They did the Monpiece… They did the Monster Monpiece!
Most guys of my generation loved collecting Pokemon cards as children and doing righteous battle with the vaunted strips of cardboard. But what is there to cater for us now as lonely, lustful men? Enter Monster Monpiece with the ingenious idea of taking the gotta-catch-em’-all compulsiveness of Pokemon, but instead of pocket monsters, you’re now collecting monstrous women – who become more powerful when they wear less clothes! Despite the tawdry concept, Monster Monpiece throws itself into being a polished card battler.
In this world, monsters have a humanoid appearance, with many most monster girls living inside cards, from which they can be conveniently summoned by their trainers. The down-to-earth every(wo)man protagonist of the (mon)piece is May, a young student of the Kunaguva Academy for monster battling. She’s paired up with a spunky, tomboyish monster girl named Fia and sent out on a training journey to a foriegn academy. However, when May’s best friend is possessed by an enigmatic group called “The Lost”, her training run turns into an epic global trek to stop the lost from stealing the world’s Magic Quartz for their own nefarious ends.
Monster Monpiece’s story is told through Visual Novel sequences. These are nicely animated with eyes blinking and mouths moving with the dialogue. The music is also exceptional, and I particularly liked the pounding, distorted J-Pop/Eurobeat tunes which psyche you up for every boss battle. My one criticism is that the central characters could have used more poses, particularly as May’s adviser Karen seems to have her hand stuck perpetually near her face in the classic “aristocratic laugh” pose. She does frequently do the “ohoho” laugh, mind you, but it’s jarring that she’s still making the mocking gesture even in profoundly serious moments!
The story actually surprised me with how much emotional depth it has given the pervy concept. There’s a great scene early on where Fia confronts May about her passivity. She’s angry, but it’s a type of loving anger, where Fia is frustrated by how May hurts herself as much as others. The “intense friendship” between Fia and May sort of reminded me of the recent anime New Game!, with its more in-depth exploration of female friendships coupled with the hintings of yuri (particularly with a certain “massage” scene). And like New Game!, these intense friendships between the girls add a weight to the story, and made me feel invested enough to want to see it out to its conclusion.
Monster Monpiece’s card battling system has an ideal mix of complexity and accessibility. You play your cards onto a grid, where a monster girl will pop up and start moving towards enemy territory. Cards are seperated between melee, ranged, buffer and healer units. Winning battles is about summoning an optimal line of monster girls to break through the three lanes and destroy the enemy base. Putting an archer behind a melee unit and letting them advance together seems an obvious option, and it often is, but without a healer. If you upgrade your archer cards to have extra range and position them correctly, you can sneak a healer between them to keep your melee lady topped up with HP. You can even add a buffer at the back to make your archer’s attacks more devastating. Creating an ultimate conga line of doom like this is difficult to pull off, but it’s hugely satisfying to arrange it correctly.
Your choices are made ever more complex by the addition of Fusions and combos. Combos will boost the stats of all your monster girls on the field, but pulling them off requires you to play three cards of the same colour, forcing you to make the best of whatever those three cards are. Fusions will combine a card from your hand with a unit on the field, creating a much more powerful goblinoid girl or dragonic dame. Luckily, there’s not only the macro-game of building up a powerful line, there’s also a micro-game of deploying girls at the right places to take advantage of their activation skills. For example, if you play a fully upgraded, bikini-clad Fia onto the field, she will automatically deal damage to all enemies on the lane with her “Trap” skill, which can help clear out a whole enemy line if timed right.
Although you can get some small advantages by buying items at the shop between battles, achieving victory is about best playing the hands you’re dealt. It’s downright addictive to build up a balanced deck full of the most powerful girls, but deck-building is never a substitute for long-term planning and skilled plays.
As any military strategist will tell you though, many wars are won off the battlefield. Of course, I doubt Sun Tzu had anything quite like Monster Monpiece’s training system in mind! Every battle will give you a certain number of “rub points”, which you can use to upgrade cards. Doing so will enter you into a minigame where you’ll need to click over the relevant monster girl to find her “sensitive spots” (and using quotation marks here doesn’t make me feel less dirty). This will fill a meter, whereafter the girl will remove a layer of clothing, and also gain upgraded abilities. If you rapidly find a wide variety of different spots to poke, rub and caress, then a walrus-like creature on the top left of the screen (with a suspiciously bulbous head) will get excited, activating “Extreme Rub” mode. Even more euphemistically, Extreme Rub mode requires you to grip both mouse buttons and vigorously slide the mouse up and down, which will exhaust the walrus creature (as it does) and inbue your girl with a very high amount of magic power.
Even if you’re into this sort of thing, you’ll find the minigame is incredibly simplistic, lacking in challenge and it just doesn’t have the depth of such other groping simulators as GalGun (and I can’t believe I just wrote that). It’s nice to see the girls get upgraded stats and downgraded clothing, but the rubbing minigame doesn’t add a lot to the experience otherwise.
Monster Monpiece tends to split its limited visual and gameplay assets too far between card battler, visual novel and groping simulator, and this is why it doesn’t quite manage to be a classic of any of these genres. Nonetheless, Monster Monpiece really shocked me with how much fun it was, and how much drew me into creating the perfect deck of monstrous ladies to do battle with. If you’re looking for a fun card battler carried along by a beautifully presented story then Monster Monpiece will appeal to you – as well as your walrus creature!
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PS Vita, PC (Reviewed); Publisher: Idea Factory International ; Developer: COMPILE HEART, IDEA FACTORY ; Players: 1 ; Released: March 14th, 2016 ; ESRB: M for Mature
Full disclosure: This review is based on PC review copy provided to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.