PC Gaming

Cassette Beasts Is A Hidden Homage To Tokusatsu

Cassette Beasts First Impression - Windows PC

Cassette Beasts

Developer: Bytten Studio
Publisher: Raw Fury
Release Date: April 26, 2023
Available as: Digital

The "monster taming" genre has always been a sentimental one for me as these were the home of many games that were rooted in my childhood. Pokemon was the poster child for these kinds of games although even back when its meteoric rise was at its beginnings, there were other games representing the genre. Games like Tecmo's Monster Rancher, Genki's Jade Cocoon, and of course its direct competitor, Digimon, all feature gameplay where the player controls or fights alongside monster companions. With recent titles like the Nexomon series, the genre continues to thrive among indie titles. However, Cassette Beasts bends the rules a little bit. What if, instead of controlling the monsters, you became the monster?

Cassette Beasts begins with the protagonist washed up ashore on a beach. Minutes after taking their first steps, they are ambushed by a creature named Traffikrab, which, as one can visualize is a mechanical crab wearing a traffic cone. Fortunately, one of the nearby city's residents, Kayleigh, arrives and gives the player a way to defend themselves. Thus, they are given a cassette player and a pair of headphones. This is also where the player is given a starter choice, asking if they want a "Spooky" or "Cute" aesthetic. I won't "Spooky" because I thought the goth sheep was pretty neat.

The bestiary offers amusing quips for the many monsters recorded in game

But you don't summon that goth sheep, Bansheep (which is an amazing name for a monster by the way) but you become Bansheep. The cassette player has the ability to play audio tapes that transforms the listener into whatever monster is recorded on the tape. This offers several unique nuances with Cassette Beasts that set it apart not just from other monster-taming games, but other RPGs as well. Each turn after the first begins with the character gaining two SP. These points are used to cast skills, meaning that players don't have to worry about running out of a specific move in a pinch.

The player can also switch their tapes and transform into different monster types, much like recalling and sending out another Pokemon. Each type has a weakness as well as a special interaction with specific types. Plastic turns into compost on the Earth, so being hit with an Earth attack slows down a Plastic-type for example. Other interactions may give the attacker an updraft, giving them a buff. It's not just "hitting an enemy weakness for 'STAB' multipliers" but it's taking advantage of the benefits that come with it. Taking damage works a bit differently in Cassette Beasts as since the player is doing the fighting, they also take damage as well during a fight.

This reads like a DM trying to explain to me why I lost 50 gold on an average roll.

If the player currently has Bansheep in the Cassette Player, its HP is reflective of its durability. Once the tape breaks, the player is left vulnerable and they will take direct damage. After the enemy's turn, the player can select another tape to play, taking the form of that monster. If the player's health gets to zero, they are unable to summon any more available tapes. If all party members get KO'd then they get sent back to the main HUB area. It's best to think of the Cassette Monsters as a new "form" or a "suit of armor" that, once broken, another armor has to be worn.

Each tape comes equipped with stickers, that act as the current move list for a specific monster. Perhaps the biggest praise I can give Cassette Beasts is that the player can remove any move from a monster and replace it accordingly hassle-free. Anyone who has played Pokemon will understand how much of a hassle it is to get a specific move on certain monsters. The number of cross-breeding attempts at the daycare center was far insurmountable and "Move Tutors" wasn't always the answer. In this game, I can take a move from one tape that I don't need and give it to the tape that I want. Certain moves are compatible with certain monsters, of course, but this gives a layer of personality to the player that isn't often seen in games like these.

The sticker function offers customization options not seen in the genre.

I mentioned tokusatsu in the title and this is the perfect segue as tokusatsu is a form of Japanese Superhero media where the main selling points are the henshin or transformation sequences. Sailor Moon is another example of this, as the Sailor Scouts transform into their forms. One of the biggest examples of "toku" would be the Super Sentai universe, including the Ranger and Kamen Rider franchises. While there are no cool henshin sequences in Cassette Beasts, this game may be the first one to nail the concept of a tokusatsu RPG without being toku.

Imagine if Bandai Namco or a toku fan made an RPG where the player can transform into various forms and superheroes, but as the form breaks they are in their exposed civilian form. It's such a cool concept on its own and the combination Cassette Beasts makes with the monster-taming genre is impressive. The player doesn't "capture" the monster in this game, but rather "records" the monster onto a blank tape so the player can have a copy of it to transform into. The act of recording a song from the radio onto a cassette tape in the 90s lives on and it adds to "becoming a monster."

However, like most recordings, a steady hand and luck are determined for a salvageable enough copy. Whenever a character begins the recording process, the percentage chance of a successful recording appears by default. Certain things like the health of the recorded monster, its status effects, and if the party member recording is being attacked, are all variables that can affect the success rate. A valid strategy was to have my character make the recording attempt while someone like Kayleigh would use her provoke and shields to grab the enemy's attention. A monster cannot be KO'd while a party member is recording, so accidental knockouts are fortunately not a thing.

There's a lot going on behind the scenes of Cassette Beasts' plot, especially omnipotent ones.

Cassette Beasts is one of the rare "retro-themed" games that doesn't stay too grounded in its retro inspiration. Sure, Sony Walkmans and styrofoam padded headphones are retro, but the setting and characters themselves feel modern. It could be set in any time period in the past two decades and it'd feel natural. Plus it's always a treat seeing how creative the monster designs can get in a genre where it seems the sky's the limit. The music has variations depending on if it's night or day, as well as when certain monsters appear.

Lastly, the importance of maintaining a healthy relationship with your party member extends to the fusion mechanic. Both party members can fuse together, combining both of their tapes into one monster. If you've seen one of those Pokemon generators where they combine a Pikachu and a Wartortle, then it's the same concept except everything gets combined. Stat values, typings, attacks, health values, and more. The combinations are seemingly endless and for a game as unique as this, it's the icing on the cake.

You Wouldn't Download A Monster?

Expect to see more Cassette Beasts content throughout the year as we journey through our nostalgic audiophile trip! The game is available right now on Steam and Game Pass. It will see a console release on May 25th, 2023. Thank you once again to the devs and publishers for allowing us to cover this really impressive title!

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