Thursday, May 29, 2014

Monster Monpiece (PS Vita)

Idea Factory, and Compile Heart team up to bring us lucky US citizens a mature, and unique card battle experience like no other. This game that bares the namesake, "Monster Monpiece" deals with the judgment of mankind which was dished out in two punishment phases via earth penetrating pillars known as the "Hammer of God". In the first punishment phase God unleashed monsters upon Yafanir to kill off the human race entirely for their continuous misdeeds, and in the second phase of punishment the monsters who were sent to do God's bidding in the first place were ultimately trapped inside some of the human's bodies forcing them to live at less that full power, because of their disobedience.

The story contained within the game's main campaign also takes in account the coexistence of the two races who were once mutual enemies. It addresses the joining forces of the monster race now known as "Monster Girls", and the remaining humans who try to withstand God's wrath while finding a peaceful understanding. In order to once again make merry with the man upstairs the gifted human students join forces with Monster Girls of different academies to right the wrongs which their races have committed via a special card battle system. In teams of two these human girls, and their monster girl partners battle against the "Lost (Evil Monster Girls)" on a 7x3 grid with HQ (Headquarters) on either side. It is in this virtual battlefield where victory means everything, and failure is not an option.

As the story opens up we find select group of academy students that go by the names "May", "Karen", and "Elza". These three immature girls, and their elvish mentor of a similar mindset end up pairing off with two Monster Girls (including "Fia", May's partner) in order to combat the Lost Monster girls of the world, and gain a respectable reputation as the monster duelists that they are. In a manner like that of Nintendo's "Pokemon", and Konami's "Yu-Gi-Oh!" these girls, and their Monster Girl partners take on many duels against Lost Monster Girls using a collectible card based hybrid game. The card game itself consists of two separate parts including the previously mentioned Monster Girl cards, and a 3D grid based combat system in which the first team to destroy the other team's HQ wins. The cards which are obtained outright during the intro portion of the game, through followed up gameplay, and through an in-game shop (or online shop for real currency) provide the necessary army of Monster Girls needed to obtain a victory.

The cards of "Monster Monpiece", which are named after various mythological monstrosities have multiple functions within the duel, and story playthrough of the game. Each card for example has a certain ATK (Attack), HP (Hit Points), INT (Intelligence), and MP (Magic Points). Not only do they have these basic RPG attributes, but each Monster Girl card also has one of four different classes stamped upon it's artistic representation. The classes include "Melee", "Ranged", "Healer", and "Buffer". As the class titles suggest each class has it's own function on the battlefield, and must be used strategically in order to overcome the opponent's advancement. Melee Monster Girls, for example are usually good for up close battles due to their brute strength. Ranged archers on the other hand are usually good for distance attacks, healers are good for healing Monster Girl units heal, and Buffers are good for defense purposes. Aside from class jobs, and RPG attributes each card is also color coded for an additional purpose. In the game there are four different card colors including Red, Yellow, Blue, and Green. By choosing cards of the same color in succession (one after the other, up to 3 times) you will boost ATK power, Healing power, Mana levels, and other things pertaining to the Monster Girls performance. Once you reach the third boost the effects will reset allowing for another series of color coded card plays. Using the color system to your advantage can definitely turn the tide of battle in your favor.

As one might imagine card function, and features are not everything. Cards actually cost something of value to play. In order to play, or place a Monster Girl card out on the 7x3 (9 Blue squares on the left, 3 neutral down the middle, 9 red squares on the right) you must be able to afford/pay it's mana cost. At the top corner of each card you will find the card's mana cost which is the price value for playing that card. In order to play a card you must have that number of mana available. If you do have the required mana, and can pay the mana cost you can place your Monster Girl card anywhere within your assigned grid. The grid, or battlefield which is a vital part of gameplay is divided into two color coded square grids (9 cubed squares, Blue = Left / Red = Right), and 3 neutral vertical squares that are the dividing line between the two playing fields. To the left side of the blue grid lies the blue player's HQ, and to the right of the red grid lies the red player's HQ. As you play cards, and take turns about your mana pool will increase by up t 3 points each turn enabling you to play your more high cost, and powerful Monster Girl units/cards.

