For years, Idea Factory was all about licensing their North American releases to other companies. To the extent that, when it came time to start releasing games themselves, little was left to choose from for a debut release other than a game that no other company would touch. That game was Monster Monpiece.
Now, it wasn’t for lack of quality that Monster Monpiece got passed up, but rather, the risque content contained within. You see, while it may be a card game, MM contains cards that are rather graphic in nature as well as a mini-game that would be sure to illicit strange looks from anyone close enough to notice. Some of the cards got some edits (which you can read about in my interview with the IF International CEO, Haru Akenaga, here), but one look at the ones that got left alone and it’s a wonder that they didn’t edit more.
But enough of the background information, you just want to know how the game is, am I right? Right. Turns out, underneath all of that questionable content is an incredibly competent card game.
Monster Monpiece takes place in a seemingly female dominated world of Yafaniel where humans befriend and subsequently train Monster Girls. May is one such human who is training to be as talented as her mother when it comes to battling monsters. During her journey, her friend Elza becomes “Lost”, a sort of human zombification of sorts, and May sets out to find a way to cure her before she succeeds in pilfering the world’s cities of their powerful Magus Quartzes.
The plot is a predictable affair, with the bulk of it consisting of journeying from town to town in hopes of obtaining the Magus Quartz there before Elza does. Along the way, you learn a bit about May and her comrades as well as important lessons about friendship and teamwork. The localization is actually pretty good and the story does give your adventure some structure, even if it isn’t exactly the star of the show in this case.
As with other Compile Heart projects, the tale is told through still images and text, though the artwork is at least pretty good. The hundreds of cards that you can collect are very diverse too, with each one illustrated as a hyper-sexualized take on mythological monsters, such as minotaurs or hydras. It’s actually a bit off-putting, as I would never expect that someone playing a card called Poison Toad would result in a young girl with her legs spread open wide, but it is what it is. Probably the most tasteful card in the whole game is likely Neptune from Hyperdimension Neptunia, though even she can be… uh… “rubbed” into her Purple Heart form (more on that later). When the cards are played they are represented on the grid using 3D chibi models of the card, though many of the models look identical.
The voice track is Japanese only, though that shouldn’t be a surprise considering the digital only nature of the game. Everything sounds all well and good, though if you’re foolish enough to play this when other people are in the room with you, I’d suggest you keep the volume down on account of all of the suggestive moaning. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. As for the soundtrack, I do hope you enjoy repeating Jpop style themes, as many of the battles loop the same songs over and over again. They’re fairly catchy, but they do tend the grate on your nerves after awhile.
Monster Monpiece progresses in a fairly linear fashion, with your character being placed on a map where there’s generally only one direction to go at any given time. As you pass each point on the map, you may be awarded with money, cards or a battle, though you won’t know it in most cases until you land on a space. The road will split on occasion with one route leading to goodies with the other advancing you to the end of the chapter.
Battles give you a large grid in which to place your cards upon, with nine spaces being blue (where you can place your cards), nine being red (where the opponent places theirs), and three neutral. You need a certain amount of mana to place cards and mana is regenerated little by little each turn. Since your cards move one space each turn, the objective is to move them into your opponent’s HQ and destroy it. Cards automatically attack other cards when they are in range and draining a card’s HP will remove them from the board entirely. Now, there are four different card types to be aware of when putting together a deck: Melee, Ranged, Healer and Buffer, whose predefined roles are fairly self-explanatory. Within those types are tons of cards with their own statistics, potentials that activate when the card is placed on the board (such as immediate movement), and skills (things such as depleting opponents’ HP or increasing mana value). Adding more wrinkles to the gameplay is the ability to fuse cards of the same species (like two dragons for example), or playing multiple cards in a row that are of the same color, which leads to mana increases and stat bonuses for cards in play. You can also bring a limited number of items into battle with you in case you need to toss one of your Monster Girls a heal during a critical moment.
