Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Monster Monpiece is an interesting spin on the trading card game style that has been quite popular over the last few years. A well thought-out blend of collection and strategy, with card art created by more than 5fifty different artists and a plethora of re-imagined mythological creatures, now available for your “viewing pleasure” on PC.
In Monster Monpiece you play as May, an aspiring Poke-, err, monster trainer. A rather weak-willed and self-deprecating one, but a monster trainer nonetheless. So then, what type of monsters are you training? Well, monster girls, obviously. Yes, that’s right: all your favorite mythological monsters are re-imagined and drawn as cute girls, whom you capture and fight with. Despite the skepticism, the game is actually surprisingly addicting. As you join May and her werewolf partner, Fia, as well as her friends Elza and Karen on the road to becoming professional trainers! Or so you think. Not long after setting out to visit the neighboring town for practice battle matches, Elza gets mind-controlled/possessed and now you’ve got to go save her, while overcoming adversity and your own poor character traits. While the storyline isn’t winning any academy awards, the focus of Monpiece is on the battle system and, uh, a “unique” function.
Battles between trainers take place on a seven wide by three tall grid, where the left-hand 3×3 panels are yours, the right-hand 3×3 are the opponents’, and the remaining column of three in the middle is “neutral ground”. You and your opponent take turns dropping cards on your sides of the field, and the cards sprout into 3D models that make their way across the field to the opponents’ base. Every turn they take a step forward, unless blocked by an opponent, and upon reaching the enemy HQ, they smack it once and disappear. When the opponents’ base has fallen, you win! There are four different types of units, with four different “auras”, and different specie types. Unit types are classified as melee, ranged, healer, and support. Melee units tend to have high HP and attack, ranged units can attack at a distance but usually have low health and attack, healer units use MP to restore the health of the unit directly in front of them, and support units add their INT stat to the attack of the unit in front (which doesn’t consume MP).
As for the aura types, they are based on card color: red, yellow, green, and blue. Auras don’t seem particularly useful at first, but if you play card chains with the same aura, you get bonuses. Two cards in succession gives you an extra mana point (which you use to summon units), and three successive cards of the same aura give 3 mana and increase the attack and health of all the friendly units on the field by 1. Even ignoring the stat buff, since the default mana recovery per turn is three, the chains become well worth it, even if they do reset after three successive cards. Specie types can be played on top of each other as a buff, combining the stats of the two cards, although you can only do so once per unit. This fusion can also be done in enemy territory, if your opponent is getting annoying and you need that last little push to get through.
At this point you are probably curious about that “unique feature” I mentioned earlier. Well, you can power up your cards, increasing their base stats and summon costs, through the power of love, friendship, and mercilessly “rubbing” their “feel good zones”. On PC, this involves a combination of clicking either or both of the mouse buttons and moving the cursor back and forth. Yes this is a thing, and no, I don’t think anyone who sees you doing this will look at you in the same light again. The thing is though, upgrading your monsters is actually pretty worth it, as health and attack tend to be low, so even a point or two increase can be a great advantage. In addition, the unit may learn a specialized skill, which can involve them taking action faster, turning them into an immobile unit, or applying a buff effect as long as they remain on stage.
While the “rubbing” mini-game feels, well, weird, to be honest, it’s actually rather difficult. You need to find the specific zone that the unit likes to be rubbed, then figure out which of the four types of “touching” they prefer, and then go find another spot when the first one “runs out of pleasure”, as it were. I can see why this was originally for the Vita, or maybe a phone app, because trying to do this with a track pad or mouse is what I can only be describe as “infuriatingly frustrating”. On the plus side, the character art is all really well done for the cards, and upon upgrading the card portrait does change.
The music in Monpiece is much better than I was expecting, which is good, because you’ll be hearing the battle themes a lot. If you thought zubats were bad, they’ve got nothing on the arbitrary amount of people that challenge you to a fight in Monpiece, and for some of the dumbest reasons. No really, “you smell weird” isn’t exactly what I’d use as a defining moment in whether or not I want to beat someone up. My personal favourite was something along the lines of “I don’t know who you are, so I’m going to kick you out of my country/domain/whateverthedifferentlyruledareasareconsidered”. They are seriously relentless. It’s a little mean, especially when the world map is set up as a series of points that you travel to, and they taunt you with random items, money, or cards off the main path, promptly throwing everyone in the local frat building at you to keep you away.
Cards can be collected in one of two primary ways: on the world map or through purchasing card packs. As you roam the world map, icons appear indicating items, money, cards, events, and battles(sometimes). Traveling to a location with a card icon will net you a cute(hopefully) monster girl to join your cause. Best not think too hard about the fact that the cards are actually close to Pokeballs in nature, meaning if you visit the store, you’re literally buying sentient being as a raffle prize. Whoo monster rights? The only issue you might have is that card draws are random. Yep, that’s right, your old friend RNGeesus is back to mock you. Or me, in this case. If your IRL luck stat isn’t that good, expect to spend some time mugging people for cash so you can build up your arsenal of warriors.