When thinking of card battlers, the big games that come to mind are Hearthstone and Magic: The Gathering. While Monster Monpiecedoesn’t feel strong enough to become a phenomenon like the aforementioned titles, it does bring a lot to the table, allowing it to stand strong on it’s own legs. The game feels unique and different from other card games while keeping rules simple and card collecting addicting.
Monster brings you into the world of Yafanir. Here humans and monster-girls work together in order to fight off the evil that is Lost. May and her monster partner Fia must team up to save their friend Elza after she becomes possessed by a mysterious woman threatening to throw the world into chaos. Fighting with, and against, a cast of hand-drawn anime characters, the two unlikely partners must fight this evil and restore peace to the world. It is important to note there is no English dub in the game, only English subtitles with Japanese voiceovers. While this doesn’t affect the understanding of the story, it feels odd this wasn’t added during localization.
The characters were charming, even if a bit stereotyped. The plot, however, wasn’t as forgivable. The story inches along with minimal progression and even when the plot developed, it was predictable and dull. It was a shame because these characters do grow on you as the story goes on. You see them learn from each other and become better people through teamwork and it can be slightly heartwarming at times. It is too bad these moments don’t last very long and are few and far between.
Conflicts in this world are resolved with card battles where human masters use monster-girls to try and destroy the enemies castles. Battles are one on one and take place on a 7×3 grid. This grid turns the card battling on it’s head. The field of play is evenly split between your side and the enemies’ side. You each take turns placing one card per turn in any spot on your side, given you have enough mana. The cards are then transformed into fully rendered models of the respective monster girl. They can move and attack once per turn, making the battles simple and maintaining a nice flow throughout the match.
Different classes such as melee, ranged, healer and support encourage you to try different strategies each match. Do you put all your heavy offensive cards into one lane? Or do you attack from all angles and fluster your opponent? I enjoyed experimenting and learning what did and didn’t work in battle. Things like fusing cards of the same class together to get stat bonuses or laying down cards of the same colour to boost the stats of all your cards in play breathes variation and keeps the game fresh.
On the downside, you will participate in a large amount of battles only there for the sake of making the game longer. I recommend taking the fight online from time to time with more competitive opponents just to keep the battles exciting between reaching story points. The game progresses by guiding a little avatar of May across tile events including battles, collecting gold, dialogue between characters, etc. The presentation and interface as a whole felt bland and bare bones. Giving the game more style and personality would have gone a long way towards making it stand out it.
As with any good collectible card game, deck building is frequent and addicting. With so many factors such as class type, mana cost, card rank and many others, I must have spent hours making sure I had the perfect card combination to help win my battles. Every couple of battles I couldn’t resist opening up a new pack of cards to see if I got any rare ones to add to my deck.
A lot of the fun of deck building is taken out when you are forced to partake in the rubbing mechanic to upgrade your cards. Here you spend Rub Points, earned during battle, to enhance your cards’ stats. In the time permitted, you are required to rub, touch and pinch the monster girls in their different “pleasure spots” until their pleasure meter reaches maximum capacity. This in turn makes them shed their clothing and possibly adds new abilities to the card. It is fine if you are into that sort of thing, but this game is not recommended for public locations. Each session takes about a minute, but when you multiply that by the forty cards in your deck, plus the several times you need to do it to get the card to maximum power, you are left with a tedious and unnecessary mini-game that interferes with time better spent somewhere else.
If you like collectible card games, you will enjoy Monster Monpiece’s fresh take on the traditional battle system. You will also appreciate how the game stays true traditional conventions such as a simple, on the surface, rule set and addicting and varied deck building. While the game likes to bring the fun to a screeching halt with all of its unnecessary content and drab atmosphere, it knows how to make battles exciting and that is what is most important.Note: Monster Monpiece was reviewed on PlayStation Vita. A digital copy of the game provided by the publisher.