In the world of Monster Monpiece, young heroines find themselves paired with monster girls. When the Lost, an ethereal darkness that drags in helpless souls, begins its corruption, it’s up to May, Fia, and Karen to save the world. This card-battling game is a digital exclusive for the PlayStation Vita, but should it have reached a larger audience on store shelves, or is it appropriately hidden behind a Mature rating as a downloadable title?
Monster Monpiece is an oddball of a game; it’s a heavily-Japanese stylized card battling game featuring a very unique mechanic (and very questionable graphics) that has reached US shores as a digital exclusive for the PlayStation Vita. Publisher Idea Factory has some history with this type of game, having released the Hyperdimension Neptunia titles to some apparent success (if not much positivity from critics), but it’s certainly an outlier.
The story is light and forgettable, yet another “explore the world with your best friend/partner and collect items that may save or doom humanity” plot, only with dressed-down fox archer girls at your side, instead of electric mice or spinning tops.
The game’s systems are slowly doled out to the player, but it’s never completely explained, even by the end. There are multiple battle styles, every character has a race and type (e.g. “vampire” and “beast”), and there are all kinds of subsystems that interact in various ways. But not all of it makes sense. The grid system that you place cards on is simple enough to understand, though, and the occasional confusion didn’t stop me from completing the game.
More irritating is the speed at which scenes play out. Many RPGs feature ways to speed up text, remove timely animations, and more, but Monster Monpiece has nothing of the sort. Many times, you’ll know that you’ve mathematically have won the fight, but you’ll still have a minute or two of going through the motions to get there. The same goes for opening card packs; if you max out money and decide to buy 99 packs of the cards only available after beating the game, you’re going to spend some time individually opening each pack. It’s a waste of time, and makes the game much longer than it should be. However, the complete lack of an over world means that outside interactions happen relatively quickly. Look at the map, select the next location, and you’re instantly at a new path, a boss battle, or some new cards/money/rub points.
Speaking of rub points, Monster Monpiece came to prominence thanks to its “Rub System.” Outside of combat, you’re given a chance to unlock the inner power of cards by rotating your Vita sideways and displaying the card you wish to upgrade full screen. In this mini-game-esque mode, you are encouraged to rub the monster girls. Pinch, squeeze, tap, and if you do well enough, you’ll enter a mode where you have to grab both sides of the Vita and stroke up and down as fast you can to fill up your meter.
In case the description wasn’t clear enough: Yes, you are told to simulate masturbation on your console.
This mode is understandably Monster Monpiece‘s most notorious feature, but also one of its most frustrating. You have to go through it bit by bit: rubbing the girls’ feet, pinching the napes of their necks, etc. Though once you’ve gotten the hang of it, you’ll just rapidly tap the screen in most erogenous zones and look for the tell-tale heart icon, at which point you shift focus.
These scenes are not subtitled, so while you’ll hear moans and Japanese phrases while you do it, it’s not clear if they’re just errata or actually giving you indications of how to do better (“move up,” “not there,” etc.).
Notably, the American release was censored, but in an awkward way. Each card levels up, and the localization team removed the artwork of the top levels of seventeen cards while keeping the cards themselves in play. The decision was made due to the apparent youth of the drawings despite the characters ostensibly being hundreds of years old, an unfortunate result of stereotypical Japanese character design. But it’s odd when the art doesn’t change to reflect the final level up, and it makes the game seem incomplete.
As does the subpar translation. There’s a handful of poorly-edited dialogue scenes that could be simply fixed with a second glance, such as improper usage of “than” instead of “then,” and even one absent line break makes a card description disappear behind other card elements. I
So is Monster Monpiece worth your time? Yes, but it’s not something you’ll stick with. It’s definitely a fun pick-up-and-play game, taking on a few battles every night to progress the story as you head off to bed, but it’s not the kind of thing you’d devote your life to. Some of its elements are creepy – and not in a good way – and it’s clear that very little effort was put into the localization, but overall it’s a solid, if unspectacular, game.