The objective of each duel, or battle (as simple as it may seem) in 'Monster Monpiece' is to play your cards when you can, and have the 3D representation of each character featured on the card advance all the way across the opponent's grid in order to deal enough damage to the opponent's HQ to achieve victory. Of course strategy is a huge key to success. You must place your Monster Girls/cards in a manner that will compliment them as a whole. Placing a healer behind a "Melee", "Ranged", or "Buffer" Monster Girl, for example will result in a healing effect each turn that the "Healer" is directly behind the card character. You have to factor in everything from class, to attributes, and even card color when sending your Monster Girls out to perform their tasks. By properly placing your units (Monster Girls) on your grid, and letting them advance/act in a turn based manner you can muscle your way past your opponent, defeat them, and ultimately strike down their HQ.

One thing to keep in mind is that HQ's carry with them a certain amount of hit points. Once a Monster Girl unit hits the HQ they will either vanish upon impact until all HQ hit points are depleted, or end the game upon first impact supposing the opponent has a HQ with only "1" HP. In the way of cards it is wise to keep in mind that you must have at least 30 cards in your deck with up to only 3 duplicates of a card. Your deck which can be named via the "Card Gym" menu will ultimately be graded on effectiveness, and the cards contained within (SS-H). Your cards in each deck will also be graded in a similar manner, but according to rarity with "SS" being the rarest card you can get, and "H" being the lowest card. Some cards which are known as "Potentials" will have a special effect marking that will indicate their ability to perform an action, or movement the moment they are played. Regular cards, whether they be rare, or not can also be upgraded using the game's notorious "First Crush Rub" feature.

About "First Crush Rub" ...

After getting to a certain point within Monster Monpiece's story you will be able to rub one out with the images of the Monster Girls via your PS Vita handheld, and possibly upgrade their attribute stats by doing so if you are successful. The "First Crush Rub" feature, which is infamous for it's perverted nature requires the use of RP (Rub Points) that are obtained through duel victories as well as lewd touchscreen interactions. Once you enter a card into it's "First Crush Rub" phase you will have to rub various parts of the Monster Girl's image (boobs, thighs, butt, ears, hair, tail ...) as the PS Vita is turned on it's side. Certain parts will fill up the Rub meter faster than others, and once you do fill up said meter via your naughty rubbing, poking, or pinching you will have successfully upgraded your Monster Girl, or possibly even downgraded it. Upgrades come in the form of visual evolution (less clothing), and a random attribute boost/decline. Not all "First Crush Rub" sessions end on a positive note, and sometimes cards/Monster Girls can be wiped out entirely with negative attribute bonuses.

Another thing to keep in mind during the "First Crush Rub" is that each Monster Girl has a special spot on their bodies that if found, and rubbed will send them into an "Extreme Love" state. You'll know you've successfully made it to this point of erotic arousal when the seal fairy that is sitting on top of the Monster Girl's shoulder has eyes shaped like hearts, and the image goes fullscreen with tons of flashing hearts. Once you enter the "Extreme Love" mode of the "First Crush Rub" mini-game you will have a given amount of time with which to rub out the Monster Girls image as fast as possible. In doing so your Monster Girl's attribute, and image evolution will gain a respective upgrade.

As far as controls go in the "First Crush Rub" sessions you'll simply need to turn your Vita on it's side to initiate the mini-game, and use the (Right Thumbstick) to pan across the various parts of the Monster Girls' body. In essence it's like a sexy "Where's Waldo?" game in which you must find the sweet spots, rub them out as quickly as possible, and move onto the next sweet spot until the meter on the left hand side of the screen is filled. You'll know you've hit the "sweet spot/s" once stars, or hearts start to appear on the screen in the spot you are rubbing/touching. In the way of graphics you'll find that during the "First Crush Rub" the Monster Girls' bodies are animated in certain spots (boobs jiggle upon touch, facial features react to stimulation ...). This in itself makes the experience more rich in value than it would have been if the images were static/stiff. Also for those of you who like the erotic vocals that come with such an event the Monster Girls who are being rubbed will make sounds, and comments as you hit, or miss the "sweet spots". These voice-overs of course can be changed with single use voice DLC that is made available through the PSN store. Keep in mind though that each Monster Girl comes with a voice of their own from the start, and that changing said voice via DLC is not necessary, but merely an option for the gamer.

