Another in a long line of Japanese RPG style games comes to the West, this time with Idea Factories’ Monster Monpiece. A RPG with a card battle mechanic.
Before we get to the good stuff, there is an elephant in the room and it boils down to what is essentially a massive culture difference. Whilst most of these recent RPG games feature some choice artwork, usually in the form of very scantily clad females, designed in such a way to have sex appeal to a target audience. Monster Monpiece feels like it is trying to see how far over the line it can go.
There is an element of the game, where you can level up you cards, which are used in battle. To do this you take part in a mini game that involves you rubbing, poking, touching and pinching images of the female characters in provocative places. With the idea being that you essentially bring them to climax, thus resulting in an upgrade of skills.
We at Gamestyle must admit feeling very awkward having to do this, especially when it got to a point that meant you had to place your thumb on the touch screen and finger on the rear touch pad and start furiously rubbing, whilst the female character made very orgasmic noises.
We aren’t prudes by any stretch of the imagination, but for us, this was really taking things too far and in truth felt very out of place withing the game itself. Which despite being very risque, isn’t all that bad in terms of over sexualised content. The game is inhabited with nothing but women, whether it be the main characters themselves, or the monsters that they use to battle, however the story is fairly run of the mill, save the world type stuff.
So having this mini game that requires you to bring various women to orgasm, so you can level them up just feels wrong. That said, it isn’t a main part of the mechanic and is something you only have to do every now and again. We would have liked another option, but this was a choice of the developers and it is clearly something that made the original Japanese release a success.
Many of the cards used in the game have been pulled from the international release also and after a quick Google search it is easy to see why. Again it must be a cultural difference, because whilst these were happily part of the game in Japan, it is perhaps pushing too many boundaries in the West. It is close enough to look like pornography as it is, had the cards that have been removed been left in, then it may well have tipped it over the edge.
But anyway, enough about that, because if you can get past the visuals and the odd sexual fantasy leveling up mechanic, there is once again a fantastic game with some excellent mechanics behind it. So good infact, that it could have left out those boundary pushing elements and still been a fantastic game in its own right.
You move through the story in a fairly linear way, spending time in a lot of text driven cut-scenes that help the story unfold, before setting on a nigh on set path to help the story progress. There are the odd branches you can follow that allow you to earn extra money, cards and items, but these are optional. Though if you do decide to follow these, they take mere minutes to do.
The battle system itself is where the game shines, taking cues from traditional table top card games and mixing it with turn based combat as seen in most RPG games.
You build a deck of cards that have characters of various types and abilities, namely melee, ranged, healer and buffer. These work as you expect, with melee and ranged being your main focus or attack, healer and buffer types offering back up services. You need to build a deck of a maximum of 40 cards and try to get your balance right, based on how you approach battles. As you progress through the game you can buy new card packs, win new cards in battle, or find them on the map as your move through.
Whilst initially confusing, you soon find yourself able to build various types of decks, that you can take into battle, balanced as you need. Unlike table top card battle games, these four card types are all you really have to use, there are no special cards that can be used to boost, or have special affects on the game.
There is however, various items you can take into battle that add extra abilities, such as raising the attack stats for your in play cards and thus giving you an advantage in battle. Something that the opposition can also do, meaning you have to really work out how and when to use these.
The actually battles aren’t simply laying your cards down, as it also uses a type of chess-based system mixed with tower defense. You have a grid that is 3×7 with one end being your starting point and the other the opposition starting point, the middle line is neutral.
You lay down one card per turn and the idea is to advance your characters forward so they can attack the opposition base. Your opposition will be doing the same, so much of the game is spend with your characters, attacking opposition character and vice-versa. This is where tactics come into play.
How you lay down your cards has a massive effect on the battle. Keep laying down melee characters and you will soon find them destroyed by ranged attacks, so you need to mix things up a bit, making sure you also support them with healer and buffer types to keep them alive and increase their abilities.
What was really impressive was just how deep some of the battles became and how quickly they could turn. By laying two cards of the same type you can create a fusion, which increases the attributes of that inplay character, which when mixed with buffers would see them obliterate any opposing forces. Again you can mix fusions with buffer and even skills, as well as getting bonuses for laying down consecutive cards of the same colour.
In terms of fusing together core mechanics from different genres, this is one of the best examples around. It may take a simple approach to each, but by doing so it create something different that just works. As the game goes on, battles become more and more intense with each right in the balance until the end.
Early on, battles are in your favour so as to get you used to the system, having you need to attack the enemy base just the once to win, but the AI opposition needing to attack your three times. The deeper you get into the game though, this evens up and that is when the game comes into its own.
How good are the core mechanics? Well, as much as we wanted to cast the game aside due to the needless mini-games of rubbing and poking scantily clad girls, we just couldn’t, because we wanted to get back to those battles, we wanted to build up our decks, we wanted to get better. If the game was simply a case of collecting cards, playing battles and nothing else, it would have been special and we’d be raving about it as a must have title.
As it is, we advise you to purchase with caution. If you can get past the needless over sexualised nature of the game and are happy to gloss over the molesting of half naked women, there is a very good and rewarding game on offer, but getting past that is not the easiest thing and it certainly isn’t a game you can feel proud to promote to friends and family.
Monster Monpiece will be a divisive game, you may well get plenty of odd looks if you played it in public. Yet the core game mechanics just about win out over the shame factor.