I’ve been playing around with Atlus upcoming PSP project, Monster Kingdom: Jewel Summoner. It’s an original RPG developed by Gaia a new studio founded by one of the original creators of the Shin Megami Tensei series, Kouji Okada. In a lot of ways Monster Kingdom: Jewel Summoner feels like a SMT game. You collect monsters and summon them to fight instead of doing battle yourself, just like the Shin Megami Tensei games. Although the setting is probably something more like Final Fantasy VIII. You start of the game playing as Vice, a loner who earns his keep by hunting abominations. He has the ability to summon without using jewels. When he is waiting for a ship, curiosity gets the best of him and he follows a group of young Jewel Summoners into their training grounds. The trainees are part of the “Order”, an academy for Jewel Summoners. When Vice sees Elycia, an air headed summoner who refers to herself in the third person in trouble he jumps into battle.
When Vice saves her he is brought back to the academy for thanks, but when he plays with the schools Obelisk he loses the ability to summon his main monster. Vice has two choices go off on his own or join the school and learn how to summon with “jewels”. The Order has five main members plus vice. Anjh is their teacher who serves as the game’s mentor, Elycia, Grey a hotheaded summoner who thinks Vice is a “punk”, Lynn a woman from a rural village and Bardz the teacher’s pet. The cast is an interesting bunch, but you’re forced to pick out two of them as your allies early on. Since the monsters are the ones who do the fighting your allies only affect the story.
Like any other RPG you’re going to run around in dungeons and encounter random enemies. When you do the screen pans out to the side with your party and a quick animation shows them summoning their monsters. Once the short intro is over you get a chance to pick your battle commands. Choose wisely because every command in Monster Kingdom: Jewel Summoner takes up BP (battle points). Using “normal attack”, which is the equivalent to “fight” takes up less BP. However, you really don’t want to be using normal attack too much. Like the Shin Megami Tensei games, Monster Kingdom: Jewel Summoner expects players to exploit their enemies weak points. Not only can you give extra damage by using elemental attacks, but you can push back an opponent’s turn preventing them from attacking. The turn order at the bottom left hand corner tells players who is about to attack and who you need to push back. Be careful though because your enemies can and will do the same thing. If your party only summons fire type monsters, a group of water monsters will wipe you out quickly. You’re going to want to capture as many different kinds of monsters (especially “light” monsters which have healing abilities) to make sure that doesn’t happen. Capturing a monster is just like Pokemon, you have to knock down their HP until its low then use the correct colored prism to capture it. The only major change is you’re going to need to have a healthy stock of different prisms if you want to go monster hunting, which can deplete your bankroll quickly.
Monster Kingdom: Jewel Summoner has a lot of voice acting for a PSP game. Nearly, all of the dialogue is spoken and the cast does a pretty good job, except for Elycia’s high pitched annoying voice. The graphics are pretty good too, the worlds are like a late generation PS1 game, but when you get into battles the visuals are substantially better than the tiny characters. Also Monster Kingdom: Jewel Summoner went with hand drawn characters during conversation instead of relying on the 3D models. This was a good idea since you get a chance to see the art for each character instead of blocky models.
The gameplay in Monster Kingdom: Jewel Summoner is a bit on the traditional side, but that might be a good thing. In North America, the PSP has been lacking in the RPG department, which makes Monster Kingdom: Jewel Summoner a welcome addition. Now if the story just got somewhere beyond chasing a masked man…