As a youngster, I had an unhealthy obsession with Monster Hunter on the PS One! However, all good things must come to an end and I’ve not looked at it since. Yet, this doesn’t mean I don’t have fond memories of the time we spent together. Habits are hard to break and subsequently, whenever a new monster game hits the market, I’m always keen to give it a go. Monster Crown is the latest “Gotta tame them all” title that creeps down a heavily congested walkway and into my lap.
Developed by Studio Aurum and published by Soedesco, this is a top-down 8-Bit RPG monster adventure title. It is clearly influenced by the powerhouse of the genre, Pokémon, and it’s impossible for me to ignore the glaringly obvious similarities. From its garish colours, basic and loud audio, and simple controls, this should appeal to lovers of that franchise.
Monster Crown isn’t unique.
Being influenced by a much-loved title isn’t a crime, but the similarities are worryingly close. Therefore, there is a lack of unique action and consequently, the plot and gameplay feel rehashed. The main concept of fighting lacks personality, depth, and offers nothing new. Furthermore, the plot is generic, slow-paced, and predictable. Sadly, it was all a little disappointing and will be underwhelming for fans of the genre.
The action revolves around a young monster tamer who lives on Crown Island. His dad can see his potential but doesn’t want him to run before he can walk. With some guidance, the hero starts his journey. As you explore your surroundings, you will discover enemies, allies, and a large range of monsters to battle and tame. The story follows a linear plot, and the characters you face are sterile and disinteresting.
Confusing fighting mechanics.
When a game relies heavily on its combat mechanics and taming elements, you’d hope it would be easy to pick up and play. Sadly, however, Monster Crown is a little confusing. You must understand the 5 different types of monsters in the world and who trumps who. You will encounter Brute, Vicious, Unstable, Relentless, and Will. If you pick the wrong creature to fight another, then your attacks are weaker and your opponent has the upper hand. Luckily, though, the information is made clear in a handy notebook. Unluckily, however, this can’t be accessed during a fight, so memorise it or pay the price.
Once you know who to pick for the best chance of victory, then you must be aware of an ability called Synergy. This all-powerful attack should add tactical nuance to the gameplay, but it’s simply a case of swapping your team around and the ability is unleashed. Consequently, this was disappointing, and it made the gameplay lack finesse.
The best things come to those who wait.
Though you are introduced to the monster taming mechanic very early on, the best elements of the gameplay are withheld. Monster breeding and the deeper parts of the plot don’t appear until you’ve heavily invested your precious time. This wouldn’t be an issue if it wasn’t for the lacklustre story and simple and bland mechanics. Studio Aurum potentially prevented its player base from seeing the premium content by unnecessarily making them wait. With 200 monsters to capture, I mean tame, and an untold amount of mutant breeds available, this makes for a mouth-watering concept. It was for this reason that I was so frustrated that it took forever to be introduced. Had the developers offered it near the beginning, it would have been a mechanic that could have evolved alongside the story.
If you are patient, you can complete your journey across deserts, woods, and through dungeons with a team of up to 8 monsters. These wild creatures are recruited easily by battling them and offering them a pact. In theory, this was an excellent concept. Sadly, though, the beasts are too generous and everyone wants to join your team. With no challenge to face and no refusals on the cards, it quickly became tedious. Subsequently, like many of the elements of Monster Crown, it falls just short of its full potential.
Monster Crown lacks originality.
Monster Crown’s decision to replicate many of the fine qualities of early Pokémon has not paid off. Conceptually, it’s poor and doesn’t grab your attention. Unfortunately, the disappointment doesn’t end there! Graphically, it lacks originality, and this was unforgivable. The sprites, landscape, colour palette, and animation are all familiar but not as polished. Where it does excel, though, is its level design, the clear and easy-to-read dialogue, and the retro top-down perspective. Sadly, these are minor things, and therefore, it is tough to overlook the many shortcomings.
Worryingly, the problems continue with the music and sound effects. Now, I liked what I heard and the dramatic atmosphere it created. However, its oh so familiar style gave a distinct déjà vu aura to the proceedings. Yes, you’ll like the chirpy and cheeky upbeat songs that are juxtaposed with heavier moments during battles. But this wasn’t enough to paper over the enormous cracks that appear.
Easy but clunky controls.
To compound matters further, the controls are dated, inaccurate, and annoying. Furthermore, the UI is clunky, and the gameplay is full of issues. At times, you can’t select monsters, move through the menus, or complete tasks at hand. Then there was the issue with navigating small spaces as the hero only moves on 4 points of a compass. Luckily, the action doesn’t move quick enough to make this game-breaking, but it was annoying, nonetheless.
With approximately 10 hours of story to decipher and many monsters to breed or tame, you get a lot of bang for your bucks. Sadly, though, withholding the best mechanics, glitchy gameplay, and bland action will put many players off. Furthermore, it’s obviously a poor man’s Pokémon, and its many fans will not put up with the shortcomings.
Monster Crown falls way short of expectations.
Maybe my obsession with Monster Hunter tarnished my expectations, but I think not. Disappointingly, the developers attempted to get a small slice of a large and well-loved pie, and they fell way short. Practically, every element of Monster Crown is tepid, underwhelming, and lacklustre. Frustratingly, the best elements require you to wade through hours of monotony and this was a poor decision. Unsurprisingly, I don’t recommend you to buy this! Will you uncover the deep-seated mystery of the island? Live up to your potential, undertake a dangerous adventure, and discover what your home is hiding.