The DS has a plentiful supply of top-shelf platformers, and with the arrival of Monster Tale, it has yet another. This platformer/pet raising game blends a lot of things together to create a well-crafted game that can please anyone, regardless of age. The core gameplay reminds me a lot of Mega Man, but with a 2D Metroid-style map to track your progress and the usual formula of beating an area to unlock a new power, then go back and make use of the new skill to explore new areas and destroy enemies in new ways as well.
It might seem like a knock to just say that this a blend of 2D Metroid and Mega Man, but it isn’t - those two series, when they’re at their best, are some of the industry’s best overall offerings. They’ve got finely-tuned controls and stunning graphics, and Monster Tale actually holds up nicely even when held up to those lofty standards. Monster Tale’s controls are incredibly responsive, and things like wall jumping are a breeze as a result. Really, given how intricate the platforming can be, including a section very early on where platforms are about ¼ the size of your character, they would have to be. Beyond just doing what you’re used to doing in those kinds of games, you’ve also got a pet-raising sim
Older fans may groan at the thought of pet-raising being included, but honestly, it’s no big deal at all. It reminds me of Sonic Adventure’s chao raising stuff - it’s in the game, there’s actually quite a bit of depth to it if you care to really get into it, but it’s not a chore to take part in it. If you want to only do the things the game makes you do, you can, or you can decide to spend money and help upgrade either Ellie or Chomp. You raise Chomp from a little kid monster into a bigger one by having him help solve puzzles, destroy enemies, and using either items or food that enemies drop or that you purchase from the store.
Chomp’s involvement in things makes great use of the DS screens because you could have a puzzle on the top screen, like a spike that needs to be moved, and Chomp will move into position on the bottom screen to hit a button and move the spike. The downside to this is that the ever-popular bottom screen map has to be brought up manually with the start button, which isn’t a huge deal, but does take some getting used to after years of DS ‘Vanias. The select button is used for the RPG-esque pet raising, where you can check info on both Ellie and Chomp and assign skills. It takes a little while to get used to, but not too long.
Even without Chomp, Ellie has an impressive arsenal of moves and attacks. She starts off with a mid-range attack, and then eventually gains the ability to roll under things, short-range melee attacks, an uppercut, a Mega Man-style long-range blaster, and even a combination sword slash/blaster attack that will make short work of many enemies. The use of close-range attacks is a pleasant one because normally, you only have long-range weapons being used at close range in these kinds of games. Here, you’ve got attacks specifically designed to destroy nearby enemies, and it adds a lot of variety to the combat and prevents from getting old - even when you’re grinding to gain experience.
Monster Tale is a gorgeous-looking game. The art style isn’t particularly unique, but what helps this game stand out are the crisp visuals that shine in screenshots and fare even better in motion because of how smooth the animation is. The color palette is also bright, and the environments are impressive, with a lot of color and plenty of depth to them. The animation is some of the best I’ve seen on the DS - it’s clear that a lot of care went into it because everything, no matter how minor it may be, has fluid animation.
Monster Tale’s soundtrack is also fantastic. It’s got a lot of variety to it thanks to the many kinds of environments you’ll be traversing throughout the adventure. As a result, you’ll be treated to everything from the usual assortment of rock to a pretty incredible flute-heavy score at some points. The cast of characters is given full voice over, which is perfectly fine, but nothing spectacular. The sound effects are pretty good, with everything sound about as it should, and combos build up nicely and then climaxing with the final blow that also happens to be the loudest. It makes learning and implementing combos that much more rewarding.
Monster Tale is a must-have for anyone who loves either the 2D Mega Man, Metroid, and “MetroidVania” games. It’s a well-crafted hybrid of those styles of play and is one of those games that in a few years, when definitive “best of” lists are made for the DS, you’ll see and think ‘Man, that sounds good, how did I miss out on it when it first came out?’. Don’t let that happen to you and pick this up as soon as you can. You’ll be glad you did once you experience the game and realize that you did so without paying a ridiculous markup price years after the fact.