I’ve very much enjoyed my time with Monster Monpiece – a title I’ve written a fair amount about over the last year. Many of you will have heard of it for it’s… er… unique features. Features I’m not going to talk about yet. There’s plenty of time for that later.
For this Monster Monpiece review I want to concentrate on the core gameplay itself. It’s actually here that Monster Monpiece really excels – and to dwell on the more renowned facet of this game too much will do it a disservice.
At its heart, it’s an excellent Collectible Card Game buoyed by some light RPG elements.
The setting is a typically whimsical affair that will feel light and breezily familiar to anyone who’s ever enjoyed Compile Heart’s output.
You oversee the exploits of a group of young students enrolled in a magical academy of sorts. Historically Humans and Monsters have not been the best of bedfellows, with one being used to counteract the increasing dominance of the other – and now, in the present time, both Humans and Monsters find themselves a necessary part of world’s balance and are paired with each other in order to rectify an impending doom that looks set to throw the world into turmoil.
On the one side you have the humans – commanders if you will – and Monster Girls who’s power is locked away in cards. Cards that humans can summon on the battlefield.
In typical Compile Heart style, everyone in this has one foot firmly in the Moe and the other in the Ecchi – which, frankly, pretty much makes it my kind of thing.
I don’t want to go too much into detail other than to say it’s typically long winded, with plenty of Visual Novel style dialogue to click though as you get to know the girls in the story, the monsters that accompany them, and their growing relationship with one another.
It’s all perfectly sweet – with some nice touches of light humour throughout. Admittedly, Compile Heart’s characters aren’t everyone’s cup of tea – but I’m going to take it for granted that, if you’ve come this far, then you’ll enter into it, in the spirit in which it’s intended. Enjoy Hyperdimension Neptunia’s story and characters? Sure, this is different in both setting and story, but if you don’t mind the dialogue you find there, you’ll be right at home here.
As you’d expect from Compile Heart, the presentation in this game has two distinct facets. The actual ‘game’ parts themselves while perfectly nice in their own way, are fairly workman-like – where the game really shines aesthetically is less in the ‘graphics’ (which are represented by chunky 3D models and a simple grid battlefield) and more in the ‘artwork’ (splendid, beautfully drawn girls and artwork for the cards, and lovely character portraits which do a great job of supporting the story and characterisation of the main cast)
Likewise, the game can also be broken up into few areas. An overworld map which charts your progression through the gameoworld from location to location. The battles themselves, which all take place on a similar grids, and the many menus for deck building, items and shopping.
It’s the battles and the deck-building which provide the real depth here – and it’s a hugely, hugely satisfying blend of card selection and shrewd choices in battle.
The battles themselves are relatively simple.You toss a coin and take it in turns to select from your deck. Each card represents a monster girl, and placed on the battle grid on your own half of the field, they come to life and then, turn by turn, they attack automatically and advance on enemy territory in a bid to reach your opponents stronghold. Once they get to the enemy HQ, they’ll attack it, and once its stock of points reaches zero, you’ll emerge victorious.
Of course, your opponents are also advancing on your own HQ, and so play swings from stopping and blocking the enemy advance, while attempting to power your way through the enemy to get to their HQ.
With each turn, you get more mana, and with more mana you can play more cards to populate the battlefield.
It’s a very simple mechanic that would work nicely in a more standard RPG set-up, but layer in the card and deck building properties of Monster Monpiece and this really begins to shine.
Cards, naturally, have a number of stats and properties. Attack power, and HP being the most basic- tit for tat stats which determine how much damage your card will deal and how much longer they have to survive.
On top of this, you have mana cost. More powerful cards cost more mana to place. If you so choose, you can skip a turn in order to save mana for more powerful cards later – but in doing so, risk the enemy getting one step closer to your HQ.
Some cards are melee cards – your vanguard if you will. Others are ranged attackers, scoring hits in advance of your vanguard. Other cards will heal one card ahead of them, while other cards will buff attack power one square ahead.
So for example, you can set up a buff card, a ranged card and a melee card in a line, so while your ‘tank’ is dealing damage, your ranged attacker delivers more powerful hits over the top. How about putting a healer behind your melee card so that they survive that little bit longer?
And then the system gets better. Cards of like-type (Dragon, Undead, Bird, Beast etc) can be placed on top of one another – combining their HP and Attack power to create more powerful cards.
Each card also has a colour. Place three of one colour type three turns in a row and not only do you get mana bonuses on your second turn, but also stat boosts on your third.
Cards, as they grow in power, also have a variety of skills assigned to them like, for example, allowing them to move one square forward, the second they hit the field.
Taking all these elements into consideration in the battlefield makes for a satisfyingly strategic experience – more so when, even if your deck is underpowered, you still emerge victorious though judicious use of the game secondary systems, or via a well placed card at the right time or, as is so often the case with a good CCG, though pure luck of having the right card at the right time.
And so we get to the element which has made this so noteworthy in the past. Getting to 1089 words in a Monster Monpiece review without using the word ‘sexy’ shows remarkable self-restraint on my part given my previous track record.
The aformentioned light RPG elements comes via the manner in which you can power-up and evolve your cards.
As you win battles you earn ‘Rub P’ – points which you can spend to get more… familiar with your Monster Girls. Choosing to spend points on them presents you with a full screen view of your chosen card. Flip your vita vertically and you can poke, rub and pinch their bodies – brining them to a state of arousal.
You have a time limit to bring them to climax before vigorously rubbing your Vita lengthways to moans and squeals of delight from your chosen girls – and in their ecstasy (should you be successful) you’ll evolve them to a more powerful, more scantily clad variation for use in battle.
I have to admit, that even I found myself, how can I say… a little self conscious indulging in this activity, and it’s certainly something I’d avoid doing in public with the volume turned way up.
It’s also not as easy a process as you might think either, and there’s quite a bit of trial and error in mastering how to bring the girls to climax successfully.
Once you get used to the process though, you definitely feel an increased sense of ownership to your favourite cards – and regardless to how you feel about this part of the game personally, you have to admit that it’s an interesting, tactile mechanic that deepens your connection with the game.
I’m relieved Nintendo haven’t implemented a similar feature in their Pokemon TCG. 😉
Monster Monpiece is a really solid, well put together and nicely presented CCG. The battle system is very engaging, and he artwork throughout is beautiful. I am of the school of thought which was a little dismayed about the censorship in the game as much as it irritates me that there is no physical version or limited edition – but regardless of your personal opinions on this, it would be wrong of me not to stress the quality of the game itself in this Monster Monpiece review.
Releasing on PSN today for PS Vita, it’s certainly worthy of investigation if you’re partial to Compile Heart or Moe-style games, or CCG’s in general – and Idea Factory’s pricing, at a reasonable £23.99, is to be commended.
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