But first, I’ll explain (and totally spoil) the excuse plot of the game. You are May Esperio, a student of an academy in Kunaguva, (which is totally not the name of a city in Japan altered slightly, no sir) that trains masters for monster girls. May has the ability to be a great master of monster girls, and she certainly has a great heritage behind her, but she has a slight fear of monster girls after one attacked her and left a scar on her hand. May is about to go eat with her friends when she and one of her friends (named Elza) are “randomly” chosen to go to a neighbouring city and have a match against one of their monster girl masters to maintain the relationship between cities. Another friend comes along as their advisers, and both receive official monster girl partners for the first time. While there, the city is attacked by a mysterious masked figure, who brainwashes Elza into stealing important crystals from all of the cities. May, her partner, and the remaining friend go around the cities, trying to take the crystals to keep them safe before Elza can do so. Everyone either doesn’t believe May or May is beaten to the punch by Elza. As they approach Tokio, the final city, all hell breaks loose. Betrayal and plot twists left and right. It turns out that the masked woman is the series’ equivalent of God, is evil, and must be killed. Furthermore, you are being supported by Satan. Additionally, the scar May got as a child caused her to become a chosen one, able to harness the power of the ancient monster girl Ouroboros. After harnessing the power of Ouroboros, you kill God. Congratulations. You have went from zero to hero and will be celebrated until the end of time. Roll credits. There is also a post-game sequence where you turn the area at the end of the game into a vacation spot. Every named character returns to break the fourth wall and snark about their roles. Notable during the story is the sheer amount of obvious typos. Additionally, the game shows room for 3 lines of text on the screen, but a fourth line is supported. Anything in the fourth line is not shown, and you have to open the log to see what was said. This is a trend that worries me.
The gameplay is the better part. Before I explain how the actual card battles work, I’ll explain the things you do in preparation for the battles. This being a card game, you buy packs, you create a deck of 30-40 cards (unlike usual card games where less is more, 40 is preferred in this game), set items (you can use up to four in battle, no duplicates), and face people online. You can also pay for special rare packs for $0.99, but purchasing in-game doesn’t work too well, as all of the pack names claim to be “Monster Monpiece”. This is, of course, ignoring the elephant in the room. The “First Crush ❤ Rub” system is one that allows you to rub, pinch, poke and tap on the images of your cards in places where they like it (different per card, rank of card and level of the affection meter) to raise their affection meter. If you manage to fully arouse the seal in the upper-left corner by finding a bunch of locations in quick succession, the timer stops and you must do a male masturbating motion using your Vita in place of a penis as quickly as possible to rack up the meter much faster than normally possible. Fill it up before time runs out and your card upgrades. Each card can update up to twice with a few exceptions. The upgrades have less clothing in their artwork (except in cases where the upgraded art was removed in compliance with child porn laws, so you keep the older art). Also, I will note that the card art is zoomed in during the minigame and you need to use the right stick with the thumb of the hand holding the Vita to move around and rub with the other hand, which makes me want to punch their designers. Alternatively, use a rare item (“Enlightenment Sphere”) to skip the process. I did that instead, of course, after the first few times. Unlike what most people may think, this system is off to the side and gets in the way. Also, I should’ve put “upgrade” in quotes, as some cards become worse, and some (like the one of Neptune from Neptunia that early purchasers got) switch between set forms when you try to do this to them (Neptune switches from her base form to Purple Heart and back indefinitely, completely changing roles as she does). I think this mechanic is what led to the game’s card art variety being terrible. By which I mean there are several cards… then there are rank 2 and 3 versions of [card] with less clothing. Then there’s [card] +1 and +2 from later packs (there are -1s, but those upgrade into completely different stuff). All of those have their own upgrades, so you get [card] +2 rank 3, etc. Much like the upgrades, the pluses and minuses aren’t necessarily improvements. This leads to it being hard to read the field just from the card art like in most TCGs, as one could conceivably have almost an entire deck of variants of one card (as each rank and +/- variant combination is a different card as far as the game’s concerned – you can have 3 of each, meaning you can have 27 of one card just from my example). As for actual gameplay, it’s pretty simple. You have a 3×3 grid where you can place cards, as does your opponent, and a line of neutral spaces in