There’s something that feels right about a monster-battling creature-collecting game coming to a Nintendo console. Originally released for PC on 26 April 2023, Cassette Beasts has made its way to the Nintendo Switch where it belongs. At first glance, Cassette Beasts clearly draws quite a lot of inspiration from Pokémon, yet assuming it’s a Pokéclone would be a mistake. While you explore an overworld teeming with cute and cool critters to battle and capture (or ‘record,’ in this case) and go up against an increasingly difficult array of opposing ‘trainers,' it’s a mishmash of mostly refreshing ideas outside of these basics.
After creating your little pixel avatar, you wake up on the beach of an island called New Wirral. Cassette Beasts’ story gets a little ridiculous right away: you find yourself marooned and separated from the real world, on an island filled with monsters that you can turn into if you record them on tapes and slot them into cassette players. At first, it seems like there’s no way home, but together with a young woman named Kayleigh, you learn that there might be a way out after all through defeating a bunch of otherworldly creatures called Archangels. These Archangels take on eldritch-like forms rather than cute ones, setting them apart from the rest of the monsters you collect.
This setup feels rather thematically incohesive. However, the characters that inhabit this strange world are written with care. As you spend most of your time travelling with a handful of different partners, we grew quite attached to a couple of them, particularly Kayleigh. The cast are all young adults, not children, with more mature – and refreshing – issues to tackle as they come to terms with their monster-battling life on New Wirral.
To find the Archangels, we had to explore the island to its fullest, recording new monsters, ‘remastering’ (evolving) them into more powerful forms, and solving all manner of sidequests along the way. New Wirral itself has far more Zelda: A Link to the Past in its DNA than any Pokémon game. The map is dense rather than expansive, gated off by abilities you have to discover in order to continue exploring. These come from recording certain monsters rather than, say, finding a hookshot in a dungeon. Recording the fire-type Bulletino gave us a dash ability that broke rock barriers, for example.
There’s much more to do on top of this Archangel quest. Defeating Ranger Captains, helping the townsfolk of Harbourtown, taking down a gang of vampire-like real estate agents, increasing relationship levels with partners, and more. We never lacked for something to do, stumbling onto the next little quest ourselves or following a rumour we heard in town. It was all rather fluid.
You solve almost all these quests by battling. One of several partners – that you control – tags along with you, which makes most bouts double battles, though quite often you’ll only face a single opponent. Due to the open nature of the game, we found ourselves over-leveled for some and woefully unprepared for others, which, when combined with a couple of powerful mechanics, created a constantly shifting difficulty between destroying opponents and getting stomped ourselves.
While wasting time in a battle we knew we couldn't win frustrated us a few times, we didn’t mind the easier fights as they allowed us to experiment with complex mechanics. You see, Cassette Beasts does monster typing a little differently than you’d expect. Hitting a monster that is weak or strong against your move causes it to react with a passive buff or debuff. A metal type becomes conductive when hit with an electric attack, taking damage from electric attacks even if it’s not targeted, and a plastic type will turn into a poison type if hit with a fire attack.
Truthfully, we found the sheer number of status effects overwhelming and still haven’t gotten a good grasp of them. Each monster also comes with eight move slots, and we used only a handful for a couple of damaging moves and a powerful status effect or two, leaving plenty of techniques – such as putting up elemental barriers to negate damage – feeling rather useless. As we continued to play, most battles grew stale as we spammed damage moves to get through the fodder before an Archangel or Ranger Captain, where type effects and status moves became more necessary. These boss fights were a great time — the ones we weren't over-leveled for, anyway.
Fodder or not, Cassette Beasts’ monsters steal the show. There’s a healthy 120 available — including our favourite traffic cone-wearing Traffikrab — which come in over a dozen different types. We found the vast majority of the designs superb with even better names, swapping around the likes of Puppercut for Pombomb in order to level them up enough to remaster into cool new forms. Our ever-changing party had quite a lot of variety.
The fusion mechanic takes things a step further. With a partner along for the adventure at all times, you can fuse with them when a specific gauge fills to create an amalgamation of the two monsters you’re using: our Wooltergeist and Decibelle combined into an absurd-looking Woolbelle. With 120 monsters that can fuse with the same type, this leads to something like 14,000 possible creations. As developer Jay Baylis told us, this is an impressively involved process. Mechanically, fusion adds stats together and shares move pools, though we found the aesthetic the most appealing aspect. Some monster combinations look downright hilarious.
Even better, when fusing during battle, the music channels some Persona 5 energy with singer Shelby Harvey cutting in with lyrics. We couldn’t help but crank the volume to max when this happened as we fused to take down an Archangel. For an isometric, sprite-styled game, Cassette Beasts does a great job giving major fights a weighty, climactic feel with its all-around great soundtrack.