One final thing to mention regarding the "First Crush Rub" mini-game is that some Monster Girl cards will have a lock icon on the the upper left corner of the card which must be unlocked with an appropriately colored key before they can evolve. Along side this lock will be an image of a certain color key indicating that this is the type of key required for unlocking. These keys can be obtained in one of two ways. For those of you looking for the "free" keys you will have to win matches while playing online/ad hoc in "Network" mode. By successfully winning an online, or ad hoc match you can score these keys, and use them to further evolve your Monster Girl cards via the "First Crush Rub" mini-game. The other way to gain said keys is to purchase them with real world currency via the PSN store. Keys, like every other DLC item will set you back about a dollar, and are single use in nature.

As exciting, and relevant as Monster Monpiece's "First Rub" mini-game is it isn't the only way to upgrade your card's stats, and attributes. When dueling it out on the grid based playing field you can fuse similar cards together adding attribute boosts as well as "Potential" effects if the card you are fusing does not already have said effect. Fusing can only take place on the virtual battlefield when your Monster Girl units are in enemy territory. While the cards have to be similar according to species (Bird, Dragon, Fairy ...) they do not have to be the same image. One detail I forgot to mention is that each card also carries with it a species description at the top of the card. It is these species titles that must be matched for fusion purposes.

About Monster Girl Duels ...

In the game you will find three modes for engaging in duels. The story which unlocks all the game's features as you go, and explains them to you has a map based system (Think Super Mario Bros. 3) in which you (May) will go from point to point dueling, collecting items, and advancing the story to completion. The second method for dueling is located within the Monster Monpiece's main menu system. By accessing the "Training" menu you can engage in practice duels against previously met story opponents which will reward you like a real duel would. For those of you looking to go beyond the game's story, and get into battles/duels online the game also offers that option via a "Network" menu. Network mode will afford you either ad hoc (local) multiplayer duels, or online duels against other "Monster Monpiece" gamers across the globe. At the beginning of each duel no matter which method of play you choose a coin will be tossed by the CPU (Red/Blue) in order to determine who goes first. If it lands on Blue in story mode it will be your turn to go first. If it lands on red then the opponent goes first. Coin tossing is definitely random in this game, and in most cases doesn't give either player a significant benefit in battle.

Duels in general will be ranked upon performance (SS - H), and will reward you accordingly. Rewards themselves come in the form of additional RP, Yen (In-game currency), and 1-3 card card packs. As you progress different card pack types (Mysterious, Fertile ...) will be made available to you on both the battlefield, and in the game's in-game store. For those of you looking to get the really rare, and powerful cards/items the PSN store offers those DLC items for 99 cents a pop. The DLC cards which are (Rare, Rare+, Rare++, Super, Super+, and Super++) will afford you some random, and possibly "SS" rare cards. One thing to remember is that you can only have three "SS", or "S" cards in each deck that you construct. This keeps the gameplay as fair as possible.

Aside from card packs the PSN store also features additional Monster Girl voices (Goth, Punk, Aristocrat, Gal ...) which can be assigned to cards of choice, and enjoyed during the "First Crush Rub" mini-game. There are also gem based keys for unlocking certain cards in the "First Crush Rub" mini-game, and enlightening spheres items that come into play during certain portions of the game (First Crush Rub / Duels). As far as assigning the "voices" go that will be done via the "Item" menu in the game's main menu system. Later on into the game you will be able to assign up to 3 items (Healing, Food ...) for in-battle use, and as well as card specific items that will enhance them with added effects. There is also a sub-menu called "Master Rings" within the "Item" menu that holds the special rings your earn later on during your playthrough. The catch to basic item assignment is that healing items of the same kind can not be doubled up. As for Monster Girl card items such as the voice DLC those are single use items, and can only be applied to a single card once. It should also be noted that each Monster Girl already comes with her own distinct voice. the Voice DLC is just there to give you another option should you wish to use it. Always check the card's voice before switching though, because you might be changing it for no reason.

