JPgamer: Games You Thought Would Never Make it West #1

Although an official announcement is yet to appear, it looks very much like Compile Heart's Monster Monpiece is coming to the West. But what on Earth is this crazy game that some thought we'd never see in English?

Article by Pete Davison, .

Well, um, gosh. I must confess I never thought I'd see a day when notorious Vita-rubbing game Monster Monpiece would be available in English, but it looks like that day is coming.

An official announcement is yet to be emerge, but eagle-eyed fans recently spotted English language screenshots of the game over on Idea Factory International's website. Idea Factory International, in case you haven't been following, is a North American-based branch of the Japanese developer-publisher behind titles such as the Agarest and Neptunia series, and its site aims to offer information on both localized releases of Idea Factory and Compile Heart games as well as those which are, to date, only available in Japan.

Further evidence that the game is being localized comes in the form of a PEGI rating -- the European equivalent of the ESRB -- that rates the game as suitable for players 12 and older, and warns of "non-realistic looking violence towards human characters, sexual images and/or sexual innuendo" as well as the fact the game features online play.

The character art's got a bit of an Atelier vibe to it.

If you've heard of Monster Monpiece at all, it's probably for negative reasons. Kotaku branded the Japanese version "the most inappropriate PlayStation Vita game yet" while Destructoid's report on the game's existence focused entirely on the fact that one particular aspect of the game made you look a bit like, perhaps, possibly, you might be, uh, pleasuring your Vita.

In line with a lot of other coverage of the more seemingly "out there" Japanese titles, though, there wasn't a lot of attention paid to the actual game side of things. So, since it looks like we're going to get the chance to play this in the West at some point in the future, let's at least attempt to redress that balance by looking a little at how it actually plays.

Essentially, it's a card-battling game that unfolds on a 7x3 board. A 3x3 area on one side of the board belongs to you, while another 3x3 area on the other side belongs to your opponent, with a 1x3 column down the middle as a "neutral" zone. On your turn, you can summon cards into your area by expending mana, which builds up at a rate of 3 per turn. You can save up mana by passing a turn and consequently be able to summon more expensive, powerful cards, but you can also get mana bonuses from playing consecutive cards of the same color -- the first like-colored card you play gives you one bonus mana, for example, while the second gives you three extra mana -- effectively an extra turn's worth -- plus gives all your cards that are already out a significant stat boost. On top of that, you can summon cards of the same type on top of each other, which then combine and stack their stats.

At heart, the game's a CCG along similar -- but distinct -- lines to Magic and Hearthstone.

Once cards are summoned, they'll move forward one space on the board towards your opponent and either attack enemies in front of themselves or aid nearby allies. The eventual aim of a battle is to use your cards to whittle down your opponent's defenses by getting them to the last space on their side of the field. In other words, you'll need to carefully use your cards to protect your own base while pushing forward and taking on the enemy.

Outside of battle, there's a story mode and a customizable card game-style metagame to indulge in, in which you can build your own deck and fill it with the cards you've found most useful or helpful. You can then take these decks online to get absolutely obliterated by people who have been playing the game a lot longer than you and are better at it than you are -- though the single-player mode reportedly keeps things fairly accessible and straightforward while allowing you to gradually and naturally build up your stock of powerful cards.

And what of all that notorious "rubbing" then? Well, as well as earning money after battle, which can be used to purchase new packs of cards, you'll also earn points that can be used to advance your cards into more powerful forms. The means of advancing your cards is through spending points and then using the front and back touchpads of the Vita to tap or rub the cards on their respective weak points until they "evolve" into more powerful forms; their card art becoming slightly more risqué in the process. Whether or not there's any attempt to justify this in a narrative sense is something I'm afraid I don't know for sure right now -- perhaps someone who's played it can chime in? -- but either way, it's a relatively minor part of the game compared to the card-battling action both on and offline.

The results of your actions in battle are depicted in super-deformed chibi 3D.

