) You can enter tournaments at the Arena for fame, money, and a chance to meet more breeders. Also, you can head to town to shop or get new kaiju.
It’s a very chill experience, to be sure. Yes, there is a time limit on each kaiju’s “life.” They’ll only be in their prime for a few in-game years, after which they will retire. When they do, it’s time to use the NFC scan, keyword, or code to get a new character. There’s also a bit of strategy involved. Each monster has different stats that could be more easily raised, so you need to play to those strengths. However, their anger could rise if you make them do something they dislike. Which, in turn, could cause a rampage. So there’s a sense of watching and learning what they like, then using that knowledge to balance behaviors that benefit both your buddy and you. Especially since there are times when you’ll suddenly see the difficulty drastically increase between ranks.
The real “action” in the game comes from battles. You can find yourself facing other kaiju in the wild, after running into another tamer, or most often at a tournament for rewards like money, items, and fame. Your character can know up to four techniques. These can each be used only if you have enough guts and are at the correct distance. (Though even if you do meet those criteria, your monster could get “confused” and be unable to react.) That, combined with an accuracy meter, determines if you deal damage. Also, different monsters’ traits could determine if certain sorts of attacks get boosts. The winner at the end of the timed fight is determined by percentage of health left. It is never too taxing, but again success comes from knowing what your buddy is best at, taking advantage of situations, and managing stamina. Not to mention also getting cookies via cooking or shopping, so you can get up to three cookie-based abilities to make them stronger.
The only thing that could really get to someone in Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher is the pacing. It probably isn’t an issue if you’re familiar with not only the Monster Rancher series, but character-raising games in general. Your journey is about constantly seeing which monsters are out there and building them up to be better. There’s no massive, dramatic goal. I mean sure, you want to rise up through the tournament ranks and meet all the other trainers out there. But this is no race. Someone comes to this kind of game to enjoy the ride and relax. Go through about two years, maybe fuse your monster or find a new one after that, and go through it all again. As long as you know going in that this is not a race and will involve a lot of patience and gradual, grinding investment, you’ll be fine.
I will note that I found Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher more entertaining than a typical installment because I went in wanting to know more about Ultraman. So when I’d get a new character via a scan, inputting a name, or entering a code, I would be heading to the internet to learn who they were. I’d wonder if I should try and raise them based on what they were like in the tokusatsu series. I found it more interesting to keep going through additional lifespans because I wanted to see what was next. Especially since it genuinely looks good on the Nintendo Switch and the characters have so much personality.
Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher does a good job of infusing Ultraman essence into an established series, all without potentially putting people off of it. Things are handled well, and the kaiju are fun to collect and train even if you aren’t aware of their backstories. That said, Monster Rancher is a very particular kind of game. Not all will get it, but those who do will.
Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher is available for the Nintendo Switch.