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Monster Kingdom: Jewel Summoner (PSP) artwork

Monster Kingdom: Jewel Summoner (PSP) review


"Monster Kingdom: Jewel Summoner feels more like a contractual obligation than a labor of love. Through all the battles and monster-breeding, I don't sense any pride or purpose. Jewel Summoner isn't incompetent, but it's a waste of talent, a waste of hopes, and a waste of time."



When I play video games, I'm looking for more than passive entertainment. My hungry mind craves sustenance, be it an introspective plot, engaging mechanics, or stimulating audiovisuals. Life's too short to be wasted on anything less. "Fun" just isn't enough.

Maybe I'm crazy.

Based on the press release, Monster Kingdom: Jewel Summoner sounded tailor-made for crazy people like me. It was produced by the creator of Shin Megami Tensei, a series known for its philosophical scenarios. Jewel Summoner combines role-playing with monster-raising: an addictive combination that propelled Pokemon into the hearts of millions. And the music was composed by a ridiculously talented team. When I say "ridiculously talented", I mean people who scored games like Chrono Trigger and Radiant Silvergun.

Jewel Summoner sounded good because it's a shrewd, calculated product that preys on hope. For example, with such a talented musical crew, I expected a magical score that would compensate for the often drab visuals. Alas, it was not to be! The soundtrack is appealing but uninspired. Never rousing, never provocative, Jewel Summoner's melodies -- which are hard to categorize, since the style varies from one area to the next -- simply cover the silence.

The storyline, which begins promisingly, also quickly falls apart. A man named Vice -- a shady fellow who wraps a black scarf around his chest instead of wearing shirts -- hunts the abomination that murdered his mother. To help fulfill this quest of vengeance, Vice summons monsters to do his bidding, which isn't very unusual. The world is full of monster summoners. The thing that's unusual is that Vice is able to summon monsters of his own power, without using a jewel. That's the hero's mysterious power: summoning monsters without jewels!

Note: During actual gameplay, when you want Vice to summon a monster, he uses a jewel.

Vice, who is expertly voiced by the same fellow who played Scott Bernard in Robotech, comes across as a determined but likable vigilante. So, when bad-ass Vice becomes an academy schoolchild, stops hunting the mother-murdering abomination, and starts taking on boring "missions" like escorting caravans along roads, it's a bit... disappointing.

He does get to travel with some hand-picked friends. One of those friends is Lynn, an amazon with prophetic powers.

Lynn: "Amalgamy... a childhood friend... the seed... of discord!"

Vice: "....."

Lynn: "Did I say something strange again?"

That's not just weak character development, that's laughable character development. Then there's Elycia: a blonde bimbo who refers to herself as "Elly" instead of just using pronouns like a normal human. And they all travel around the world while receiving guidance from the busty schoolmistress.

Traveling around the world is pretty easy. On the world map, you pick a dot. Your party then instantly travels to that dot, without any of the walking or monster-fighting that you'd find in other RPGs. I don't mind a streamlined overworld when it speeds up the action, but these dots are just as likely to lead to a long, droning conversation (with loading times for each line of dialogue) as they are to lead to an actual dungeon.

Those dungeons aren't nearly as beautiful or intricate as what you'd find in Legend of Heroes or Ys 6, but they're better than long, droning conversations among annoying schoolchildren.

Running down the obligatory list of things that all RPGs must include, the combat boils down to the turn-based affairs we've been playing since the 8-bit era. I can appreciate simple battles, but not when the animations are so long and tedious that Atlus had to include a "speed up" command to make them go faster. Length is not a replacement for depth! Battles should be exciting, engaging, or swift; Jewel Summoner is just tedious. Additional monsters can be captured during combat, and they gain new abilities via "amalgamations" (which is a fancy replacement for equippable weapons), but the game is so easy that there's not much need to bother with any of that. Later on, the game actually gets even easier.

Monster Kingdom: Jewel Summoner feels more like a contractual obligation than a labor of love. Through all the battles and monster-breeding, I don't sense any pride or purpose. Jewel Summoner isn't incompetent, but it's a waste of talent, a waste of hopes, and a waste of time.

Maybe I'm crazy, but I play video games to do more than waste time.

//Zig

Rating: 5/10

zigfried's avatar
Staff review by Zigfried (February 13, 2007)

Zigfried likes writing about whales and angry seamen, and often does so at the local pub.

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