The virtual-pet craze is now officially in full swing. First it was Bandai's Digimons and Nintendo's Pokemons. Then came the Tamagotchis and all their sassy ways. Eventually, Tecmo decided to take a crack at it and came away with the surprisingly good Monster Rancher, a game that gets better with every play. Of course, with all this success, it became apparent that kids like to breed monsters in the comfort of their own homes without all the mess of a real pet. Consequently, here comes Jaleco (makers of Speed Racer, Tetris Plus, and, err, Punky Skunk) with its offering to the ever-growing canon of virtual monsters. The game is called Dragonseeds.
Dragonseeds is basically the same thing as Monster Rancher, in theme at least, if not actual execution. The problem is that it's not nearly as good. The gimmick here is that Dragonseeds reads whatever memory saves you have on the memory card inserted into the PlayStation. From this data the game generates a monster that you will then raise and take into battle. Now as far as the monsters are concerned, they're actually pretty cool. They're rendered in full 3D, and there's a large variety of them as well. They all look really solid, and the graphics are brightly colored and well designed. Considering that everyone probably has a different set of saves on his memory card, there'll be a lot of different monsters floating around out there.
Another problem is that the game is really kind of pointless. All the towns and townspeople are represented by a simple screen with flat 2D sprites that don't animate very much. You go from location to location and "interact" with the people who will, among other things, help you generate monsters, train them, sell you items, and give you advice. When you're not doing these tedious tasks, you'll be in the arena pitting your creations against others. The thing that ruins the game is the rock-scissors-paper nature of the battles. While something like this works well with Pokemon games, it doesn't succeed here. After all, what's the point of buying the best items for your monster and raising its levels so diligently if the success of your battle is based more on luck than anything else? It is precisely this flaw that keeps Dragonseeds from being better than just OK. The unfortunate thing is that this is the whole draw of the game, isn't it - to create cool monsters and engage in strategic battles, hoping that your monster is fit to be king.
When compared with a game as deep and personable as Monster Rancher, Dragonseeds pales in comparison. Though it may provide some respite while the world waits for Monster Rancher 2, it's hardly an acceptable substitute. Fans of this kind of game may want to rent it, just to see what their memory cards bring them. Everyone else may just want to stay away.