I’m not going to beat around the bush here, the first thing you’ll think of when you see Monster Battle Arena is Pokemon. The overall setup of the game is one that we have come to love over the last 18 years. Now I’m not here to say MBA is bad because it draws upon this formula, I’m just pointing out the elephant in the room. The true test will be to see if the game can stand on its own two legs and prove to be a fun, interesting experience. To step out of the shadows of those who came before and make a name for itself.
You have just arrived at the Monster Battle Arena. Serious fighters gather from all around to test their strength by capturing and taming the monsters that dwell within. Keep on fighting until you come out on top.
You are you…or the spritely representation of you at least. Before the game even begins, you create an account and receive one of three monsters, to give you a helping hand. The game itself starts of well by dumping you onto Tutorial Island, a place where you can learn the basics that will aid you on your quest. Silently, you jump into the fray and scour the grass for a bush…it’s the first creature you encounter. It is here that you learn simple combat. Creatures you control possess a set of four attacks. Attacks do damage. Use attacks to damage enemies. Simple enough. Should you want to capture an opposing creature, you must use an item known as a net. By taking this option you can slowly but surely empower your team, collecting all manner of curious creatures.
If, on the other hand, you simply defeat an opponent, your monster will receive experience. This experience allows your creature to level up, learn new attacks and, eventually, mutate into a stronger form. So battle a lot for the best results. As you patrol the overworld, you will bump into fellow travellers who wish to prove their mettle against you, thus commencing battle. Beat them, show them who’s boss and move on to the next opponent who dared to cross your path. Survival of the fittest. That being said, the game also includes a quest system that allows you to help your fellow travellers. You know, if you want to be nice.
Visuals and Audio
MBA has a very crisp pixel style that is visually appealing. Set in a world where creatures roam, the overall environment gives of a very natural feel. Due in no small part to the abundance of trees. Even in towns, houses are fairly sparse, preventing the game from overloading the visuals with too many elements. It’s simple, but in a good way.
The monsters themselves are also very visually unique, as is to be expected from a game centred around capturing countless creatures. Each is clearly based on real world flora and fauna, with a little twist…sometimes a very little twist. I’m looking at you Bushil. Though not an inherently negative element, the designs are definitely better as the creatures mutate and the game progresses. That being sai, during battle, things can get a little stale. Despite the various attack names, such as Rage burst and Terra Blast, there is only a few basic attack animations. This takes away from the action of the battle, taking you back a step and making you realise that the stationary creatures do very little visually.
Taking a cue from the natural visage of the game, the audio is a very peaceful affair. When in the overworld, the tempo is slow, the instruments are soft and the tunes are smooth. It’s just rather pleasant. When in battle however, the music changes gear and gets a little bit more forceful. Add in some trumpets, boost the tempo and enjoy your musical accompaniment as you best you monster foes.
Monster Battle Arena is…OK. It has all the elements of a good game, nice visuals, cool audio, interesting characters…it’s just missing something. There’s just something missing that makes the game feel flat. As it stands, the game still lacks polish. Load times are annoying with how frequently they appear, the joystick is a little stop and go, tapping an option too fast or too many times may cause the game to quit…a whole lot of little things that bundle together and impede the game as a whole, making it feel slow and rather unexciting. The game definitely has potential, don’t get me wrong. If these issues are rectified and the game flows better, it will make for a much more enjoyable experience. Unfortunately, it just isn’t there yet.
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