Not everything is sunshine and Dandylions, however. From right when we woke up on New Wirral’s beach, the game stuttered and hitched for a minute or two until the area loaded in fully. This happened every time we booted up the game, entered a new area, and throughout in-game cutscenes during the pre-launch review period. The developers have told us they’re working on a patch for launch, so hopefully it's not something you'll encounter. As it’s a turn-based adventure, this didn’t affect our ability to play much, but it still sapped a little joy out of our otherwise merry monster-battling experience.
We still have a lot of adventuring left to do in New Wirral, and we’re in no way upset about it. More monsters to record and remaster, a few more mysteries to uncover, characters to grow fond of, and about 13,970 more fusions to see. Some (hopefully pre-launch-only) performance issues, wonky balance, and overly complex battle mechanics did little to affect how much we enjoyed Cassette Beasts. In fact, it’s one of the better monster-battling games not starring a little electric rodent that you can enjoy on your Nintendo Switch.
Ahh I wanna play it sooo bad take my money Eshop, I keep refreshing hoping it will be there...
Edit yusss it's up
@Lowell Is there a way to log the fusions or is it more of an extra feature? I was hoping you could fuse your own 'mons together, but it doesn't seem like that's the case.
SO excited to finally play this. Haven't been this hyped for a monster-catching game in years.
seems like a cool game that i should keep my eye on. I have so little money tho after totk...
This game looks very good and right up my alley, but I want a physical release. Games like this deserve to be free of digital shackles.
Sounds like a winner. I'll probably check it out know GP though
Its a good game that could be better. In a lot of ways it felt like Pokemon Ranger with turn based systems that borrow from Digimon and Chrono Cross. My issue was that actually transitioning between the RPG side and Adventure side left a lot to be desired. It felt clunky, especially in a time where Persona 5 laid the road map on how to make exploration and combat feel seamless in a turn based game 6+ years ago. Ultimately its worth the pick-up though.
Overcomplicated battle mechanics should be a plus! that woolbelle thing looks like it's just vibin'
I actually like some on the catchable monsters in this one! I think that’s a first for one of these indie Pokémon inspired games for me.
Really not feeling the rest of the game’s visuals though sadly. The mish-mash of vector and pixel and 3D and 2D doesn’t gel well with me.
I was so nervous about this one, but I'm glad to hear it turned out alright!
I'll consider getting IF it get's a physical release. That's a BIG IF tho.
Just played 1 hour of the Switch version and...yeah, those performance hitches are pretty hard to ignore, which is a damn shame because the game is really good.
I'm not even a huge stickler for fps and stuff like that either; I'm perfectly content with 30fps games. Hell, I even enjoyed Pokemon Violet despite it's very obvious graphical shortcomings. I just feel like the frame hitches in this game crossed a line for me.
Edit: I should note that I am playing 1.3.0, which is the latest version with the launch patch, so...uh, yeah...
Crab News Thursday lives on!
“…including our favourite traffic cone-wearing Traffikrab”
Thank you for the chuckle. Love that name.
Another decent Pokemon clone that would likely be forgotten in less than five years.
My youngest (into non-Pokemon and Pokemon monster taming games) and I have been waiting for this one and will be insta-downloading this. Thank you for the review.
I second everything you said, the game is fantastic, and I'm also someone who isn't really bothered by performance or ever notices it when mentioned, but yeah it's pretty bad, I'd go as far as to say jarring.
Better than any pokemon game gamefreak has put out in the last decade and so. From absolute bopping soundtracks and lovely visuals right down to hilariously creative and greatly designed monsters with punny names, the game was just a blast to play.
Shame about the poor switch performance, hopefully they improve it because this game deserves it.
"Irritating performance issues, at least pre-launch"
Is something I dread seeing as it's becoming all to common for games to launch and get a day one or near day one patch. I'm starting to think this is intentional so that when they close down the servers for updates i'm stuck with a dud physical copy.
So with the current performance issue of stuttering I don't think nintendo life should give such a high review. Sure an 8 out of 10 is fine if the game runs well which it doesn't at the moment. I feel like I waisted $17.99. I'm sure a patch is on the way but maybe they should've waited another week or more to get it up and running right. Kinda bummed out. Perhaps it's time to reexamine other options?
This will probably scratch the itch the last few Pokemon games haven't been able to.
I want to try this…but still going through TotK and FF3…so it might be a little while.
Follow-up from my last comment. There appears to be some kind of mix-up with the launch patch; the software menu on the Home screen says the game is 1.3.0 and will say "you are using the latest version of this software" if you attempt to update via internet. However, the in-game start screen still says 1.1.0, so I have a feeling that the 1.3.0 patch just hasn't been applied properly.
@Nanami_Ataraxia I didn't notice a way to log the fusions. Your partners monsters are essentially your own, and you can have them use yours too, so you're always fusing your own monsters.
Sounds great, absolutely getting this game when I can, hope the developers will be able to fix the performance issues eventually as apparently they couldn't by launch (or something went wrong when applying the patch) unfortunately according to @StardunkDragon!
This shows that a monster collect-athon can have really great 2D aesthetics without resorting to less appealing, resource-consuming 3D models. Game Freak take note.
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