Monster Monpiece is a card battler from Compile Heart, the studio behind Hyperdimension Neptunia. The game sold about 50k units in Japan, which is enough to consider it a success for the lean studio of Compile Heart. Hyperdimension Neptunia is a big fan favorite and is known for its references to the gaming industry and its fanservice (the showing of characters is suggestive poses). Monster Monpiece also features an appearance of Neptune from Hyperdimension Neptunia and will also forever be known for its fanservice. Unfortunately, since the fanservice is by far the least appealing part of the game.
The cards in Monster Monpiece exist of Monster Girls, but in all honesty they are more girls than monster. Think girls with a tail, girls with dog or cat ears or with horse legs. Nothing shocking in that regard. The designs of the cards are nicely animated and all the Monster Girls have got their own look and feel. In order to level your cards with Monster Girls up, you have to rub them in the right places while holding your PlayStation Vita vertically This mini game is a bit tedious and feels mostly like a chore. You can also do the unlocking of levels by paying real money, but since you will need to do a lot of leveling up during the game, I wouldn’t suggest getting in to this.
Let’s get it on with cards
Where Monster Monpiece doesn’t score any points with its fanservice, it scores a tremendous amount with its card battle system. The card battle system is deep, has a lot of variables and is super addicting. In order to win you have to build a deck which is varied enough to withstand whatever the enemy is throwing at you. In Monster Monpiece you will keep needing to update your deck throughout the game. You get new cards from drops, certain spots which you can visit (usually you will need to do a battle first) and ingame purchase with the earned gold. Earning gold is quite easy in the game, just like the rub points you will need to upgrade your cards.
Let’s battle with cards
In the battle arena there are three different lanes and on each side a base. The left side is your base, the right side is the stronghold of the enemy. In order to beat them, you need to put your cards on the battle arena and they can only go forward. Once you put them on the battle arena, you have no control over the units. You can fuse them with other Monster Girl cards, but only if they are of the same species (like Beast, Fairy, Bird and Dragon). The cards come in four different colors, which you can use to create a streak of 3. You get bonuses if you use three cards of the same color in a row, which becomes quite necessary later on to beat your opponents. Besides the standard characteristics for Health Points, Mana / Magic Points and Attack Points, the Monster Girls can also possess special powers. The special powers are a bit hidden, but once you get in to them (you will need to level your units up to unlock them) they will really show the depth of the battle system. The game has an amazing learning curve, in which you really get to learn the basics at first and let it get more complicated gradually.
Interesting story of monsters and (wo)men
The story of Monster Monpiece knows a slow built, at first it really feels like a basic story and like it is just there for window dressing. When you get a bit further in the game it gets a lot more interesting. Especially in the later chapters the story really gets fleshed out and gets into its own groove. The idea behind the story is original and fun. Halfway through the game I would have never suspected the way the story would evolve. The key idea behind the story is food for thought and is intelligently told. You know something is wrong from the beginning, but what remains a mystery until later on. In the world of Monster Monpiece are no men by the way, only Monster Girls and women. The interactions in the game could have used a little bit more humor like in the Atelier or Disgaea games.
Monster Monpiece is one of those games which looks amazing in the story segments and looks like a PSP game when you are actually battling. The Monster Girl cards look great, but once they are placed on the battlefield, they all look the similar (per class) and have little to none charisma. In the battle arena all the Monster Girls have Chibi features, so a big head and a small body. It’s very unfortunate that they don’t have a lot of expressions and really look distinctive from each other. I can’t help but feel that the art designer was completely focused on all the side show stuff and that the looks of the actual gameplay where handled by an intern. Everything else in this game looks so well put together, from the user interface, to the story elements (visual novel style), to the cards. That the gameplay looks like a PSP game does not mean it is not functional, it does it job and didn’t put me off in the least. I just feel it is a missed opportunity, since the battle system is so much fun and also the place where you will spend the most time. Monster Monpiece is due to it graphic nature not a game that I would recommend to be playing outside.
The story of Monster Monpiece is fully supported by a great cast of Japanese voice actors, which do a great job in conveying the emotions and feelings of the characters. There are a bunch of sound effects used from Hyperdimension Neptune, which is a lovely touch for all the fans (and also one which will have saved some costs, let’s be real here). The sound effects and background music all do what they are there for, very functional but nothing special.
Let’s have some fun
Where Monster Monpiece really excels is the fun factor. Compile Heart really hit the right note with the pacing and making the game a great fun package. There is a lot to explore in Monster Monpiece and creating the perfect deck and testing it out is super addicting. This is one of those game you pick up and can’t let go, a typical ‘let’s play one more’ game. The card battle system is challenging, but easy enough not to get discouraged. Changing your deck and experimenting with new cards stays fun untill the end.
Let’s play together
Monster Monpiece has local (ad-hoc) and online multiplayer. The multiplayer let’s you take your deck from the singleplayer campaign and test it out with real opponents. Playing multiplayer matches will always earn you at least one ring, even if you lose. When you have 6 rings you can change them in for rare cards, so it is really worthwhile to play some matches this way. Monster Monpiece also doesn’t require an amazing internet connection to run. In a part of my house where I can’t really stream video or play most other videogames online, due to a weak Wifi signal, Monster Monpiece had no problems whatsoever. The online infrastructure works fine, is fast and works snappy.
Let’s have some technical talk
Monster Monpiece is one of those games which doesn’t allow you to take screenshots any time you want. Cancelling out this system wide feature is disappointing. Another disappointing thing is the amount of time the game crashed on me. Besides the 17+ hours on the clock of my save, I have easily played an extra 2 hours. The game freezes up on quite a regular basis, with all system functionality of the PS Vita still working, but the
game just not responding anymore. I experienced this mostly at the end of the rubbing mini game, but the game also crashed after a long and hard fought battle with a lot of story right before it. Fortunately the game lets
you fast forward through the story, so that saves you some time at least. My suggestion would be to save after every battle after every 3 rubs. Battles usually take up anywhere between 5 to 15 minutes, so it’s a shame if you lose your progress and earned cards. I have been in contact with Idea Factory International and they are looking into the problems. It seems that these problems occur for some people, while others have no problems at all.
Monster Monpiece is a great card battler which has no problem holding its own amongst the likes of Hearthstone and Yu-Gi-Oh. This Trade Card Game (TCG) or Collectible Card Game (CCG) is fun and interesting. The game has a lot of heart and is adorable to look at. The story is surprising and really adds to the experience, but is a slow burn. Monster Monpiece is a digital download only and has a budget price of about 30 euro. If you don’t despise card games and / or typical Japanese animation, I would urge you to give Monster Monpiece a shot.
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