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Monster Party (NES) artwork

Monster Party (NES) review

"[Monster Party] pales in comparison to other side-scrollers on the NES; games that feature brilliant levels, stiff challenges, and epic 8-bit boss battles. Sadly, little of that appears in Monster Party."

Monster Party asset

I have a confession to make. I love Monster Party. While the game is not held in the highest esteem amongst gamers, it's one I rented or borrowed frequently as a kid. Even as a college freshman I would pop this quirky title in and bludgeon my way through hundreds of monsters and enjoy every cheesy line and silly battle. It's nothing if not a charming romp.

Now that I've gotten the fanboyish gushing out of my system, I can proceed to rip this game to shreds.

Yeah, I love the game. That doesn't mean it's a great title by any means. It pales in comparison to other side-scrollers on the NES; games that feature brilliant levels, stiff challenges, and epic 8-bit boss battles. Sadly, little of that appears in Monster Party.

You'd think a game about battling monsters would star a rugged monster hunter, perhaps an spry whip-wielder or a busty babe with a badass machine gun. Instead, we get a dull teenager armed with a baseball bat named Mark. He and his partner, a winged monster named Bert, are off to save Bert's homeworld from evil monsters who have usurped it.

Monster Party screenshotMonster Party screenshot

Each stage of Bert's homeworld is rich in two things: monsters and doors. From start to finish, you'll find doors galore. Most of them lead to empty rooms, some have question marks floating in the air that restore your life or bump up your redundant score. Out of the dozen or so doors you can go through in each stage, two to three of them contain a battle against boss monster. Kill them all and you'll obtain a key that allows you to advance to the next stage.

I'm sure you've looked at the cover art, and probably have some expectations as to what you'll face. You might imagine going bat-to-claw against a dapper vampire, Bert matching his monstrous strength against the Gillman from Creature from the Black Lagoon, or a challenging bout against a Xenomorph from Alien. Yet none of these creatures make an appearance. How can they not? They're on the cover, and their inclusion is a huge no-brainer. Who makes a game about battling monster and decides not to include a Dracula knockoff? Bandai, that's who.

Monster Party is basically a boss rush. Every stage is simplistic in design. None of them feature challenging scenes in terms of enemy placement or platforming. There are very few places where you can fall and die, and enemies are easy to deal with. Most of them walk a set route and throw a few projectiles. Under no circumstance will they stray from that route. All you need to do is wait at the border and either bash them to death as they near you, or bat one of their projectiles back at them for an instant kill. In other words, stage design is not this game's main attraction. It's the boss battles.

When a game's main attraction is its boss lineup, you have, and reasonably so, high standards regarding what you duke it out with. A game like this should feature epic, memorable and challenging fights. You should end each one with your heart racing as you wipe sweat from your brow and exhale in relief. Instead, you cross paths with a slew of incredibly lame-looking monsters, engaging them in ho-hum combat.

Almost every boss has one of two patterns. Either it sits still and tosses projectiles at you, or it moves back and forth across the screen, sometimes throwing projectiles at you. In the case of the former, all you need to do is sit still and bat the projectiles back at it. Battles like that can be won without taking a lick of damage, if you're timing is right. In the case of the latter it's best to transform into Bert, which can be achieved by grabbing pills dropped by certain enemies. From there you can fly around the room, dip down when there's an opening, and cut loose a flurry of laser shots until the enemy's dead or your transform back.

Do these battles sound epic? Not even slightly.

How about challenging? Ha!

Memorable? Actually, yes. However, not for the right reasons.

Monster Party screenshotMonster Party screenshot

It's hard to forget some of these battles because of how odd, questionable, or just plain dumb they are. Many of them will have you glancing back at the cover art and sighing. At one point in the second stage, you fight giant appetizers that say, "Look out baby! Here I come!". Yes, you read that correctly. Bandai saw it fit not to include a battle against a werewolf, but instead pits you against a giant fried kebab, a fried shrimp, and an onion ring, and they talk! Strange/stupid/totally-non-monster battles don't stop there. You'll tangle with a possessed well that throws dishes, a giant pissed off cat that shoots kittens, an overgrown punk rocker, a walking suit of samurai armor, and a giant wanna-be LEGO figure called Mad Javelin Man. I thought this was Monster Party!

I think I'm almost done gabbing about this game. The only thing I didn't mention was how the first level, at the very middle of it, morphs from a cute world filled with smiling block and mountains with happy faces to a nightmarish realm decorated with desiccated corpses and buckets of gore. Like everything else--the deceptive cover art, the promise of fighting monsters, the prospect of taking on numerous bosses--the first level sets you up for disappointment. Every other level is as vanilla as can be, from a generic cave to a dull cloud stage It's funny how a game called Monster Party is really anything but. The lack of well-known monsters is a drag, and the uninteresting level design isn't what I would associate with partying. Even still, I can understand Bandai going with that title rather than a more honest one. No one would play a game called Generic Enemy Chore.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (July 09, 2012)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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If you enjoyed this Monster Party review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!

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zippdementia posted July 10, 2012:

Hopefully you know by now that I love your reviews, Joe. And you've gotten enough praise for most of them that I don't feel bad telling you this one didn't hit me as well as your others. The writing is good, as usual, and I love your choice of game (I remember getting freaked out by the first level as a kid). I have trouble following you on the journey, though. It's because you start out with a positive endorsement of the game that you never really come back to. When I read any review, I'm aware that neutrality isn't really an option. You're going to tell me how a game plays, yes, but of course it's going to be from your perspective.

So I was waiting for you to explain what it was you liked about the game; what gripped you as a kid that might have given this title its charm. It's clear you still like the game. Is that just nostalgia? I get the sense that you are enjoying the ridiculousness of the title even as you bash it. Is it possible that the game ends up being humourous enough that, like a bad horror film, it's just barely playable? What makes it the charming romp you mention?

Anyway, it's your own good writing to blame. You got me interested enough in your personal story around the game that I was disappointed when I didn't get that... I just got a solid review of an old game.

So with that I give this review only an 8/10. Feel shame!
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JoeTheDestroyer posted July 10, 2012:

Haha, thanks Zipp! :)

Part of what I like about the game is nostalgia. I played it so much as a kid that I just can't hate it now, even though I realize it's such a poor game.

The other part is that I've been a big fan of b-movies since I could remember. Where most kids grew up with Bambi and Dumbo, I was watching Swamp Thing and Phantasm (and even more obscure horror flicks like Spasms, Humongous, Jaws of Satan... I could go on for days). This was one of the first games that I had seen that captured the essence of b-movies. It was such a silly, cheap and illogical game that it was quite like a b-game.

Today, it doesn't have the same effect on me. Maybe I've played through the game too many times, or maybe it's just that I need more than silly charm to hold my attention--in regards to video games anyway.
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overdrive posted July 10, 2012:

As someone who has played (and reviewed) Monster Party, I liked this review. I especially liked how you included a picture of a fierce-looking Minotaur attacking you with a cutesy little cartoon cow. That in itself sums up this game perfectly — one of those "picture = thousand words" moments.

I've played the game twice. I rented it when I was in high school and had a blast. I then played it again to review it. Didn't like it much. It might have aged as badly as the first Wizards and Warriors for me...and that says a lot.
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zippdementia posted July 10, 2012:

I'm the only person I know who still likes Wizards and Warriors.
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qxz posted July 12, 2012:

Hey, Zipp, I'm also someone who enjoys playing through the first Wizards & Warriors every now and then. However badly it has aged over the years -- it's rife with worthless items and a final level that's pure tedium -- there's still something on a rather basic level I actually dig about it.

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