Monster Monpiece poses a lot of pretty easy questions to the player: do you like anime? Do you like anime girls? Do you like card games? Do you like viciously rubbing pictures of girls on cards to make those cards better (and more naked)? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may like Monster Monpiece. If you answer the last question by exclaiming, “no, that sounds gross and dumb, and probably a little bit perverse,” then close your computer, go outside, and ignore everything else I have to say, because this game is most certainly not for you.
MM puts you in the world of Yafanir, where I honestly have no clue what is going on. From what I gathered, monster girls coexist with people, and they “battle” one another just for the giggles. Monster girls have to live in cards or near Magus Quartz crystals or they lose strength otherwise. Also they can become “Lost,” but I’m not really sure what that is, I just know they become exceptionally evil when they do. The real truth is the world doesn’t really matter because the story in MM doesn’t really matter. What does matter is the fun writing and quirky characters you meet on your journey, and if you have a love for anime you’ll feel right at home here.
All you really have to know is you play May, who is shy and pretty much your “timid, low self-esteem” anime character embodied, and she gets paired up with the Monster girl Fia. Fia is her opposite, cocky and impulsive, and helps make her a more confident character as their chemistry grows and they learn to balance one another. Then May’s friend get’s turned Lost, and you have to save her. You do this by playing hours upon hours of card battles against mostly random people across a world map screen.
Luckily, the actual card game that makes up the core of Monster Monpiece is a lot of fun. You have two 3×3 grids, one for you and one for your opponent, and separating them is a 1×3 column that acts as neutral territory. You can place any of your monster girls anywhere in your field by spending whatever mana is required on the monster girl’s respective card. She then comes to life as one of six or so stock 3D models of a monster girl and moves forward every turn to attempt a strike on the enemy’s base. Hit their base a certain number of times, and you win.
The idea has a similar feel of checkers, only in that you are ferociously trying to reach the other end of the board. You have melee monsters and ranged monsters who focus on attacking, and then healing and buffing monsters, which when placed behind other girls create powerful teams that can really smash through the enemy defence. There is a ton of give and take, and the game quickly takes on a feel of something like Hearthstone in that you are “comboing,” or are placing cards together for maximum efficiency. Unfortunately, you always get the same three mana every turn, and you can only place one card every turn. Also, there are no spell cards or magic attacks, you just have certain monsters with certain characteristics, like giving you extra mana or doing something when they’re placed/destroyed.
The real problem with the card game is it feels unbalanced. Even if you have a lot of powerful cards, you may end up losing because you just can’t break through an enemy’s defence. Maybe they’re just placing equally powerful cards, and all you end up doing for the first 20 turns is guaranteeing mutual monster destruction. The board is constantly empty and no one is making progress. Plus you only have 40 cards, and half of the matches I ended up playing I would just set up a defence and wait until they drew all of their cards and automatically lost. While some matches are incredibly rewarding and intense, I ran into several matches that were just boring and resulted in drawn-out stalemates that take forever to finish, which is not ideal for a portable game.
Regardless, building decks and upgrading cards for building entirely new decks was a lot of fun, and it’s very easy to get tons of new cards to mix up your game and change your strategy. Plus, you can play online, and that let’s you test your might against real players who usually just destroyed me, but taught me a lot about balancing a good deck.
Now the real controversial part of the game: First Crush Rub. You “upgrade” your cards by spending “rub points,” which you just collect as you play the game, and then enter First Crush Rub. Here, you pick a monster girl, and enter a sort of rub-a-girl-right minigame, where you need to rub the Vita screen to please the monster girl in question. The game is quick to tell you that some girls like to be rubbed certain ways in certain areas, like pinched or tapped, maybe on their legs or other places. It doesn’t take much imagination to see what they’re getting at. When you please a girl just right, you can enter “Extreme Rub” where you have to ferociously rub the front and back touch screen in a mastrabatory motion in order to stack up some major points. Clearly this is a game made to be played in public places.
If you end up filling the bar to the left of the screen, your monster girl “levels up” essentially, and the card changes to a more-naked version of the girl and her stats go up for some reason. They don’t even try to contextualize this in the game, it’s just kind of there. It doesn’t make any sense, and it’ll make most players (myself included) feel pretty perverted. Plus, after you’ve done it three times, you never want to do it again, because it’s stupidly exhausting and consumes a lot of time. The problem is, there is no way to avoid it. The skills and powers unlocked through the minigame are required for some of the more absurd challenges in the story.
Maybe if they didn’t force you to look like an idiot while rubbing your Vita, it wouldn’t be as egregious, but they do and it’s just silly. Plus, half of the cards have girls on them that look like they’re maybe 10, so those situations are there just to make you feel extra uncomfortable. Some of the cards were actually censored when the game was localized to the US and Europe, and if you’re curious, you can see which ones they were here.
Behind Monster Monpiece’s perverted exterior lies a fun card game, sometimes. While there are some balancing issues that result in unfortunate stalemates, I still had a ton of fun playing and mastering the systems here. If you can work past the perverse Rubbing game, or hell, if you’re really interested in it, you’ll probably adore the fun characters and ridiculous world MM is offering.