Monster Crown is an interesting amalgamation of games. It draws inspiration from the more obvious influences of Pokemon and Digimon, though does have its own unique mechanics that seek to set itself apart from these notable IPs. This includes branching narrative paths and a robust breeding system that serves as the backbone for this ambitious monster-taming title. However, major glitches hold it back, along with an inconsistent art style and middling story.
Battles are fairly standard turn-based affairs. Monsters have their own type advantages and weaknesses. Naturally, there are monsters players can battle in the wild, but these monsters roam the map. Players need to actively touch them to initiate a battle. NPC battles also appear, and both types of battles offer experience gains for your monsters. Monster Crown includes a shared experience option for those that don’t want to grind individual monsters. However, using this option will cause monsters to level up at a slower rate, as experience points are being evenly distributed to the monsters through your party. There is a pretty steep difficulty curve later in the game, too. If you don’t level up appropriately and spend a good amount of time grinding, you definitely won’t survive in later areas of the map.
Players can obtain new party members through offering pacts to wild monsters. Success will vary, depending on the type of pacts offered. This is effectively how players “capture” monsters. I never had any real issue with monsters refusing my contracts, but I was potentially lucky in that department. Additionally, an optional combat mechanic allows for temporary evolution of your monsters. Monsters can, of course, be permanently evolved through the use of unique items. This is arguably one of the most straightforward features in Monster Crown, which serves the game well. Especially as more complex features open up to the player in the form of monster breeding.
Players can create monster hybrids through monster breeding. Access to this feature opens up fairly early, and through story progression. I cannot begin to explain how complex this feature can become. Monster Crown factors in genes that will not only affect how the monster will appear (since breeding can result in hybrid monsters), but also their individual stats. Chromosomes of monsters, which players can customize, determine those stats.
I found the system a bit overly complex, to be sure. But this is definitely something those invested in Pokemon‘s breeding scheme will enjoy. There is a lot to do regarding this mechanic specifically, and it can result in a lot of really interesting-looking monsters. Additionally, there are two ways to breed your monster. This choice will affect how quickly a monster egg will hatch. This is one of the better things about Monster Crown, and provides the player with a wealth of options to try.
One of the least consistent elements of Monster Crown is its artwork. Monster sprites look incredible! They’re reminiscent of mid-’90s monster design in titles like Monster Rancher. However, character artwork can range in quality. Some sprites look out-of-place compared to these great-looking monsters. It’s a severe dip in quality, and I found it hard to ignore. Additionally, the map the player explores is at times overly full of trees, bushes, or other landmarks. Other times, it’s surprisingly barren. The general quality of artwork and overworld design feels very hit-or-miss. Which is a shame! Because the monster sprites look excellent.
The narrative of Monster Crown suffers from a similar issue. While it’s significantly, or at least overtly, darker than Pokemon, it doesn’t always hit its mark. Players are immediately given a bit of exposition on the state of the world, and how monster taming came to fruition. Immediately, the game introduces several factions — specifically Team Rocket-style gangsters — and the central enemy of the game.
Beth, a young girl determined to become the most powerful individual in the world by any means necessary, slots into the role of the primary antagonist. Both her fate and yours will change, depending on the routes you choose. Some of these endings are fairly violent! Which Monster Crown isn’t shy to present. However, these elements sometimes feel excessive. Not because of the visual presentation of the game, though. Instead, it’s more that the plot’s execution can feel rushed and uneven.
Additionally, there are some major issues with Monster Crown on the Nintendo Switch. (They’re reportedly in the process of being fixed.) When battling, sometimes the menu would not close after selecting an attack. This would cause immediate problems, as I wouldn’t be able to properly view the rest of the UI. Other issues include character pathing and hitboxes when traveling over the map. Sometimes monsters would also quite literally walk through impassible terrain to come flying at me. Thankfully, my progress wasn’t soft-locked at any point, which is a reported issue with the Switch version of the game.
Monster Crown is a game with a lot of heart, and some truly interesting ideas that when executed well provide an engaging experience. Ultimately, if you’re looking for a more “mature” experience with an extremely comprehensive breeding system, this is a title you won’t want to miss.