Over the past decade or so, Kemco has built a brand almost entirely based on mobile-friendly JRPGS. With developers like Hit-Point, Kemco has been pumping them out at a fast clip, but the games have also improved over time. There are even a few series now, like Asdivine. While these games are sometimes dismissed as too simple or low-rent compared to JRPGs from bigger outfits, I’ve had lots of fun with each one I’ve tried. Now at Siliconera, I’m excited to finally write about one!
On the docket here is Monster Viator, a new title from Hit-Point currently available for the Xbox One, the PC via Steam, and of course mobile devices. Monster Viator is a fascinating game, one that totally defied my expectations. Granted, I went in pretty blind, but that’s the ideal approach for these games. I expected Hit-Point to tackle the monster collecting and battling space, to hang with classics like Pokemon or Dragon Quest Monsters. Instead, Monster Viator is a much more traditional JRPG, but one that crams so much in it’s hard to pin down a core or identity beyond, “JRPG.” But while what this game really is remains muddled to me, Monster Viator is so polished and satisfying to engage with that I’ve had a blast with it regardless.
Monster Viator isn’t a monster-raising game, but it is a game about raising monsters (sort of). Your character, a prototypical JRPG hero suffering from amnesia, has a rare ability to form strong bonds with monsters. He can even understand and speak to them. But the monsters you can recruit, around 20 or so, are more like new party members than a part of a collecting system themselves. They take up a party slot (which humans can also occupy), learn moves as they level up, and equip weapons and armor. Some of them seem to be miss-able (I could be wrong), so it’s almost like a Suikoden or Chrono Cross sort of deal (albeit on a much smaller scale).
While the title might seem a little dishonest, there’s still a lot going on here. In addition to palling around with creatures, Monster Viator also features a job system. That’s for the human characters, and it basically lets players swap out entire skill sets. There are also passive boosts based on the type of environments you’re running around in, which is a neat twist. The weird part is jobs are integrated with another system, which is finding key items that permanently boost your stats. This is also how jobs level up, so a lot of it feels out of your control. That’s a bummer, but is such a non-focus that its odd implementation feels distinct.
Speaking of control, Monster Viator is a grindy game, but it has one of the best auto battle-structures I’ve ever encountered in a RPG. Not only can you speed the battle up, but you can have battles play out via AI, and the AI is actually smart. It will heal, use buffs, and target enemies efficiently. Most JRPGs with auto-battle might just mash out basic attacks, so this makes Monster Viator an excellent “podcast game.” Well, except for the fact that the soundtrack is super good too, and I found myself vibing out with the in-game music even while I was grinding exp.
Finally, Monster Viator is also straight up the most visually appealing game from Kemco yet. The sprites are well-animated and detailed on the overworld and even more impressive during the front-facing battles. There are also cute little lighting effects and other flourishes, including a menu screen that has its own adorable, slightly-animated campfire sequence that takes over half the screen just to show off. And perhaps my favorite part: Kemco’s RPGs often feel a little sloppy when moving around, like walk speed is set way too high. Moving around in this game actually feels good, and responds much more naturally to your controller movements and just how humans process visual information. I know that was a weird sentence, but play enough of these games and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
That’s the long and short of it. If you’re like me and specifically into the 16-bit JRPG style regardless of how expertly crafted the storytelling or system design is, I recommend checking out some of Kemco’s output. Monster Viator happens to be the most well put-together and polished one of those, and I mean that in a good way. Monster Viator’s breezy pace, detailed visuals and bangin’ soundtrack go a long way to make this one fun, even though its systems and writing are muddled and lacking a bit in distinct value. It’s like… it’s like eating a cheap bag of chips but using an awesome, homemade dip or something. Yeah, let’s go with that.
Monster Viator is now available for the Xbox One, the PC via Steam, and mobile platforms.