Publisher: Idea Factory International
Developer: Compile Heart
To the extent I knew of Monster Monpiece prior to playing it, it was from stories with headlines describing it as the Vita's most "inappropriate" game. Or from the fact that Idea Factory was holding back parts of the game from North American release for being too sexually suggestive. Or, even more succinctly, I knew it from this GIF, in which…let's be blunt, since there's no way to state it other than the obvious: you basically masturbate your Vita. Based on that alone, I was anticipating a game that was ultra-pervy even by Japanese standards.
You can imagine my surprise, then, when I discovered that Monster Monpiece is a whole lot more than just vigourously rubbing pictures of schoolgirls. It's a shockingly addictive card-battle game, where you have to traverse a world infested with monsters, matching your deck against those of your enemies in a quest to prevent the evil Lost from taking over. Not only that, it's one that doesn't try and hide how addictive it is beneath layers upon layers of arcane rules — always a good thing if you're a newcomer to the genre (like me), even moreso when you consider that this game in particular isn't that good at explaining everything (which is ironic, because every time something new gets introduced, it's alongside pages and pages of text).
Even more surprisingly, it's got female characters whose relationships get a decent amount of fleshing out (pun not intended), and who aren't defined by how jiggly they are or how little clothing they wear (in contrast to, say, Conception II, which fully embraced the fact it was a game all about teenagers getting it on). I wouldn't say that Monster Monpiece is an outstanding example of female characterization in gaming, but at the same time, none of the females here are damsels in distress, and that seems like it should count for something.
Of course, no amount of great characters can make up for the fact that the game's titular monsters all look just like prepubescent girls (albeit ones who are absurdly well endowed). You rarely see those monster girls up close, but even from a distance, looking at the on cards, it's not hard to feel a little weirded out. And, of course, there's the fact that to level up your cards involves that aforementioned rubbing. Its official name is "First Crush Rub", and it's every bit as unsettling as it sounds: you rub around each girl/monster's body, trying to find the spots she likes the most, and when you hit on the right spots for long enough you send her into ecstasy, which you sustain by rubbing your Vita, front and back, up and down as quickly as you can.
It's stuff like that which makes it hard to fully embrace Monster Monpiece. Sure, the gameplay is great, but at the same time, it's not the kind of game that you'd want to be caught playing in public for fear of feeling like you belong on a sex offender registry. In other words, the whole rubbing up and down motion is kind of appropriate since, like the action it simulates, it's something you'll most likely want to do in the privacy of your own home. Of course, to take the analogy further, if you can overcome or ignore that bit of shame, then you might be pleased to discover that Monster Monpiece is actually pretty enjoyable, and something that could easily be used to while away the hours.