For those of you looking for extras within the game "Monster Monpiece" has it's fair share of additional unlockable content. Aside from the vast assortment of Monster Girls cards (designed by 50 different artists) you will find a gallery filled with fully viewable Monster Girl card images. The artistic representation along with attributes can be viewed in all their glory including in a side view similar to that of the "First Crush Rub" mini-game. The additional "Museum" menu also carries with it some unlockable extras in the form of cutscenes, videos, intros, and outros. As such the game definitely has it's replay value, and will afford you some extra eye candy should you be interested.

About The Graphics & Sound ...

Monster Monpiece is a beautiful masterpiece from start to finish. Despite it's naughty reputation for Loli imagery the game goes above, and beyond to impress the gamer with an anime rich JRPG experience. At the beginning you will be gifted with a short anime intro video complete with an interesting Japanese song. The animation in it is beautifully rendered, and the music that is applied is fitting. In the actual game the onscreen action is complimented by character dialogue screens featuring the main characters themselves. Each of the characters in dialogue situations come to life with expertly crafted facial animations, and emoji style special effects. The voice overs which are purely Japanese definitely enrich the gaming experience to be had. For those of you who can only understand English fret not as the actual subtitled dialogue is in plain view with large lettering, and appears on screen as the voice actors/actresses say their parts.

Details such as those found in backgrounds, and on cards are beautifully rendered as well, especially when viewed in an up close perspective. As far as the battlefield scenario goes the playing grid is of simple 3D construction, but is detailed enough to be reminiscent of a JRPG design. The 3D character models that come into play are generic according to class, and do not vary too much in detail, but are pleasant enough to look at. It is the card art that ultimately separates each Monster Girls' persona, and makes the likable. The cards in the available collection are brilliantly constructed according to the battle at hand. Details such as class, attributes, species, and mana cost fit nice, and neatly upon the virtual cards' surface. All in all 'Monster Monpiece' is definitely a game that warrants praise for both it's visual aspects, and applied soundtrack. Extra content such as added interchangeable voice-over DLC is merely icing on the cake. Also let me not for get to mention that the rarer Monster Girl cards come with a holographic overlay similar to what you'd find in the MTG (Magic the Gathering), and Yu-Gi-Oh! card games. TCG (Trading Card Games) FTW!!!

Now for the Verdict ...

After playing this game for a good while I began to realize that this is a game I could definitely invest some time, and money into. In fact I already bought 5 "Rare++" DLC card packs. I loved the unique card based JRPG mechanics, and the fact that it succeeded in providing a proper card dueling experience. Everything included, even the infamous Loli images were applied in such a way as to make this game great. The story while somewhat short lived fleshed out the characters well enough to enable the gamer to fall in love with them. I definitely liked the story, and it's hardcore wrath of god beginnings. The art style that was applied in each part of the game is definitely different from most 'Compile Heart', and 'Idea Factory' game releases, but still holds the same noteworthy quality. The art has an immature yet mature style about it that comes to life with the characters' animated facial features, the 3D Monster Girl Units, and the anime art styles that are made available from a wide variety of different artists. I also liked the fact that the spoken dialogue was kept in it's native Japanese.

Without beating around the bush too much longer I'd say this game is definitely worth a buy if you are mature enough to handle it. I do not, in any way suggest this game being given/sold to known pedophiles, or sex offenders as the artistic images would likely trigger criminal activity from them. Any child with hints of criminally sexual tendencies should also not be allowed to play this game, nor should any child who is underage. It is rated "Mature for a reason, and in the case of this game that reason ties in with it's sexual nature. Even with the taboo versions of certain cards removed the game still has sexually provocative art of the Loli kind. If you can get past all that though, and want a proper JRPG/card based game then do not miss out on "Monster Monpiece"!

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