Browsing through Twitter this morning, something caught my eye. A monster collecting title, with the sprite graphics I grew up with, and radical monster designs? Was this yet another Pokemon fan game, or something else entirely? I’ve seen Cassette Beasts rolling around online for a while now and, honestly, didn’t think much of it. That is until I started it up and had my whole childhood cave in upon itself.
I’m 31 years old. I spent so much time as a child messing around with cassette tapes, finding crazy ways to utilize them to record my favorite songs off of the radio, and just trying to figure out how they actually worked. I was also around during the initial Pokemon frenzy that Red and Blue brought to schoolyards and playdates. I promise I’m not writing this from a nursing home, even though it feels like I should be telling my grandkids this story, but I digress.
Originally, the concept seemed interesting, but that was about it. I’ve played a few other Pokemon-like games in the past and was never really impressed with them. Something always felt a bit off about the overall design and the overall vibe that they brought to the table, and my interest quickly dissolved. No fault to those games, because plenty of people love them, but they just weren’t for me.
Booting up Game Pass this morning, I noticed that Cassette Beasts was available, so I figured, “Sure, let’s give another one of these a try”. From the opening moments, however, something clicked inside of me. Seeing my character, fully customized from the get-go, moving around in a seemingly familiar world that was beyond unfamiliar to me felt… surprisingly great from the get-go. Then, the first battle happened.
Gotta Rewind ‘Em All, Cassette Beasts!
This is where things take a spin for the bizarre, and I’m all in on it. You encounter Kayleigh, who graciously hands you an old-school cassette player and gives you instructions on what you need to do with it. I’m not going to spoil it, because right off the bat, I was sold on the combat system and how it functions. After the first battle, I found myself in a new town, a new home. Everything had flipped upside down, and I am lost, sad, cold, and confused (much like real life, to be quite honest). Nothing will ever be the same, and I’m honestly fine with it after letting the harsh reality of the world settle in.
While Cassette Beasts may look like your favorite old Pokemon game, it plays much more like a modern one. Instead of being stuck on a typical 4-axis movement field, you can move around in any direction, making the possibilities of exploring endless. But, the best part of all: you have a jump button, making exploration on any surface a breeze. After watching some of the other trailers (spoiler alert, I’m not super far into the game yet), there seem to be other methods of traversal that bring to mind more recent Pokemon titles.
Plus, you don’t need to worry about running through the tall grass to try and find a Beast that you’d like to rewind into your collection: they’re all on the overworld, giving you a chance to see who you want to add to your collection. These don’t disappear when you walk more than 15 feet away, either.
It’s hard not to compare a childhood favorite to this new title, but the similarities are there. It’s easily apparent to see what the developers at Bytten Studios were aiming for: bringing an old-school monster collectathon adventure to a new audience while keeping it modern enough for newer fans to enjoy. And they did this with ease.
What instantly caught my eye, beyond the overall attractive art, is how much they want you to be able to make yourself in the game. With countless hairstyles, clothing choices, and more, you can create the character that you want to be. This is meant for an older audience. While Pokemon Scarlet and Violet are aimed at the young and young-at-heart, Cassette Beasts is a love letter to gamers that grew up in the Game Boy generation, with some tweaks to make it more accessible to a modern audience.
We can all wear our rose-tinted glasses and think that games like the original Pokemon Red & Blue are still fantastic games, but… have you played them recently? They haven’t aged as wonderfully as we remember them. Thankfully, with countless remakes of the original tales, we have a better way to play them. But Cassette Beasts is aiming to become the next big thing, and I’m all here for it.
I say this as someone who has a gigantic Magikarp tattooed on my left forearm: the monster designs are top-notch and rival some of the best that Pokemon has ever done. The battle system feels forgiving, yet challenging, and you can’t just spam the A button to make your way through fights. Hell, there’s even a difficulty slider in the options menu that lets you customize your experience to cater to your every whim. Small details like these help push Cassette Beasts into a class of its own and carve a new notch in the ever-growing challenger to the Pokemon franchise.
While my love for this game continues to grow, let’s be clear: I don’t think it has what it takes to stand toe to toe with Nintendo’s giant. It’s a wonderfully crafted game, but the nostalgia stands tall and in the way. Even with the tremendous issues that Scarlet and Violet had at launch, it quickly became one of the fastest-selling games of all time because Pokemon finally got some features from 2010. And yes, I was one of those that put well over 100 hours into the game and fully completed the Pokedex.
But, it’s nice to see a developer try and push the envelope a bit, all while evoking that nostalgia that many fans have been asking for. While I patiently wait for Nintendo to once again re-release their classics with absolutely no changes to them whatsoever to modernize them in the slightest, I’ve found something in Cassette Beasts to help soothe that burn. They say that the most sincere form of flattery is imitation, but is it really imitation when it has more innovation than its inspiration?