Developed by Compile Heart, Monster Monpiece is a card battling game where you play as Mey – a young girl who isn’t too confident in herself and her abilities as a Monster Girl master. In the interest of full disclosure, card battling games are not normally a genre I would take the time to play, but due to the uniqueness of the game I thought why not give Monster Monpiece a go – and give it a go I did.
In the game, you start your journey to greatness by learning about the world that this game takes place in, and by discovering that in this world you (as Mey) have monster girls who will fight for you. Without spoiling too much of the story, the main goal of the game is to travel from city to city, collecting powerful objects called “Magus Quartz” to keep them from the hands of evil. These rare and magical items are used to give the monster girls their energy, and without them near they’re unable to fight. Truthfully, the story isn’t anything special but simply serves to help give you a reason to push forward and see what will happen in the next city – as well as introducing some comic relief.
On your journey through the various areas of the game, the main component you’ll find yourself facing is card battles, which occur when someone gets in your way of procuring one of those Magus Quartz items you’re after. The card battling element is all about the strategy you use to take down your foe, and with that you need to know how to use your cards and playing field effectively.
MonMon’s playing field is set up as a 7×3 grid, with 3×3 of it yours on the left and the same for the enemy on the right. There’s also a 1×3 neutral zone where no cards can be placed in the middle, as to prevent constant attack spamming.
At the beginning of each match a coin is flipped to determine the person which will go first. When it’s your turn, you then choose from one of your cards you have in your deck which have been randomly drawn for you to access and place it within your 3×3 zone (you can only place cards in your area). After placing a card down on the playing area, the game then eats the required amount of mana for the card and turns it into a chibi- styled 3D character, executing any additional abilities the card may have or attacking the enemy if they come face to face.
This is where strategy comes into play, as after your enemy’s turn you must decide whether you should choose another card, skip your turn so you can build mana, or use an item.
To win the match you must destroy the opponent’s base with attacks. To do this, your cards just need to reach the end of the playing field and execute an attack like they would against an enemy. It’s worth however that you only get one hit per attacking character, after which your attacker disappears.
Monster Monpiece offers you a ton of cards to choose from and set your deck up. As for the type of cards the game offers, you have Dragon, Demi-Human, Beast, Bird, Fairy, Nature, Undead, and Hybrid. They’re then grouped into four categories; The Dragon/Demi-Human species are melee and can deal tons of damage, the Beast/Bird species are archers and can damage enemies from afar, the Fairy/Nature species use their own mana to heal other Monster Girls, and the Undead/Hybrid species increase the attack strength of the cards they effect. Using all these cards together and having a wide variety to choose from (both in type and mana cost) is the key to winning in battle.
Not only do they organize these cards by species, but by color as well – grouping them into the colour codes red, blue, green, and yellow. By using the same color card a few times in a row, you will activate bonuses during the match which can really help you out near the end of the game. After using just two cards in a row you get a +1 mana boost, and if you get the third card in a row you then get +3 mana, +1 attack damage, and +1 health to all your cards on the playing field. This is by far one of the best advantages you can use to turn the tides of the battle field, aside from some strategically used items.
Speaking of items, I found out later on that by using items you can really help yourself win the battle – the only kicker is that you can only have three items at a time with you, and you can’t have two of the same item. With these things to take note of while you’re battling, it might seem a bit overwhelming at first… but I found myself slowly adding on techniques and strategies as I went so that by the end of the game I was using everything at my disposal to the fullest extent. The game is really well built that way, as it’s rather hard to just plow through without some sort of action plan.
Along with all this strategy you then can upgrade your cards by well… umm… rubbing them.
Yes, rubbing them – in fact, you even need to rub them where and how they like it. All the cards having beautifully drawn art, but be warned they can become quite risqué images. After performing a First Crush Rub and using Rub Points your card gets an upgrade and a new image is bestowed on your card. You can upgrade your card twice and some cards three times. Doing this can help or even make them worse. I found this mode to be unnecessary and quite time consuming if you want to upgrade a lot of cards. As well as the awkwardness of some of the illustrations depicting what seem to resemble really young girls. Just try and avoid upgrading your cards while around other people.
One of the better things about MonMon is the fact that there’s ad-hoc and online (infrastructure) multiplayer for you to test out your skills against some real people. There isn’t much to say other then it’s just like a normal battle but the host can change a few settings and the lag can sometimes slow the battle down a bit. If you wondering what you can do after beating the story you have nothing to worry about, as the multiplayer element plus the fact that there’s all those card to be collected will keep you going for a while. Oh, and did I mention the platinum trophy? There’s one of those too.
During battle I found myself getting really into the music they played, especially during boss battles as they have some pretty intense battle music going on. The other music however is kind of boring to me, but everyone has their own tastes. It’s also worth noting that Monster Monpiece contains the original Japanese voice-over during the cutscenes, adding English subtitles to the Western version instead of an English audio track. For some people I know this is a red flag in the play, but for me it isn’t a bother as it’s nice to hear how the characters were meant to sound (and being a Japanophile, Kyle loved it – haha). A little warning though; along with the main characters having voices, the Monster Girls do as well when you’re doing the First Crush Rubs – so you might want to mute your Vita if you’re playing in public.
Graphically, Monster Monpiece is nothing special during actual gameplay. As mentioned earlier, the main battle mode of the game takes place on a 7×3 board with varying backgrounds and styles that represent where you are on the map (but the board itself doesn’t really change). When cards are activated, they become chibi-style characters that are pretty simple yet obviously representative of their cards (though quite boring in and of themselves). When the Monster Girl chibis attack or use an ability, the resulting sprites often caused the game to chug if there were a lot of cards on the board, which – though noticeable and slightly annoying – didn’t really have a big effect on gameplay speed due to the events being brief. The best thing graphically about the game was the cards themselves, which aside from some questionable content at times were done quite well and with beautiful colour.
It’s a bit of a shame that the cards and the Monster Girls in play don’t look the same, and that it chugs during a massive sprite yield (which it shouldn’t, the Vita can handle it if enough care is put into coding) but overall these things don’t subtract significantly from the gameplay or enjoyment of the game.
In the end, Monster Monpiece is a hardcore card-battling game with some unique gameplay and upgrade methods. If you’re looking for a decent challenge and you love card battling, anime/manga, or games based on collecting then this game is right up your alley. Not only that, but with a slick online mode that has many options you’ll have something to come back to for a long time (especially if you want that Platinum). The only drawback for some would have to be the awkward rubbing mini-game that you must complete to upgrade your cards, though I suppose that’s down to personal preference and age to determine if it’s a fit for you or not – that said, you’ve been warned 😉
PS; here’s a gallery of monster girl cards, so you can see what exactly you’re in for – that said, these cards are lower level ones and are therefore less risque than some of the more upgraded/rare cards.