It’s kind of sad that the best RPG out for the PSP right now is the port of Valkyrie Profile that came from Square-Enix back in July of 2006. This is why I’m happy to report that Atlus is finally taking a crack at the Sony black brick and is bringing one of Sony’s titles to the U.S... Monster Kingdom: Jewel Summon from developer Gaia is a title I’ll be watching with a sharp eye after getting some hands-on time with it for a preview. With an interesting battle system and a Pokemon-esque style of monster capturing, this looks to be like a bigger kid’s version of the Saturday morning cartoon.
The story behind this game is so far a simple one. You play the role of Vice (insert generic anime pretty-boy portrait here) as he seeks to hunt an Abomination, a monster that killed members of his family. From the get-go it feels very basic, and I’m hoping it evolves in to something a little more interesting than the random ass to booming hero cliché that we’ve seen all too much in the RPG genre.
Combat in Monster Kingdom feels very simplistic and it plays that way. You have a monster that can be summoned in to battle and it can be swapped out when it needs a break. The monsters are divided on the screen and when one makes an action they are given a majority of the screen space. The monster models in the game are fairly detailed but they sit on very plain backgrounds that are simply modeled after wherever you happen to be exploring. The only other grievance I have at this point is that combat feels very slow. The time from when an action is initiated by the user to when it actually happens feels very slow, whether that can be addressed before release remains to be seen. Capturing monsters is a fairly painless process. Just find a monster, get it to a weakened state and then using a prism that is the same elemental affinity to the monster, capture it and put it to use. Like I said before, very Pokemon-esque, but it works out pretty well. As the monsters level, they will unlock new skills and can be fused together with other prisms to open up new skills. Did I mention it feels like Pokemon?
Graphically this game fares pretty well, the character models and the monster models look really good. There is a downside to this though as some of the locales are very plain and tend to blend in to each other. Aside from the dungeons this game is very 2-D as the entire story takes place with character portraits and stiff animations. But since you are getting a large dose of the game play through dungeon crawling you don’t have to put up with much stiff storytelling. The audio is sounding good and the music is solid. The voice acting though is difficult to tolerate and I’m glad that I can turn it off. Leaving an option for Japanese voice over would have been good, because at least if the acting was bad there, I would not be able to tell.
I figured it would be Atlus who would give us the first good original RPG on the PSP. Monster Kingdom: Jewel Summoner, despite the convoluted name and bizarre likeness to Pokemon; is shaping up to be a title that RPG fans should keep an eye out for when it when it ships in Mid-February. Check back here for a review when this game hits store shelves.
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