Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 returns to the world populated by the iconic slimes, but this time around, you put the monsters that you've gathered to work rather than take on the role of the sword-wielding hero. As a young boy who wants to be a monster scout (tamer/recruiter), you stow away on an airship that is en route to a monster scouting world championship. However, the ship goes down and the crew mysteriously disappears, and now you're stuck in a strange place with an entire airship to yourself. You do what any lost boy would do and use what resources you have to go out, scout some monsters, and find out what happened to those people.
The first game originally came out in 2007, and if you're familiar with that game (or any Dragon Quest title for that matter), Joker 2 plays the same way. Battles are turn based where you can choose to fight, give orders, or change up your tactics, and enemies are seen onscreen. You'll control a party of three monsters, with three in reserve that you can swap out at any time. Creatures come in small, medium, and large, but the larger they are, the more space they take up, so you'll have to shuffle around the monster tiles on the lower DS screen to find a party that suits your needs. To build your monster collection, you can choose to scout during battle, and once you're successful, the monsters join your monster pen where you can hold up to 100 exotic creatures.
There are more than 300 monsters in Joker 2, with about 50 that can only be obtained through synthesis. So not only are you collecting monsters on the field for your battles, but you also combine two together to create a more powerful one and choose the skills that it'll receive. Your tamed beasts need to be at least level 10 before they can be merged, and you'll have to pair up a plus or minus creature (male and female?) for synthesis to work. The day/night cycle affects what kind of monsters will appear in the field, and there's also the weather to consider. You'll be able to see what the conditions are like in certain areas and decide whether you want to wait out the rain or dive into the wild to see what you find.
The controls have some touch-screen capability, but you'll primarily use the D pad to move around and choose your selections. You can use the bottom screen to scroll around the map or move monsters around in your menu, but it's optional. What's convenient is that you do get to save at any point in the game by bringing up the menu. The airship is also a handy hub where you can "zoom" to any location you've visited and access your pen.
Before the Nintendo 3DS came along with StreetPass, Tag mode was available in recent Dragon Quest games and will be a feature in Joker 2. You can exchange monster party data with people who own the game, as well as receive a rare monster from someone who owns Dragon Quest VI or Dragon Quest IX. To limit you from obtaining a huge pool of monsters, you have to tag 10 unique players after getting a monster from a DQVI or DQIX player. When you swap data with other Joker 2 players, you can participate in a virtual battle where you'll duke it out with your friend's (or stranger's) party to see who comes out on top. If your party isn't ready for the battle yet, you can save up to eight fights on your system and take on other players when you've upgraded your team.
You're not just limited to virtual battles either. You can fight a friend locally (and trade monsters) or play with up to eight people in a tournament where everyone is paired off and the winner moves on to the next round. If this style of play is for you, Nintendo plans to hold a worldwide tournament during the first week that the game is out. Because the game is already out in Japan, those players will have an advantage, so you'll have to get up to speed quickly.
There's a lot to see and do in Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2, and like the other games--whether it's a spin-off or not--there are dozens of hours of play time just waiting for you. If you're a fan of the universe that loves customizing and collecting things, you might want to take out your DS and get ready for some scouting on September 19.