Release Date: May 27, 2014
Publisher (Developer): Idea Factory (Compile Heart)
ESRB Rating: “Mature” for Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, and Violence
Monster Monpiece is the latest release from Compile Heart. Already released in Japan some time ago, Monster Monpiece has now localized for the US and released for the Vita. At its core Monster Monpiece is a card battler, but it is wrapped up in something altogether different.
Cards and Monsters
The world Monster Monpiece exists within is actually pretty nifty in concept. Alongside humans are another race known simply as Monster Girls. Monster Girls have unique powers that can be harnessed and controlled by humans who train at a series of academies. There is a whole plot line involving “lost” monster girls who are wild and uncontrolled, and an evil sorceress who appears able to control the Lost, and is seeking her own evil goal. The initial world-building of the game has promise, but unfortunately falls completely apart when it is used as nothing more than a poor excuse to fill an entire game with mostly naked women. This is where the game completely unravels.
You see, Monster Monpiece appears to exist for the sole purpose of objectifying women. I don’t mean in an “unrealistic armor” or “damsel in distress” kind of way. I mean in a flat out creepy, perverse way. The entire game world is filled with women, many of which look like children, and almost none of whom where much clothing. This is in the censored North American release; in Japan a lot of them don’t really wear anything at all. The character designs are the least of the problem however, because the gameplay is even worse.
One of the key mechanics in Monster Monpiece is to power up your cards using, I kid you not, “Rub Points.” Rub Points are used in a minigame whereby you fondle your cards in the most unsettling way possible. You have to pinch, rub, or poke key areas of a character card until they reach a state of “extreme love” and level up. These key areas are more often than not, well “key areas”. As a 31 year old male, poking my finger at the vagina of what looks to be an 11 year old girl, while she makes orgasmic noises and moans in Japanese, her jiggling breasts suddenly becoming the only animated part of the card, until she reaches a point of “extreme love” is way beyond the point of being disturbing.
You can’t even justify it as satire at that point. Even worse is if you perform well, you may be able to get bonus points when the game goes into bonus round of sorts whereby your stroke the Vita’s screen and touchpad as fast as you can over the image of said little girl, in what is frankly the single most phallic gameplay mechanic of all time. Oh, and as your cards level up, the girls lose more and more of their clothing, because of course they do.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t get very far into the game; there was only so much virtual pedophilia I was willing to put up with. Monster Monpiece single handedly reinforces so many negative Japanese stereotypes, that I can’t believe someone would actually localize this to a global market. It’s not even the goofy niche Japanese game where the overt fan service can be passed off, or maybe seen as a joke. This game is a flat out insult to anyone who isn’t a repressed 12 year old boy. It’s a shame really, because beneath all the objectification, there is a pretty solid game.
March of the Cards!
You see, the underlying card game combat system is actually really cool. You have a 7×3 grid. On either side is a base, yours on the left, your opponent on the right. Each player gets a 3×3 grid of territory in which to place their cards, with a 1×3 stripe of neutral zone in between. The objective is to destroy the opposing base by marching your cards across the field, which is where it gets cool. Each turn you place down cards which become 3D units. Every turn they will automatically either attack the unit in front of them, or march forward one grid square. The trick is to tactically get you units across while defending your own base. Positioning is extremely important in Monster Monpiece, as all cards have an “aura”, and chaining together adjacent cards with the same aura yields critical bonuses, such as extra health, attack points, etc. Battles tend to be pretty fast paced and a ton of fun. Online battles against human opponents are equally fantastic to play.
There are flaws in the system, and it all too often can devolve into a match of who has the stronger cards rather than tactics being as important as they could be, and it is all too easy to fall into a stalemate that starts to feel like a game of tic-tac-toe if both players are evenly matched. These aren’t huge issues though, and some creative strategy can often work around these limitations.
The artwork on the cards themselves is pretty great. What they are depicting may get to be a little deplorable at times, but nobody can argue that it isn’t well done. Some of the characters are actually really cool looking, and there is a mode where you can zoom in and inspect the artwork on every card in wonderful high-definition detail. Unfortunately, in light of the rest of the game, one can’t help but to think of this feature as more of a “”porn mode”, especially considering what the unedited Japanese version looks like.
Greatness Tainted by Immaturity
I really want to give Monster Monpiece an “F” on principal alone. It may be a portable game, but there is no way I would ever want to be seen playing this thing in public. If you are a parent who has even the slightest inkling of letting their kid play this game, don’t. Thing is, I can’t score a game based on moral standing, because my morals aren’t everyone else’s. Maybe you don’t mind the sexism and borderline pedophilia, or maybe you actually find it all humorous in an over the top way. Maybe you even enjoy it and see all this as a selling point. Ultimately, the fact of the matter is that beneath the sleaze is a pretty solid card collecting/battle game. The best (only?) the Vita has to offer in fact. The storytelling is a letdown compared to the basic premise of the world, but that isn’t a big deal in this genre, the artwork is extremely well executed, and at the end of the day, Monster Monpiece is actually quite fun. Just a shame it was all wasted on something so reprehensible.