Every now and then, a game comes out that tests the boundaries of gaming genres. Rarely does one create something fun, unique, and creative on a scale that rivals games with much more money available in the development stage. Somehow, Cassette Beasts does all this, and the adventure in-game is one I plan to take again (and again and again).
Cassette Beasts is a fusion of the great JRPG and monster-catching genres. Somehow, you wake up stuck on an island in a different world. In this world, monsters run around and humans from all different eras of time and space have tried to create a new life. Humans have learned that they can “record” monsters on cassette tapes and become them to fight and explore around the island. The player is focused on finding a way to return home despite every attempt before them failing miserably.
Snappy, Quick, Complex Combat
There’s a unique mix of elements from various games brought together here. Combat consists of the player and an NPC fighting against things by turning into previous monsters recorded. This is an important difference from other games like Temtem or Pokémon where players use monsters to fight for them. In fact, it almost plays like the above games mixed with Persona more than anything else.
This type of combat means that players have their own level that applies to whatever monster they are at the time. This also applies to stats, buffs, and debuffs – i.e. switching between what monster form you’re using won’t stop you from being poisoned and you’ll have the same base stats as you did before.
This is where the JRPG elements start to shine. The two-person party you put together combined with the various stats you can train and tamper with create endless possibilities for combat. Additionally, there’s a fusion mechanic where you fuse two monsters together and fight with improved stats and one unit that furthers the possibilities available. And if that’s not enough, you can change the typing of any monster you’re playing as in the middle of battle (or find Bootleg monsters that have new colors and are a different typing).
Not only is this style of combat a new concept for the genre, but it’s also as fun as it is unique. Combat is pretty much guaranteed to never be boring, and it adds an insane amount of replayability to the game. Monsters do level up and add new abilities and can be remastered (evolve), but considering how easy it is to give monsters new moves, this didn’t seem to make too much of a difference in my initial run-through.
While this sounds incredibly complex (and it certainly can be), it’s not too complex that Cassette Beasts kills itself. There are so many different ways to play, and the game is as complex and technical as you want it to be. You can get really into the chemistry-based typings and buffs or find something that works for you and get through all the content pretty easily.
The enjoyable combat is helped by the pacing of the fights. I never felt like I was waiting for animations to go off or for text to scroll about what happened – each turn of combat happens quickly, so it never feels too much like a grind.
Cohesive Design In Every Way
When you’re not in combat, a lot of your time is exploring the world or getting to know the characters who can be your partner. As a whole, the designs of everything in Cassette Beasts are endearing.
Many monster-taming games struggle to succeed, and a large reason for that is character designs that don’t feel particularly inspired. Cassette Beasts breaks that curse with monsters that are so enjoyable that it's exciting to explore the world and discover new ones. With 120 monsters to collect, it doesn’t feel like there are too many either (especially when you consider all the possibilities with one monster tape in battle).
The characters are just as lovely. As a JRPG, it stays away from many of the stereotypical tropes that plague titles in the genre. Instead, the characters are all people you could easily meet in real life despite all coming from various ages. I enjoyed exploring their stories, and even the side conversations that come up when traveling or resting kept me entertained. When it does fall into JRPG tropes it does it in the best way possible, like with the dog partner Barkley.
Everything comes together like a perfect ensemble. As the name implies, the game centers around music. The way to get back home is by completing a song, the monsters are recorded on cassette tapes, and there are plenty of music references throughout the story. While each of the characters (and monsters to an extent) are unique and have its own aesthetic, they all feel like a different genre of music.
That’s furthered by the music that follows you through Cassette Beasts. The tunes are subtle at times and completely blow you away at others, but it makes the game feel like a home away from home. It’s a soundtrack that can stand alone, yet it also works perfectly in its setting.
While all of this clearly isn’t realistic, there’s constant reassurance from characters that break the fourth wall pretty dramatically. However, it’s done so well that I felt like I was my character, and it kept me more immersed in the game than any game I’ve played in the past decade.
So Close to a Narrative Masterpiece
There is so much good writing in Cassette Beasts. The game creates a world that lives and breathes and feels as real as the air you’re breathing. This is done through various narrative devices mentioned above.
However, it’s held back by the story length. It’s an incredible game, and it’s obviously meant to be played multiple times. There are too many custom game modes after completing the story and too much unpredictability in monsters to consider only playing this game once. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite feel like the story was wrapped up by the end of the game.
While there’s plenty of endgame content to enjoy, I’m hoping future DLC will flesh out some of these stories just a bit more. They were enjoyable, but I would have loved to spend more time diving a bit deeper into stories or seeing more random social events that would ramp up some of the characters’ connections to each other and the town in general.
Overall, It’s a Must-play Title
I can’t stress enough how fundamental Cassette Beasts has the potential to be in the JRPG and monster-taming genres. On one hand, it opened up one of the oldest genres in the industry to new possibilities that could lead to even more innovation. On the other, it created an entirely new take on the monster-taming genre that many feel needs a refresh (myself included).
With amazing combat, intriguing characters, and a killer setting, Cassette Beasts is a must-play title for anyone who loves JRPGS or monster-taming games. In fact, I’d tell anyone who enjoys open-world games to give it a try as well.
Cassette Beasts was reviewed on PC with a copy provided by the Developer over the course of 22 hours of gameplay - all screenshots were taken during the process of review.
- Crisp combat
- Creative monster designs
- Highly technical gameplay that can also be ignored if the players wishes
- Very immersive experience
- Short story