Few games feel as confused about their identity as Monster Monpiece, a game that is, for the most part, fairly innocent. The core concept of the game that you actually play is an intriguing mish-mash of Card Collecting Game (think Magic or Pokemon…) and Tower Defence. However, and those of you who know anything about the title will already be aware of this, it does have a dark, seedy underbelly that doesn’t really fit in with the rest of what is present.
So then, throughout Monster Monpiece, you are placed in the position of May, a girl who attends an Academy where they learn to control “Monster Girls” (I’ll point out here that the entire cast is female), these Girls then used in battle and summoned via the use of cards, a series of events unfold that mean you have to travel from town to town collecting a special item that a hidden evil also wants to get its hands upon. This is all played out over text based dialogue sequences that go to alot of effort to flesh out each of the individual characters, and surprisingly for a game of its type, does try to make some element of groundwork on developing relationships between each of the key players that dont feel forced or out of place.
What does feel out of place, and I feel this is the perfect place to discuss the gameplay, is how you level up the Monster Girls. Now ordinarily, the artwork on the cards is fairly small and whilst it is pushing the boundaries of what is tasteful, the pictures are miniscule enough on the Vita’s screen that its easy to get away with. When summoned into battle they look nothing like they do on the cards, instead they take on the appearance of one of four types (Sword user, Archer, Healer and another type of magic using avatar). The more battles you win, the more “Rub P” you earn, this is then spent in the “First Crush Rub” area of the game in order to improve each card within your deck. From here you choose a card that you want to spend points on, the artwork is blown up to the width of the Vita’s screen which you have to turn around so the screen is in a portrait position. From here you have to fill a bar within a particular amount of time by rubbing hidden spots on each girl, which illicits various moans and groans of pleasure, until said bar is either full or you run out of time. Once the bar is full you then have to rub both the front and back screen simultaneously as quickly as possible to finish the whole process off and make that particular girl stronger.
The feels ridiculous out of context to how the rest of the game is presented. The discussion and artwork for the main cast of characters wouldn’t really look out of place in most JRPG’s (regardless of their content) and there’s no other reliance on any sexual overtones, and as for the card battles themselves, the above kind of damages what is an excellent and challengingly entertaining game.
Onto the positive. I’ve mentioned above that the battle system is rather good. What you have is a 7×3 grid split into the colours. 3×3 of Blue and Red with a 1×3 strip seperating them as a no-mans land. At each end of the grid is a building, the left side of the screen is yours, the right side your opponents. You then have different types of cards with characters that use different weapons (sword, bow, staff and wand). The sword users are close combat, archers ranged, staffs provide buffs and lastly the wands act as healers. Then there are different coloured cards and this is where the strategy comes into play. By placing down 3 cards, you gain an extra buff to your attack, Mana and health, the idea here is to keep doing this and allow the draw of your cards to stack as to allow you to take advantage of doing so. Each time you place a card on the grid, your drawn characters will auto attack and auto move until they’re either defeated by the opponent directly opposite them or you defeat them overall. Its the constant pushing forward that makes the battle system completely engaging and one false or intellgent move can easily result in the weight shifting in the opposite direction at any given time, and as the challenge increases the further you get through Monster Monpiece, the more entertaining the entire system becomes.
So to come back to my original point, Monster Monpiece really does feel confused. On its own, the battle system and the characterisation makes this a fine game for a handheld system. However, I, personally, found the “First Crush Rub” aspect a little too uncomfortable and I’m not of the persuasion that its anything to do with differences between Japanese and European cultures. If anything, Monster Monpiece doesn’t feel sure of its own strengths and I kind of get the impression the “First Crush Rub” stuff was included for the Japanese market which is becoming increasingly littered with titles that pander to the Otaku sub-culture, and whilst I can happily consume certain elements of that type of culture, the elements of Monster Monpiece in question take things a little too far I feel, but overall, it really shouldnt detract from a really entertaining game and its unfortunate that there doesn’t seem to have been an alternative system that was considered.