Should the apparent Western release come to fruition, it remains to be seen if this aspect will survive intact at all, however; while certain parts of the community are a lot more open-minded about sexual (or apparently sexual) content than they were even a few years ago, the sort of interactivity Monster Monpiece offers is likely to be seen as controversial in the same way that led to NIS America removing the bathing scenes from Mugen Souls -- and for Square Enix to make minor changes to Bravely Default's Job costumes. It may be that whoever ends up publishing the English version of Monster Monpiece -- odds are good on NIS America, Xseed or Aksys -- may simply not want to deal with any potential controversy, and cuts this aspect altogether. We'll have to wait and see in that regard.

Regardless of whether or not Monster Monpiece falls foul of the censors' scissors, though, the very fact that it looks set to be getting a Western release is a good sign for Japanese gaming fans who enjoy niche titles. These games may not be the biggest sellers in the world or have universal appeal, but they tend to attract a particularly passionate variety of fan that appreciates feeling like they are being catered to rather than just being part of that ill-defined concept of "mass market appeal." The polar opposite of triple-A, in other words.

Monster Monpiece's mechanics are simple to learn; the challenge comes in building a deck that will take on anything.

It's also positive for Idea Factory International, who are now able to engage with Western fans of their titles much more readily than they were able to before. And while Idea Factory International itself isn't responsible for publishing or localizing Western versions of Japanese titles, it can certainly do a lot to raise awareness of them and gauge interest as to whether or not it's worth bringing them to English-speaking territories.

Let's hope this isn't the last time we get to say "gosh, I never thought that would get localized."

JPgamer is USgamer's regular round-up of topics regarding Japanese games, published every Wednesday. You can read previous installments here.

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Comments 13

  • Avatar for Stealth20k #1 Stealth20k 4 years ago
    "Games You Thought Would Never Make it West "

    Is actually a topic I will be discussing on this weeks, Oprainfall podcast. Small world lol
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  • Avatar for cscaskie #2 cscaskie 4 years ago
    I would totally play this. As you mention, the reports that you allude to above (Kotaku etc) didn't really clue me in on what the game was about at all besides the "rubbing up on cards" aspect of things. Lo and behold! A pleasant looking card game that reminds me somewhat of my olden days obsession with FF8's Triple Triad minigame and the wonderful Culdcept series. All backed up with the sort of moe aesthetic that I'm tired of getting defensive about liking. Looks like this got a retail release in Japan too - for some reason I thought it was download only. Hopefully that physical copy makes its way overseas. This game would look mighty fine on my handhelds shelf nestled next to my incoming Spring copies of Conception 2 and Demon Gaze.Edited January 2014 by cscaskie
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  • Avatar for touchofkiel #3 touchofkiel 4 years ago
    There are a lot of surprising oddities out there that have been localized, but I'm continually surprised by how roguelikes caught on so quickly - the Japanese Mystery Dungeon flavors, in particular. No doubt this was helped by Pokemon (which represent some of the weaker roguelikes available on consoles/handheld).

    On the flipside, I'm surprised (or disappointed?) that we have yet to hear any news of Dragon Quest VII 3DS. DQX was never coming here, but not getting VII sort of breaks my heart. (Ditto for FF Type 0).
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  • Avatar for DiscordInc #4 DiscordInc 4 years ago
    There's been a lot of game that I've been surprised to see come Westward. I think the most surprising ones I can remember are the Phoenix Wright games and Drill Dozer on the GBA.

    I think most of the posters here are familiar with the former, but maybe missed the later. It was a platformer by Gamefreak, the same guys who make Pokemon, towards the tail end of the GBA's life. It's the sort of thing you expect Nintendo to pass over, but it managed to make it over. Definitely worth tracking it down if you have the chance.
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  • Avatar for ob1 #5 ob1 4 years ago
    "Games You Thought Would Never Make it West "

    For a short amount of time, I actually thought you guys were talking about Dragon Quest VII !
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  • Avatar for Critical_Hit #6 Critical_Hit 4 years ago
    Pervy moe stuff from Idea Factory? AND it's a card game? Ugh. Oh, Idea Factory/Compile Heart... I hate you. I can't even be clever about it. Your games are mediocre and your art absolutely sucks.