Your HQ can be accessed at any time while on the world map, which gives you the ability to reorganize your card deck, tear open new card packs, and purchase new cards and items. Training allows you to fight previous battles for additional cash, plus a Museum function grants you access to any previously viewed movies and events. And let’s not forget the ability to teleport to any map treaded during a prior chapter.
It’s a lot to take in, but the game’s tutorials come at a reasonable enough pace that you learn things as you need them while not overwhelming the player. One of the reasons I’m not a huge fan of card games is for this very concern, as it sometimes feels as though I’m earning a degree just trying to get a grasp on the rules, and Monster Monpiece alleviates that feeling while still providing a fun experience. That isn’t to say the game doesn’t ever get challenging. Rather, once you hit about the fifth or sixth chapter, you have really spend some time acquiring better cards and putting together a well structured deck. I wouldn’t have minded this aspect of it as much, but the game practically forces you to either grind for better cards (most of which earned by purchasing card packs without knowing what you’re going to get) or by playing online for some multiplayer exclusive rewards.
Aside from the story mode, you can bring your expertise into the online space and compete with another player in a one-on-one battle. Doing so earns you rings that can be traded in for items only obtainable while playing with others. I’m not too fond of the idea of multiplayer exclusive cards, but at least the game can be played in ad-hoc mode with rewards being earned the same way. It’s a good thing too, since during my online experimentation, the server rooms were sparsely populated.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the one minigame in Monster Monpiece that it has become notorious for, and that is the First Crush Rub. You need Rub P for this game, earned in the same way as money, and the amount expended depends on the card you want to “power up”. The term power up is used loosely in this instance, since some stats are lost at the benefit of others, so your cards don’t necessarily get stronger using this method. However, since you can only use three of the same card in your deck, it becomes something of a workaround if you have a strategy built upon a specific card type.
As for the game itself, First Crush Rub is exactly as it sounds like: you have to rub your Monster Girl until the tension gauge on the left hand side of the screen reaches the top. But you can’t rub just anywhere, you have to find their weak spot, which can be identified by stars coming out of an area that you touch. If you touch that spot the “right” way, which can involve rubbing, poking, pinching or simply touching, little hearts will come out of it, and repeatedly performing that action will raise the tension gauge. Also, you only have a limited amount of time to fill the gauge while being mindful that their weak points change as time goes on. There’s a Rub Fairy known as Otton (or as I call him, Perv Seal), that watches you excitedly as you do this. If you manage to get him to maximum excitement, you will unleash Extreme Love mode. This mode freezes time and requires you to rub both the touchscreen and the back touchpad at the same time, which looks just as suggestive as it sounds. It’s also incredibly gimmicky and completely unnecessary in regards to the rest of the game. I mean, why am I simulating a masturbation motion while trying to play a card game? And the girls somehow get even more naked and suggestive after one of these rub downs is successfully completed. On that note, I can’t stress enough the importance of not doing this while in the presence of others.
It’s a bit of a shame that Monster Monpiece is encased in such an uncomfortably sexual shell, as underneath all of that is damn fine card game that is sure to appeal to a much broader audience. As it stands now, while I can still recommend a purchase at the $29.99 price point, I encourage you to play it when and where no one will catch you doing it. Especially if someone discovers you at an angle where they can’t see the Vita in your hand. It’s… not something you will want to have to explain to someone. Trust me on this.
Short Attention Span Summary
Monster Monpiece is a card battling RPG from the folks at Compile Heart and is one of their better releases. The card combat is addictive and easy to learn using the more than adequate in-game tutorials. The simple on the surface nature of it disguises the amount of depth the game has, which you will be expected to overcome by the time you hit the halfway point in the game. The compelling gameplay is unfortunately walled behind some uncomfortably sexual content involving portraits of young girls and minigames that consist of rubbing your Vita suggestively. If you like card games and can find somewhere private to play it, it’s definitely worth your time to check it out.