The 1990s were a heady time for Japanese role-playing games. With the boom of Final Fantasy VII in America, publishers like Squaresoft and Enix decided that now was the time to localize whatever they could as fast as possible while the iron was hot.
Monster Seed is one such game.
Published by Sunsoft in 1999, Monster Seed is a creature collecting game that boasts almost 100 monsters to hatch and raise, a unique personality system, and exciting monster battles. What you actually get is an exercise in tedium and grammatical terrors.
Now don’t get me wrong, I actually have a warm space in my heart for this one. I have something of a sordid history with monsters, I love them a little TOO much and monster collection is a fast way to my heart when it comes to video games. Monster Seed, though, is something I haven’t really run into yet in the world of monster catching. It’s something akin to a chemical plant on fire… constant, hypnotic dancing repetition that you can’t tear your eyes away from. Every time I told myself I’d give up on this game, I kept going back and hunting for more and more monsters. It was like a curse. A horrible, horrible curse.
Monster Seed follows inept Ruler (a monster trainer) Daniel as he immediately gets the shit beaten out of him in the introduction because he sold all his monsters. We don’t know why he’s there, what he’s doing. He just sold all his monsters for travel costs and is now wandering around bandit infested territory unprotected. As predicted, Dan gets ambushed by bandits and nearly killed by a purple xenomorph. Yes. Purple xenomorph. There are no less than three “Aliens” ex-pats in this game. In any case, our hero Dan wakes up afterwards in a small town being ravaged by a gang of miscreants known as the “Black Rope Gang.” After the introduction it becomes a series of quests for the creepy Town Chief who thinks you’re banging Kal (the town sweetie and granddaughter of the man who saved you) up until she gets kidnapped by the animate beard Dryden, because how dare Kal be a woman in a video game.
This game is just a sight to behold. The game-play itself is promising, but just a mess in execution. Your party members are built of a team of bad A.I. controlled monsters that are hatched from eggs you get as spoils of war, quest rewards, or contents of chests. The downside? Always randomly generated. You could get three eggs, a revive item, and some solutions (which aid eggs in hatching stronger monsters)… or you could get a single potion. On top of this, none of the systems used in egg-hatching are particularly well-explained. You just sort of read the badly translated egg descriptions and hope to your deity of choice that you get something good, and not a total flub of a worthless creature. Then you take whatever abomination you manage to birth from blind luck or abuse of a walkthrough into battle and just sort of hope they are worth their salt and don’t just sit on their ass. Something tells me that even if I could play this game in Japanese and understand the text perfectly, it would be just as poorly explained. A perfect example is how the game never once told me how to save… I just happened to wander into the inn out of curiosity and ended up figuring it out in there. It’s not a matter of things being lost in translation – you can’t lose something that wasn’t there to begin with.
This game was released in November of 1998. Other games released on Playstation in 1998? Resident Evil 2. Metal Gear Solid. Mega Man Legends. The year prior? Final Fantasy VII. The year after? Final Fantasy VIII. There were plenty of examples of well-done games by this point that far exceeded what this game managed to shove out. Sure, they likely had much higher budget but so many of the issues present seem to be the result of ill judgment or inexperience, versus lack of funds to make a solid experience.
All that said? I still found myself strangely addicted to this weird game. I wanted to keep finding eggs, keep experimenting with the botched monster hatching system. Even more so was the weird, purely Japanese weird as fuck charm that is game has going on. There is a monster, Ang-Oolia, that is a floating boar piglet that farts things to death. The battle dialogue is randomized based on what personality type they have been (also randomly) assigned, so in the very first battle in the game I was assaulted by the aforementioned purple xenomorph who would not stop making sexual innuendos at me. It’s little things like that that give kusoge charm, and it’s little things like this that bring a ton of enjoyment to me when playing these sorts of games.
– Dated graphics for the time. This is your usual blocky sprites over blurry background.
– Terrible localisation riddled with typos and poor grammar.
– Typical bland plot with lack of characterization, dungeons that are nothing special.
+ Hundreds of kinds of monsters, which provides quite a bit of variety even with palette swaps
+ Hilarious Engrish and unintentional sexual innuendos constantly due to wording.
+ Absolutely bonkers monster designs like the weaponized fart-pigs, the Aliens ex-pats, and a cosmic god named Miller.
SHOULD YOU PLAY THIS?
If you too are a connoisseur of kusoge and/or are the kind of massive monster collection fan that I am, then yes, you absolutely should. It may have a metric shit ton of issues but all that shit is wrapped in a thick layer of charm. That’s good enough for me.