Monster Rancher Interview - Executive Producer Kazumi Fujita talks the past, present, and future of the distinct monster-raising series
In perhaps one of the most unexpected re-releases of recent years, Koei Tecmo is launching Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX on December 9 for Nintendo Switch, PC (Steam), and mobile devices worldwide.
Originally released for the original PlayStation in the '90s, these monster-raising battlers had a unique take on the genre concept, where players could insert CDs into their PS1 to generate new creatures. With more than a dozen titles and an anime series, Monster Rancher has developed a loyal following over its lifetime.
These upcoming re-releases for the series' first two entries no longer use the CD reading system, of course, opting to use an included CD title database instead. Many new additions are also being made, including more monster slots, more save slots, a memo feature, a high-speed option, more monsters, and several bug fixes. It seems that Monster Rancher 1 & 2 DX shaping up to be a high effort re-release.
Ahead of launch, I had a chance to ask some questions to series executive producer Kazumi Fujita about the upcoming remasters, along with the history of the series and his experiences with it.
Our conversation can be found below.
RPG Site: First of all, we would like to know more about Mr. Fujita. How long have you been working under Tecmo (now Koei Tecmo)? In the English announcement trailer, you also mentioned how you visited the U.S. to promote Monster Rancher. Could you tell us more about that experience?
Kazumi Fujita: I've been working here since 1994. When the North American release of Monster Rancher 2 was decided upon in 1999, the anime series was also set to launch at that time as well. I knew I couldn't pass up this chance! So I went to Los Angeles in order to ensure the game and the world of Monster Rancher was a big hit in North America!
RPG Site: Since releasing the first ports in Japan, you have been regularly holding official tournaments. Once the international release is out, will you have any plans to expand these tournaments so that players worldwide can also join them?
Kazumi Fujita: In 2022 we are planning to hold a tournament in which players from all over the globe can participate in. I really hope that both new and longtime fans can enter using their favorite monster that they spent so much time raising.
I believe the Monster Rancher series will start to get really popular thanks to the upcoming 25th anniversary. Please look forward to it!
RPG Site: If these Monster Rancher 1&2 DX sales go well, will it motivate Koei Tecmo to remaster other titles in the series, or even work on a brand-new Monster Rancher game on consoles?
Kazumi Fujita: We don't have anything to announce currently, but as 2022 marks the big 25th anniversary for the Monster Rancher series, the team and I are putting in a lot of effort to ensure we can meet the expectations of our fans in the future.
RPG Site: The Monster Rancher series had been famous for its feature to generate monsters, especially by using any kind of CDs. However, we are now in an era where some people, computers, and even gaming platforms have started moving away from such optical discs.
Past series titles released on the GBA and DS offered other methods to generate monsters, such as text input and drawings. But have you also considered more contemporary ubiquitous media like QR codes when you're going to make a new game?
Also, if you're releasing a game on Nintendo Switch, have you considered using the Joy-Con's infrared camera? I remember Koei Tecmo released a port of Romance of the Three Kingdoms on the Switch, and it utilized the IR camera to generate characters. I immediately thought this feature would fit perfectly into Monster Rancher.
Kazumi Fujita: We felt that the current generation of players have different needs when compared to gamers from the 90s, so we developed a system that allows you to have all of the same fun you had with the originals without the need for physical CDs. This system comes in the form of an original database which includes roughly 600,000 songs you can use to obtain monsters. Anyone can choose any song they like, which I feel has only increased how much fun you can have!
We did consider using QR codes and the Switch's features, but I felt that when you think of Monster Rancher you think of using songs to obtain monsters, so I thought this was the best direction to take the game in. Of course, I'm still continuing to consider new systems to utilize in the future!
RPG Site: Monster Rancher came out around the same time Pokemon and Digimon showed up in 1997. All three franchises had similar ways to expand their coverages, like video games, anime, toys, and card games. Back then, some people would even group them as Japan's big three monster franchises.
Pokemon and Digimon are still popularly active even now, but it's very exciting to see that Monster Rancher is coming back as well. Could you tell us how did you see the competition with the other monster franchises? Did you have anything in mind on how to make Monster Rancher unique from other franchises?
Kazumi Fujita: At the time, we competed with each of the other series quite a lot, so it was really difficult back then, but also a really exciting time for us as well.
Our goal was to ensure we put in a lot of effort to communicate with our fans.
Instead of the monsters acting as the focal point of the game, I think what allowed us to stand out among the other series was that we prioritized the fun and happiness you experience from obtaining these monsters and caring for them.
RPG Site: My own favorite monster types are Henger and Durahan, but the one I always have a sweet spot on is Dino. It only appeared in the first game and the card battle spin-offs, but in the second game onwards, it was pretty much replaced by Zuum. While Zuum is a more cool-looking monster, I can't help but feel very sorry for Dino.
May I ask for the details or reasons for the change from Dino to Zuum? Also, I remember that Monster Rancher 4 did include Dino as a rare breed, but would it be possible to see both Dino and Zuum species co-exist in a future game?
Kazumi Fujita: As the monsters you can find in the FIMBA and IMa regions are different, Dino doesn't appear in Monster Rancher 2.
If Dino and Zuum are both discovered in the same region at some point, then there is a chance they could both appear in the same game.
RPG Site: When you released the earlier ports in Japan, there was a list of changes and fixes made to the gameplay system from the original PS1 release. One of the most surprising changes was on the Magic Banana, where you removed the possibility to alter a monster's lifespan. Could you tell us the reason for this change?
Kazumi Fujita: While there were unique ways to raise monsters using the Magic Banana, we changed the way this item works in order to allow players to enjoy many other different methods as well.
RPG Site: Thank you for your time!