Review By: Jared Black
|# Of Players:||1-2|
|Accessories:||Memory Stick Duo, Wi-Fi (battles, trade monsters)|
It’s no secret that the Pokémon franchise has been one of the biggest in Nintendo’s substantial stable since its release in Japan over 10 years ago. While it may not have been the first “monster collecting” game ever, it has definitely emerged as the most influential. Thus any game of its type is bound to be compared to Nintendo’s seminal series, and this game is no different. Monster Kingdom: Jewel Summoner may be on the PSP, but it’s best described as “Pokémon for adults,” and that alone makes it one of the best PSP RPGs yet.
That’s not to say that the game is a knock-off, but it definitely shares a lot in common with Nintendo’s profitable franchise. It also shares a lot in common with Shin Megami Tensei (summoning fearsome monsters to do battle for the player and a more complex battle system), which isn’t surprising since it’s the brainchild of SMT creator Kouji Okada. Monster Kingdom is also much darker in tone than most other monster summoning games, which again is more in line with the SMT series. The game stars Vice, a stereotypical Japanese waif-like hero with spiky hair, a stoic personality, and a somewhat mysterious past. Vice is a man of few words, and also a man of purpose as he searches for the Abomination that killed his mother. You see, the world is overrun with monsters, and the big, bad ones that control the others are known as Abominations.
Vice uses the jewel left by his mother to summon his own monster, which makes him unique since that ability is usually reserved for true jewel summoners. As a result of this and other “coincidences,” shortly into the game Vice becomes a member of The Order, a group of jewel summoners that uses jewel monsters to battle other monsters and Abominations. The Order also takes requests from the local populace, escorting caravans, vanquishing evil, assisting the government, and bonding with the monsters they fight alongside. The Order maintains a tenuous relationship with the government however, which has harnessed the power of these jewels for use in generating energy, thus killing the monsters inside in the process.
Of course Vice isn’t alone in the Order’s ranks of jewel summoners, and after getting to know the other summoners the player is able to choose two more to join Vice’s team. Among those selectable are Lynn, a mysterious island girl that sees visions; Elycia, a typical valley girl that loves the big city; Bargus, a complex man with wisdom that defies his young age; and finally Grey, the son of a former head of parliament with a large chip on his shoulder. Depending on whom the player chooses the dialogue throughout the game is different, with NPCs having different exchanges with the player’s team and the chosen characters making comments throughout the adventure. I chose the two girls since they seemed to be the most interesting (Grey is annoying and Bargus is boring), and hilariously one of them made a snide comment about my motivations for choosing the two ladies in particular to join my team. Dialogue with the ladies is hilarious at times (especially their interaction with certain other male characters), although they would occasionally make obvious statements that had either been stated already or didn’t need to be said at all.
In general the dialogue is entertaining, despite the somewhat repetitive comments at times. What’s really impressive however is that virtually all dialogue in the game is spoken, which is unheard of for a portable RPG, with excellent voice acting no less. Although Elycia’s voice acting can be annoying due to her whiny valley girl tone, it’s also supposed to be annoying in that very same way…and thus the voice actress has done her job well. These well-defined characters help to prop up a storyline that’s competent but relatively unimpressive, with a large chunk of the game driven by the quests the group takes from The Order mixed in with some fairly unimaginative plot twists.
Each summoner can carry up to three jewels at a time, with all monsters sharing a common amount of life points. So if the pool of life points for a character has been used up by one monster, the character is out of the battle entirely along with all of his or her monsters. Each monster does have its own jewel points however, with any action in battle using up a set amount of it. When a monster’s jewel points have been depleted, a new monster is automatically substituted into battle if the character has jewels in reserve. Thus it’s important to manage your stable of monsters, both in terms of picking the right ones, and also knowing when to conserve jewel points.
Posted: 2007-02-12 22:03:22 PST