There is nothing to excuse how bad this evolution of the Monster Rancher series is. We love swapping in disc after disc to unlock new monsters from movies and games. We hate that every fun part of the Monster Rancher games has been tossed aside for Monster Rancher EVO.
The game revolves around a young, confused boy who travels from town to town as part of a circus, performing with the monsters he trains. Each town you visit has a pile of missions from the "Guild" - who else? - as well as adventure maps you can explore to further the story. While in town, you can train, catch some sleep and give performances with your growing cadre of trainers and monsters. What went wrong is that everything fun about those events has been systematically stripped away.
In previous games, during the one-on-one monster fights, you could really see how good a job you'd done training your monsters. Combat now allows for up to three vs. three monster battles. It sounds like an improvement, but it just serves to highlight how utterly wretched the combat and monster raising systems are.
"Linking" friendly monsters to each other, or to enemies, allows for some neat tactics. The problem is that the super-simple controls don't allow you to gain any advantage. Raising monsters gives almost no feedback to their growth, and it's hard to judge their individual performance when they're lumped into a group of three. Just link your monsters together, use your best attacks and hope that your monsters don't go crazy any time you give them an order.
The power of wishing won't stop these freak-outs, though. Your monsters will go "haywire" and then move at random across the battlefield a lot. This happens fewer times the more they work with the same trainer - which only discourages trying new monsters. The circus parts of the game consist of button-mashing mini-games that wouldn't trouble a first-grader. This is, somehow, supposed to improve the audience's reaction to your monster's performances. It will not improve yours to the game - they get dull even before you realize you can't skip the cutscenes that follow. Even training monsters has become a total chore; you have to set each task manually, instead of being able to set long-term training schedules. This is a devolution at best.