Monster Monpiece is a card battling game for the PS Vita developed by Compile Heart, a well known developer for putting the J in JRPG with titles like Hyperdimension Neptunia and Record of Agarest War. Even in the early stages of development Monpiece managed to steal the spotlight when demoing off a key mechanic in the game known as the “Rub System”, receiving a reputation as being “lewd” and “gimmicky”.
Before the game could even be brought to the United States it had to go through a small transformation and have 50 of it’s cards removed due to risqué images. Could the culture clash be too strong for this title? That’s what we are here to find out! Is there a solid game experience behind all the brassiere touching? The results may actually surprise you.
From the moment you hit the splash screen to the opening cinematic your eyes are treated to a wide array of amazingly well drawn characters. Compile Heart truly went out of their way for the art in this game, collecting 50 different artist to anthropomorphize mythical creatures and monsters into adorable monster girls.
If you have ever been curious to how a demonic algae covered Kappa could be made into an attractive women then look no further. Many of the background stills used during character dialogue are also hand drawn and use a great palette of colors, but who’s really worried about that when you have a handful of minotaur girls?
Despite how well done some of the art in the game is, there are a few problem areas. The world map is dreadfully boring, using bland, muddy, colors, and there’s nothing unique to distinguish the varying nations from each other.
However, my biggest gripe was the use of 3D chibi models when in combat, the chibi’s themselves are cute and also reveal more skin when they are leveled up (will discuss later) but there is very little variety outside of that.
Whether I’m using a Wyvern or Tiamat the same chibi model is used, there is no way of telling them apart, it’s truly a shame to see beautifully done artwork get reduced and reused into the same model, even a hair color change would’ve been nice to see.
Monpiece takes place in the world of Yafanir, a world in which humans and monster girls coexist, thanks due in part to powerful crystals known as Magus Quartz. Our main protagonist is May, who is soft spoken and shy but learns to open up thanks to her monster girl partner Fia. Conversations between these two are often pretty humorous and provide a good break from the main scenario, I can’t forget to mention that May is adorable.
The story and narrative take a visual novel approach using 3 or 4 frames of a character portrait accompanied with emoticons to convey emotions and dialogue. This isn’t innovative or setting a new standard in anyway, but for the type of game it’s extremely effective.
The lore, although not the main driving point, deserves some applaud and commendation. Learning about the nations, Magus Quartz and background info on monster girls is handled well and doesn’t require reading an encyclopedia.
Every ounce of dialogue between characters has a voice over, in Japanese not English, which helps immerse yourself into the conversation. The acting spectrum ranges from veterans like Hitomi Nabatame, the voice of Elza, who has voiced over 100 anime, videogame and movies characters – to new actresses like Mizuki Hagino, the voice of Kate, who is making her debut in Monpiece.
Even with the fresh voices there wasn’t a single one that I grew tired of or wished there was a way you could turn off voices for one specific character.
The musical score for Monpiece at first glance took a backseat for me. If you’re familiar with other Compile Heart titles it all sounds the same, it was your typical synth with a heavy dash of air guitar. It wasn’t until I got further into the game, around Chapter 6, when the music finally got it’s own flavor and became incredibly catchy. It eventually got to the point where I would catch myself jamming out and bobbing my head while sending my half naked chibis on a suicide mission.
Let’s get to the meat and potatoes… or the curry and chicken of Monpiece. As mentioned before, this is a card battling game but because of the mechanics it morphs into a hybrid of a tower defense game.
Using four different card types Melee, Ranged, Buffer and Healer you push your army a block a turn on a 3×7 rectangle arena in order to have them suicide dealing damage to your opponent. Playing multiple cards of the same color or “aura” provide temporary boosts and you can combine two of the same creature types together into a “fusion”, giving you a slight edge.
The combat keeps itself from getting stale with the introduction of passive and active skills that you obtain via the “Rub System”. With the help of skills it’s not impossible for a Buffer with 1 Atk to easily take down a Melee with 4 Atk thanks to a HP Down skill, giving every card a purpose and place. Every battle is always slightly different, it keeps you thinking several steps ahead and hasn’t gotten repetitive even after ten straight hours of game play.
Ad Hoc and online versus are also available. I don’t have a friend who could swallow their pride and fondle their Vita, so I haven’t had a chance to take advantage of Ad Hoc. With online however, I ran into an issue that I was hoping to avoid, the dreaded pay-to-win monster reared it’s ugly head and lashed out on me for not wanting to shell out money.
A simple visit to the online store allows you to purchase a plethora of different packs of cards, ranging from end game packs or just card packs that increase your odds of pulling a Rare card, all for $.99 a pack.
Needless to say, it became pretty apparent that some people had no issue spending an extra $20 in order get a head start on their win ratio. I only went a few rounds of getting my ass kicked before giving up.
Every game has a problem child and Monpiece is no exception, we now get to the infamous “Rub System” which is the cause for much controversy and downplay. To sum up how the “Rub System” works, you have to become a lecher!
You’ll be rubbing, pinching and poking your monster girl into a state of ecstasy in order to power them up. Upon a successful rub session your card will receive a bonus in stats, decrease in mana cost or learn a new skill and the artwork will become slightly more revealing, which is also reflected in your chibi model.
This is treated like a mini game so you are timed and required to spend Rub Points acquired from winning battles. Call me a pervert but I had no issues with this so called “gimmicky” mechanic.
I’m a guy and have no issues pretending to furiously poke breasts while an anime girl is shouting “sugoi” and “motto”. Granted, I would never play this part of the game outside the comfort of my own household, and this feature has made my arm slightly more tired than usual.
Controls are easy to pick up and you can play the entire game on either the front touch screen or standard D-pad and buttons, with the exception of the rubbing. This is great and allowed more immersion, opening a pack of cards and playing cards from your hand with the touch screen added a deeper game play experience. Navigating the world map however was one of the most painstaking experiences in the game.
I was far more comfortable using the D-pad but when it came to the world map you might as well take the D-pad and toss it in the trash. Up would take you left, left would take your right, right would take you back to the start, it was a complete mess. This wouldn’t be a such strong problem if it wasn’t for the amount of time you spend on the map.
In the end Monster Monpiece has lovable characters, intuitive card battling mechanics, great lore, and artwork that would make anyone on deviant art squeal with envy. It finds itself on my list of great games to pick up for the PS Vita.
You may have trouble finding anyone outside the internet who’s not ashamed to play this out in public for some Ad Hoc action, but the single player is satisfying enough. And despite the “Rub System” being a thorn in everyone’s side, I thought it was a good break in between battles and actually mild compared to some other things that have come out of Japan.
Monster Monpiece was reviewed using a code provided by Idea Factory International. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s reviews/ethics policy here.