Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 review: It would be wrong to label Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 a Pokémon clone. After all, the concept of attracting monsters to your party originated in 1992's Dragon Quest V, Sure, it may have taken Square-Enix until 1998 to expand the idea into its own game (1998's Dragon Warrior Monsters on the Game Boy Color) but it was distinctive enough to attract its own dedicated audience of fans.
Since the Game Boy years, Pokémon has grown into a genuine global phenomenon, while Dragon Quest Monsters... well, hasn't. But the latest iterations of both arrive with their core mechanics all but unchanged from their handheld debuts.
What's the story
On your way to a monster-battling tournament, the ship you're travelling on is struck by lightning and crash lands, scattering the occupants far and wide.
So you set off into a nearby jungle to discover the fate of your fellow passengers, but not before stopping to pick up a platypunk (a duck with a mohican) from the cargo at the back of the ship.
Being unarmed and too feeble to fight your own battles, you'll need your new pet to face off against the other monsters roaming around..You'll need to recruit some of these monsters to your party to form a fearsome fighting squad.
Choose 'scout' from the battle menu and your team wil ltry to impress the newcomer with a show of force. If it's sufficiently intimidated from the beating it receives in a single turn, it'll join your party.
Simple scraps against weak monster teams can be dealt with swiftly by selecting the 'fight' command. You can also ask them to focus on healing, conserve magic, or show no mercy by going on an all-out offensive.
Alternatively, you can issue direct orders to target specific enemies in the group, use special abilities or defend against incoming moves.
Each environment you'll visit is split into smaller areas separated by narrow passageways. The roaming monsters vary according to weather and time of day, and are ranked differently depending on their rarity and how quickly their skills will improve through levelling up in battle.
You will gradually learn new Scouting abilities - Zoom lets you return to the ship to heal in a pinch, while Zip whizzes you instantly between portals you've activated on your travels.
Managing your team is all part of the strategy, with three slots for your first team and three for substitutes. Later in the game, you'll get larger monsters which fill more than one slot, but offer greater attack power in return.
You can also synthesise - pair up a 'positive' and 'negative' monster and they'll form a new creature, with any previously learned skills passed from parents to offspring. The youngster starts off at a lower level, and so has to be eased in, forcing a short period of grinding.
That isn't always as easy as you'd think. Though there are no random encounters, occasionally monsters will pop out of nowhere and you won't know how many are in their party or which other types they're paired with. This can feel a little unfair at times.
There are a fair few of these tricky battles, too. Each area has a massive beast that'll show up periodically to frighten both you and the smaller monsters in the vicinity.