Some might argue that the PSP doesn’t have very many original RPGs. I’m not sure if that is true or not, but in either case, Monster Kingdom: Jewel Summoner is here to give the PSP an original RPG. As some sort of freaky mix between Final Fantasy and Pokemon, Monster Kingdom is a fairly enjoyable RPG with some terrific voice acting to be had, and the game differs from the standard RPG quite well. Unfortunately, while most RPGs live and die by their storylines, Monster Kingdom tends to drag on so much that you’ll be pressing X almost every other moment to get through the story scenes. There’s a good game somewhere in Monster Kingdom: Jewel Summoner, but it’s buried far beneath hours of dialogue.
In the world of Monster Kingdom, abominations plague civilization, and to combat them, jewel summoners capture creatures and then do battle with them. If you’re drawing a comparison to Pokemon, you wouldn’t be very far off in your observation. Monster Kingdom works very similarly to the hit franchise in that you will battle monsters until lowering their health low enough to capture them in a prism. The game also ties itself to most standard RPGs by having three members in your team. Additionally, there are several concepts at work that help to enhance and personalize your monsters’ capabilities, but I suppose I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.
You’ll be playing as the personality-challenged Vice, a guy who is out to avenge the death of his mother at the hands of a specific abomination. That is until he gets sidetracked and joins The Order after his jewel is absorbed by the Monolith. Until he gets it back, he’ll be sent on missions to take out abominations with the eclectic cast of side characters. Probably what gives Monster Kingdom most of its personality are the characters that Vice brings along with him, which in turn are also helped along by the largely phenomenal voice-acting. It’s not often that you see this kind of quality voice acting in RPGs, especially on a PSP game, but the voice acting really is quite good and is also one of the best qualities of the game.
Unfortunately, while the voice acting is superb, you might end up skipping past a lot of it in order to get to the next bit of actual game play. The storyline is almost always the backbone of a good RPG, but here, it ends up being a little overkill. In your first hour or so alone, you’ll probably spend most of your time pressing X to get through story scenes, which consist of still images of characters conversing with each other. At some points you may find yourself glazing over a lot of what’s being said, and when you do actually get to some of the actual game, you’ll end up playing for mere minutes before being assaulted with more story scenes. The whole thing really drags the game down a bit.
Which is unfortunate, because underneath the endless amounts of story is actually a pretty fun game. The concept of using monsters to fight, along with capturing monsters that vary between ice, fire, and other elements is as fun as it was in the Pokemon titles, but here, things are aimed at a much older audience. Each character on your team can have up to three monsters in their arsenal. When damaged, instead of the monster taking damage, the summoner’s HP lowers while the monster could literally never die if not for the fact that they are swapped out with the next monster once their energy runs dry. Should that happen to all monsters in the line-up, the summoner takes their place, which isn’t that good considering that summoners themselves are actually pretty weak.
There is a heavy rock-paper-scissors influence to the battles. Each element has a one-up on another, like water beating fire and electric beating water. Monsters that you summon can gain different attacks according to their element, although you can also choose to fuse your monster’s prism with a quartz to give it powers it wouldn’t normally be able to attain. Doing this with a fire-based turtle can allow you to give it the powers of ice or wind, and it allows you to personalize your monsters to your liking. Unfortunately, the process, known as amalgamating, can be a bit of a pain and takes a long time to work, which led to me not using it as much as I could have.
The quality voice acting makes the sound one of Monster Kingdom‘s better areas, and combined with most of the sounds coming from battle, everything is pretty top notch for a PSP title. However, the hokey dialogue kind of hinders the stellar voice acting, and again, you’ll probably skip past much of it to get back to the game. The drawing of the characters is very good, with nice anime qualities to them, and although they don’t move, they do have a number of poses for different situations. One performance issue I noticed was that the game would often lock up for a couple seconds as if it was quickly loading something, and some choke-ups would last so long I almost thought the game had frozen. Most have been fairly minor events, however.
Monster Kingdom: Jewel Summoner presents a unique addition to the PSP, but the overbearing story spoils the experience a bit. Those who can sit through the seemingly endless dialogue will be rewarded with a fun take on the standard RPG, although it takes a good while for the actual game play to get flowing which may turn off some. Those who appreciate good voice acting will find a lot to like here, and providing you don’t get sick of pressing X to skip through dialogue, Monster Kingdom is an entertaining trip.