Monster Crown | Garrulous Gaming Gallops

Who would’ve thought that one of the first Steam games I ever played would end up bringing me back to my Gameboy Color?

Narrowing The Narrative

7/10

Basically, Monster Crown takes place in a world where monster-training is the norm in the aftermath of a civil war that overthrew a tyrannical monarchy and installed three separate kingdoms. There is a woman named Beth who seeks to take over the world with her army of thugs.

I will say that I was not expecting the mature, complex themes of justice and order to be in this game. Then again, an indie studio like Studio Aurum has more creative license to wax philosophical in such a way that a Triple A game studio would not do—at least not to the point of making any risks. The commentary can leave you in a constant state of thought, especially with Aber’s monologue.

As deep as it tries to be, it does not land with me when you consider the relative peace of the three kingdoms after a great war broke out. There is no need to have such difficult conversations when the threat to those kingdoms is abundantly clear. If there really was a tight connection between the kingdoms, then surely, they would have dealt with the main villain without relying on a 14-year-old monster trainer, right? That was why I made that decision later in the game.

Crafting Characters?

6/10

You play as the mute, unnamable protagonist as quintessential of a monster trainer game. All of the other characters that meet with the protagonist definitely evoke the feeling of the monster trainer game, since they serve a basic utility. I don’t see any fault with it; however, they do not exist in their own accord, especially since the lore of the story does not get into much depth. Even the main gang of the story have a generic name—The Gangsters. Real life gangs know when to melt within the public so they are not easily recognizable by the authorities. The developers missed the opportunity to give the group a nonchalant, unassuming name like “Simple Supply And Demand.”

As for the big decision that you make, it did not land as well.

The monsters are definitely the characters that redeem this game, since they can breed new monsters, regardless of species or element. I found this to be incredibly helpful and interesting. Just like my review of “Shadow of War,” the creatures are more interesting than the plot characters.

Wandering Wonderous Worlds?

5/10

While the regions of the world were distinguishable enough, there really was not a lot to enjoy.

A good quality I will give to the worlds is the abundance of aloe leaves and lost packages that can sustain you throughout your leveling-up.

Many Mollifying Moves?

5/10

Although the monsters have strengths and weaknesses depending on which element they are, I discovered that they matter little when compared to level comparisons. In that way, I am grateful enough that I spent large chunks of the game leveling up my monsters and capturing stronger monsters.

As for the protagonist’s actions, the ice-sliding was the most unneeded part of the game, just like most of the others. Feeding the fruit to your leader monster might be useful once in a blue moon, but I rarely used it beyond the beginning.

Finding Fun Farming?

4/10

I wouldn’t say that my grind was fun in this game, since there are no tournaments or any specific location where you can level up your characters faster. In my case, I simply took the strongest, most effective character and made sure it provided all of the EXP to my monsters. I mainly focused on the desert region and the bee region. The desert region was easy to not bump into anything, while the bee region always has enemies traveling everywhere.

Siphoning Side-Quest Signs?

7/10

The only side-quests I could find are finding the Quest Masters to raise the bar on leveling your monsters. Because I spent so much time building up my monster levels, I overestimated how easy it was to beat them and receive certifications.

You also have the option of fighting or capturing any legendary monsters. I found this especially useful at the end when I captured the sand one in order to capture the Igrawn. A good quality I can give is that they at least reappear unlike other games where legendary monsters are one-of-a-kind. Doesn’t really make sense if there is only one of their kind, even in a video game.

Grappling Graphics?

4/10

As expected, the 8-bit graphics are a feature of this game in order to live up to the spirit of the traditional monster trainer game genre. However, there were so many visual glitches that they impeded my enjoyment of the game. This was the case, for example, with the 4-generation monsters. It did not bother me as much. I can clearly imagine how ticked off any other gamer would be upon realizing they spend so much time trying to get a 4-generation monster when they only saw a 2-generation star.

Mention Mighty Music?

8/10

The chiptune music definitely makes you think about the old Pokémon games on the Gameboy and Gameboy Color. Unless it’s for the nostalgia, I wouldn’t think too highly of most of the music in this game. While the Hewton City music is screechy, the rest are not as bad.

As for the Gangsters’ theme song, it can definitely haunt you—in a good way. It rides that harmonic balance between fast-paced and slow-paced. It evokes the omnipresent danger of Aber and his Gangsters, but also has a layer of sadness at the tragedy of never-ending violence and the predicaments that make organized crime so attractive to vulnerable people to begin with.

I especially like the rain theme, which definitely had the influence from ‘70s Japanese jazz.

Intriguing Interconnections?

6/10

I did feel that all of the elements were no distinguishable enough from the Pokémon franchise. Of course, it goes without saying that the only distinguishable factors are barely minimum of no copyright infringement at least.

The commentary throughout the game provided a bump up in the scores that I gave, though not by a lot. While it kept me engaged with the story, the commentary definitely felt shoehorned in, as though at the complete expense of the characters and the plot. Using games as a vehicle for political commentary involves walking a tightrope, since you would not want to come off as so insufferably preachy that even people who agree with the message would turn the game off.

I will say that Monster Crown does feel like an homage to the old Pokémon games, but that seems to be its most distinguishing identity. It does not stand out on its own as a Monster Trainer genre game.

Skimming, Scavenging Score

5.77/10

I can’t say that I was pleased with this game, yet I never felt like my time was wasted. Despite the glitches and the vague story, I don’t have any strong animosity towards this game. I will give it a generous estimation.

6/10

It is to be expected for an indie game to be underwhelming, probably due to budget constraints, yet Monster Crown still manages to evoke the spirt of the old monster trainer games. It is satisfying enough and it makes you want to continue playing despite its imperfections. It can definitely leave you to think about moral dilemmas and the relationship between humans and broader nature itself.

Revealing Reviews

After writing my own review, I decided to join the Burkean conversation with other reviewers of this game. Mitch Vogel of Nintendo Life commented about the humor of the ethical questions involving monster breeding and fusing. Indeed, there is definitely that cheekiness throughout this game that you can clearly tell. That definitely adds to the charm of this game. While he gave the game a score of 7/10, I gave a score lower because it is not just the glitches that ruin the game, but also the hollowness of the story and characters propped up only by questions of morality and ethics. As such, I find more trouble with the glitches than with the monster designs.

While I was on the verge of giving the game a 5/10 like Jordan Rudek of Nintendo World Report did, I decided against it because the game did not try my patience. I kept getting engaged with the game despite its glitches, which as I can understand three years later have largely been fixed. I never noticed losing my items after dying, since I always have the opportunity to scrounge up whatever I lost in the regions where I can always find lost baggages.

Recommend Recklessly To…

  • Anyone who grew up with the 1st Generation Pokemon games, specifically the ones who are grown up. On the one hand, this game will bring back memories without it being cynical or condescending.

Sources

  • Monster Crown: Red King. Studio Aurum. 2021.
  • Rudek, Jordan (October 5, 2021). “Monster Crown Review – Review”. Nintendo World Report.
  • Vogel, Mitch (5 October 2021). “Review: Monster Crown – Enjoyably Old-School Monster Battling For Pokémon Lovers”. Nintendo Life.

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