Save State Is Collecting and Creating Monsters in Cassette Beasts

Welcome to Save State, where we trap monsters within cassettes. It comes as no surprise to anyone familiar with this column that I’m a massive fan of Pokemon, despite thinking that the series can do better and create even more incredible experiences for its players with a longer development cycle. Of course, my love for monster catching JRPGs doesn’t just stop at Pokemon. Which, this is why in the last couple weeks I’ve enjoyed an indie game called Cassette Beasts, which marries a lot of the elements from the best Digimon and Pokemon titles in beautiful harmony.

When booting up Cassette Beasts for the first time, players will get the opportunity to customize their own character, and then immediately be thrust into the story where they wake up on an island’s beach. Shortly after coming to, you’re attacked by some kind of strange crab wearing a traffic cone- all seems lost until a helpful girl gives you what appears to be an off-brand Walkman. Playing the cassette lets you turn into a beast and fight off your attacker, and kickstarts your adventure across a land called New Wirral.

The story of Cassette Beasts actually isn’t too bad, which was unexpected of what’s essentially a monster catching JRPG. Even Dragon Quest Monsters titles tend to be light on the tales they spin for the player, so actually having a light air of mystery as you play through is quite nice. As the story unfolds, you’ll control your character and one of the six partners you enlist to aid you in your quest. This effectively means that you’ll be battling 2v2 against many of the monsters you encounter, so if you liked double battles in Pokemon Colosseum, this will be right up your alley.

New Wirral is actually pretty expansive for the overworld map of an RPG like this, and has tons of areas gated off, initially, that you’ll need to unlock new abilities, such as the power to glide through the air or the ability to bust through large stones. This gives good reason to backtrack to previous areas and look for new monsters or loot that you can trade for goods and services in town. Since Cassette Beasts is an RPG, you can trade with sellers to get useful battle items, stickers to teach your monsters new moves, and a lot more as you travel across the island.

As mentioned previously, you can enlist the help of partners, and you each transform into monsters to fight using cassette tapes. Each tape you acquire can have a variety of moves, and you can even apply stickers to the tape that teach the monster new attacks, effectively functioning as this game’s version of TMs from Pokemon. The DNA that connects Cassette Beasts more closely to Pokemon is likely its monster type matchup system, which the developers call the chemistry system.

What really sets Cassette Beasts apart is its very involved 15 type chart that is its chemistry system- hitting weaknesses and resistances can actually wind up leaving your targets with a debuff or a dangerous buff to use against you, so carelessly clicking attacks can cause problems quickly. Hitting enemy weaknesses will oftentimes leave them with a nasty debuff, but using a move the enemy resists can leave them with increased attack, defense, or even heal them.

Anyone who has ever touched a Pokemon game knows that water beats fire, but in Cassette Beasts it really beats fire, because the defending fire type gets the extinguished debuff that lowers the defender’s attack stats. A plastic type getting hit by a fire attack causes it to melt into a poison type, which makes sense since melting plastic is toxic, and poison types can be ignited by additional fire moves and take bonus damage. The chemistry system of Cassette Beasts is one of the largest reasons why the battle system is so engaging and enjoyable, as the goal is to apply as many debuffs to the enemies while allowing as few to be placed on you as possible, rather than simply mashing your way through combat.

The simple fact that you can be punished for just clicking buttons and hitting monster resistances by giving them sometimes battle-shifting debuffs really reminds me of the Shin Megami Tensei titles and how you can bring yourself to a swift game over by hitting enemy resistances (and God forbid if they smirk). To add onto this, players and monsters level separately, and leveling monsters will yield new moves for you to use. If you feel a monster of yours is underperforming, you can recycle their tape and take some of their moves as stickers for use on other monsters you have (within element limitations), vastly increasing customizability.

After monster tapes have been leveled enough, they can be evolved, or remastered, into new forms. These new forms are often much more powerful, and many monsters feature divergent evolution paths, which means there’s advantage in recording more than one of many monsters present in Cassette Beasts. To add onto this, you can develop your relationships with your partners which can unlock tangible benefits in battle. One of the powers you unlock is the ability to fuse your monsters together to get nice and strong, perfect for clearing troublesome bosses.

What’s most endearing is that the developers, these maniacs, actually drew unique sprites for every possible monster fusion in a game with over a hundred monsters. That’s an immense amount of work that went into something most players will only scratch the surface of, and that speaks to the overall level of polish all throughout Cassette Beasts: It’s extremely high quality. The visuals are a fantastically rendered combination of sprites and polygonal objects, and the music is insanely catchy to the extent that you’ll recall a number of themes after just a few hours of play. Which is fitting, since the name of the game is Cassette Beasts.

Cassette Beasts captures elements from a wide variety of games, to the extent that I could see fans of Digimon, Shin Megami Tensei, or Pokemon each enjoying this title for different reasons. The mechanical complexity is a ton of fun, which may tickle the fancy of an SMT player, while Pokemon shiny hunters will be right at home hunting for bootleg monsters, which not only come in different colors, but can pack new elements or attacks. The partner characters are very likable, and the story is actually somewhat interesting when it normally takes a backseat in these monster tamer games.

Cassette Beasts is good enough that I’d recommend it to anyone open to playing turn-based RPGs, even if you’re not a fan of monster catching titles. It hits all the right notes in a very satisfying way. That being said, I think it’s time to bring this entry of Save State to a close. If your weebles wobble but don’t fall down, then come see us again in another couple weeks when I’ll talk about some indie title I’ve enjoyed recently. Until then, ta-ta!

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