    If you INSIST on being such pervy, fanservice-focused weirdos -- pay attention to this too, Senran Kagura developers -- than LEARN THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A LITTLE GIRL AND A YOUNG WOMAN. I am sick of seeing characters like this in games like this. You can't draw the body of an 18+ year old, then put on a cute big head with enormous eyes, then make sure she has the largest breasts possible. And THEN encourage people to FONDLE THEM? That is a million times messed up.

    We can't even have a discussion about how "uptight" western audiences are with "sexual content" here, since your art shows (basically) big-breasted adorable little girls. We can have that discussion when you grow the eff up and learn to draw women. Have you ever seen The Major from Ghost in the Shell? Faye Valentine from Cowboy Bebop? Silvie from Macross II? You CANNOT do this kinda thing with the characters you draw. Draw adults OR children. Not these weird little freak in-betweens.

    Besides HyperDimension Neptunia, did Compile Heart also do that Criminal Girls: Invitation game with the similarly uncool "Punishment System"? Seems like something they'd do.

    This is a great feature, but I hope the next time we're looking at games that surprisingly made a Western release, we look at something like, "Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky - Second Chapter". Maybe Aksys will announce another Zero Escape game this year (fingers crossed)? Or Sting has another fascinating game they're cooking up.Edited 2 times. Last edited January 2014 by Critical_Hit
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  • Avatar for timhuang99 #7 timhuang99 4 years ago
    @Critical_Hit You know, after years of rolling my eyes at Jack Thompson and FOX News it's surprising that these days, gamers are the ones getting all uptight over stuff like this...

    Speaking of which, the age of consent in Japan is 13. I'll admit there's more to it than that but by their standards, there's nothing wrong with what they're doing.
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  • Avatar for TernBird #8 TernBird 4 years ago
    That new "Conception" game is one heck of a surprise, I tell you what.

    Besides that, the notion that someone took a chance on Aquapazza in the States is crazy.
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  • Avatar for Guy-Guy #9 Guy-Guy 4 years ago
    If anyone is interested in a player review I wrote a language-barrier review for this a while ago:
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  • Avatar for TernBird #10 TernBird 4 years ago
    @DiscordInc I feel so bad for that game. It's so unloved. At least it was given a trophy in Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
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  • Avatar for nnecron #11 nnecron 3 years ago
    Speaking of parental ratings, you'd think that Japanese would be more lenient towards sexual contents right? Well guess what CERO (JP version of ESRB) rated Monster Monpiece. It's 17 and above! Which is somewhat reasonable if you ask me.
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  • Avatar for nnecron #12 nnecron 3 years ago
    @Critical_Hit Wow that was a rant! I applaud you for being so opinionated about it though (no offence intended).

    I've heard similar claims on Japanese forums, but if you want to talk about anime art style you certainly have to be more experienced with them. I won't deny that big breasted lolita characters aren't classy, but you have to realize that it is one of the niche but established art styles that some people can get turned on.

    The artist clearly knows the audience, so I wouldn't criticize by saying the artist doesn't know how to draw female characters.
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  • Avatar for DiscordInc #13 DiscordInc 3 years ago
    @TernBird True, though at least it did some out here. That's better than Chou Soujuu Mecha MG, which also has trophies in brawl. That was a mecha game made by the same developers who made R.A.D. for the PS2, which was the one where you controlled giant robots from the perspective of a kid with a remote control.

    The idea for MG (which I think they called Marionation Gear in Brawl) was similar in concept, though a bit less cumbersome. In that you did control the robot directly, but to use special attacks you had to use the bottom touch screen. So in order to use a mega punch you needed to pull back a plunger or to use a drill you needed to spin a fly wheel. I had an import copy at one point and it was fun, but I eventually I got stuck because I couldn't read the mission objectives.
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