between where nobody may place cards (think MegaMan Battle Network, but with an extra line). On both ends, there is a base. Players start with a hand of 5 cards, and everyone draws a card each turn except for the first player’s opening move. Players pay mana (which replenishes by 3 each turn) during their turn to place a card on their end of the grid. After this, any special abilities of the cards activate, and any card that can move (things with nothing directly in front of them that weren’t placed this turn except for those with abilities letting them, also some cards don’t move at all). After moving, they attack anything in range of their attacks in front of them and the turn ends. You can pass to save up mana, in which case cards will still move forward. Any cards that reach the end of the opponent’s grid deal 1 damage to their base and are discarded. There are 4 types of card: melee, ranged, buffer and healer. Melee cards deal damage to enemies directly in front of them. Ranged cards… err… deal ranged damage, so anything in their range will work (varies per card). Buffers increase the damage output of any of your cards that may be standing on the space right in front of them by an amount equal to their INT every turn. Healers spend their MP to heal any of your cards one space in front of them to full or as much as they can (spent MP is equal to health restored). Every card has its own attack power and health, in addition to the unique INT/MP for buffers/healers. Cards also have a colour and a species type (demi-human, beast, etc.), which are related to supplementary mechanics. When playing a card, you can fuse a card in your hand and one of your cards on the field (regardless of their position) of the same species type as your card to play during your turn, overwriting any incompatible abilities (the “don’t move” and “move on first turn out” ones are incompatible, for example), and adding the new card’s attack power, HP, MP and INT to the old one. As for colours, there are bonuses for playing the same colour repeatedly. Two turns in a row gives you 1 extra mana, three turns raises the attack power and health of every card you have out by 1 and gives 3 extra mana. As such, playing a deck of one colour and as few different species as possible is ideal if you can make it work. All of this makes an elegantly simple, but also quite deep game to play. As a side-note, I beat the hopeless boss fight by getting the first turn and decking the enemy out. I also whittled down more than half of their 9 health while only taking 1 damage of my 3. This is despite their starting with 90 mana while I started with 0. The game, of course, continued as if I lost, but it speaks to the balance the game has if I’m able to do that with a well-crafted deck despite being stacked against me. Also, I find a few little things annoying. For example, the card pool is shared between all of your decks. If you have 3 of a card and put them all into one deck, you don’t have access to them for another deck until they’re taken out of that one, like in real life. Also, the game autosaves things like purchasing and opening packs, but not story progress. Speaking of which, there are areas where the auto-move on the map moved me into an event too early – you have to manually move around event spots if you want to get to certain places on the map and get everything. Also, the game’s controls are an odd split between buttons and touch. You can’t solely use one or the other, as there are some options jarringly missing for both, though they clearly tried to make you use one or the other. The game is also clearly tailored for online play for post-game, but the amount of people playing is quite low, and you need to be on at a good time. I blame this on the marketing and Compile Heart’s focus on the rubbing.
Monster Monpiece is available on the PlayStation Vita as a digital-only title. As a side-note, the game’s DLC calls home on start-up, like Sorcery Saga, but, unlike Sorcery Saga, it’s not as much of a big deal because the DLC is applied again for the free DLC, so you get lots of freebies. The paid DLC, however, does not stack like this, making me question the point. I will also note that screenshots within the Vita are not enabled for this game for whatever reasons.
Simple, but deep. This is a game that is simply good. It could’ve rivaled many great digital card games. It’s rare to say that about a Compile Heart title. But Compile Heart poisoned the golden goose. Had they made the game more wholesome, had they given the game a lower barrier to entry (free-to-play version or even a demo), sales would be higher and online play would be more active. As it stands, this game is worth it now, but not worth it down the road when multiplayer dies down. And that’s something that’s inevitable, but it is simply sped up by what they’ve done. If you grab it on a sale, $15 is fair for the single-player experience. $30 is too much unless you make it in time to play with the small multiplayer community. However, right now, the small multiplayer community still exists, so it gets rated as it deserves. If you’re reading this a year down the road, unless a miracle has happened, grab it in a sale or not at all. If you’re reading this right now, go on ahead, it’s worth it. —