Starting off our Monark review, it’s worth noting this is a new IP that meshes a JRPG with an inspired style almost reminiscent of Shin Megami Tensei. In a very strange school setting, you awaken after a struggle against foes you’ve never seen before. A weird phenomenon known as the Mist makes people go mad and hallucinate.
Upon waking up, you meet other students, faculty members, and adversaries and friends that you meet along the way. Most of the time spent in this game is with cutscenes and dialogue that doesn’t fit and the game has huge issues in combat. Learn more from our Monark review.
Developer: FURYU Corporation
Publisher: NIS America Inc.
Platform: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch (Reviewed)
Release Date: February 22, 2022
An opening monologue about ideals and persevering through tough times introduces you to a battle. You do not win the battle, and at the end, a cutscene plays with philosophical speech from an unknown entity. From then on you are introduced to the characters you will encounter in the school. Don’t be fooled however, it’s not an anime opening yet.
Following a questionnaire about yourself to find out your Ego, you are finally introduced to 3 characters that you’ll become familiar with. Nozomi Hinata, who later gains their own power, and Kakeru Hasegawa, the school doctor, and your “sister” all surround you. There are tropes that are contained in every character but they, much like the setting and UI, feel bland.
After getting transported to another dimension, Vanitas, a sewn rabbit creature who speaks in rhymes, tells you a bit of how to awaken your power of Ego. You name your character, results won’t matter, much like any other choices you make. Everything plays out in long visual novel style scenes and cutscenes that are prerendered.
While the segments aren’t bad, they’re not very good either. Again, the characters and their interactions are bland and the dialogue between them feels forced to try to emulate an anime rather than its own media.
Each of the cutscenes play before and after you complete a fight, all of which is initiated at cell phones. It’s kind of boring and there’s not much substance outside of it (or inside of it).
With the speak of the story out of the way, the biggest flaw I found in doing our Monark review has is with the gameplay. It’s a standard JRPG with turn-based elements and a radius that you can move in and attack with. You obviously level up to become stronger and your abilities include Authority, which includes Resonance.
Using Resonance allows for you to share status ailments and alterations with one other ally. Allies can assist attack once you have completed an Art against the enemy, outside of healing and other effects.
If you’re wondering where the flaw is with the gameplay, it’s the difficulty spike. While the game offers two different difficulties; the gameplay loop is meant to keep you underpowered and forces you to grind. While not the worst thing in the world, the difficulty spike makes it virtually impossible to play casually or even if you grind for a little while.
There is an element of exploration like finding notes scattered around the school corridors and rooms. You also find small but uninteresting puzzles as well, but it’s mostly simple memorization. Beyond that small additive, the gameplay is unfulfilling and tedious with almost no payoff.
Bland environments also drag down Monark, which is unfortunate as I thought maybe my experience might have been worse because of the Switch’s hardware. The other dimension is the only place in the game with any kind of color, but there’s not much of it. Character models and even cutscenes are almost doll like and stiff.
The UI is very similar to another game I reviewed where it’s just white background with black text and not much else. Even the cell phone you use to save the game, check the map, and everything else between is black, white, and gray. With games like The Caligula Effect 2, the meters and numbers for your party are stylized and it adds flair, presentation is a step backwards in this game.
Music in Monark is pretty decent and one of the only things I can say I enjoyed about it. Sounds are also not all that great but there is a full voice cast for every character. Speaking their lines, most of the time, it sounded like deadpan readings – which I won’t blame them for.
Other issues I found when doing our Monark review like the camera movements are frustrating and ruined almost any enjoyment I had immediately upon having to adjust it.
Reusing the same enemy throughout the entire game added to this feeling. I was looking into Monark to find a special new JRPG to play and I was unfortunately let down massively.
Fans of JRPGs with time to kill can probably find a game somewhere here with Monark, but I doubt it’d be fruitful. Give this one a pass or buy it on a steep discount so you won’t be in for a rude awakening.
Monark was reviewed on Nintendo Switch using a copy provided by NIS America. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. Monark is now available for Windows PC (via Steam), Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5.