Monster Kingdom Jewel Summoner
Release Date: February 13, 2007
Although it's been overlooked by gamers and surpassed in sales by the Nintendo DS, the PSP is experiencing a renaissance of sorts, thanks to the recent Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops and a slew of RPG releases this year, such as Legend of Heroes III, Riviera, Valhalla Knights, Jeanne d'Arc, along with a few Final Fantasy offerings.
Monster Kingdom is a brand-new IP created for the PSP and PS3 that has not gone unnoticed by RPG fans. The E3 trailer for the PlayStation 3 version piqued my interest, so I was really jazzed to try out the PSP offering, Monster Kingdom: Jewel Summoner, and I was pleasantly surprised.
Jewel Summoner is set in a time when men and monsters coexisted in peace. A great disaster fell upon the land, causing monsters to vanish from the face of the Earth and become jewels – stones of great power. In order to survive, people found a way to harness jewel power, the energy found within these stones. However, as they worked to restore harmony, strange "Abominations" appeared, reviving monsters from their jewels and wrecking havoc across the land. People were powerless against them. An organization known as The Order was formed, and through the research of jewels, they became a ray of hope for the people. It was discovered that some individuals, Jewel Summoners, were born with the ability to control the jewel monsters. Finally, man had a way to fight back.
Vice, the main character in Jewel Summoner, seeks out jobs hunting them down in hopes of finding the winged Abomination that killed his mother. During his search, he is informed that The Order may have information about the creature, but during his visit, his jewel monster is pulled into The Order's monolith. Vice ends up agreeing to work with The Order until it can return his sidekick from the monolith.
The Order assigns missions to Jewel Summoners; the missions generally involve exterminating monsters, but in some rare cases, they may involve something different. Unlike other RPGs, this title uses a system similar to that of Pokémon: The summoner cannot fight for himself and can only use monsters to fight in the battles. Each of the 110 monsters has its own set of attacks and attributes, which sets them apart from FF VIII's Guardian Forces.
Available elements are represented by an Elemental Circle of water, fire, ice, wind, earth, thunder, light, and dark. Monsters can only have one elemental attribute, and each monster's weakness is readily apparent by recognizing the opposing force of nature in the Elemental Circle. By exploiting a monster's elemental weak point, you can cause much more damage than with a normal attack.
The battle system is also completely reliant on the Elemental Circle, and using it correctly allows you to control the flow of battle. You can stagger the enemy monsters so that they never have a turn, but you need to be careful of the enemy returning the favor. Combining the turn-based system with the Elemental Circle really makes Jewel Summoner an intense experience; it requires strategizing which monsters to use in battle and in what order to organize them.
You can only summon three monsters per character, so having the right balance is essential. Strategically, it's best to have a monster of each element, and you can swap out monsters when the need arises. There are two ways to swap monsters: selecting it from the attack menu or depleting the active monster of jewel points (JP, points used to control the monster), which causes an immediate transfer to the next monster in the lineup. Proper planning is essential to winning battles.
Aside from using items, there aren't many ways to restore JP during battle, but outside of battle, JP is restored depending on the monster's placement in your lineup. In other words, if your monster is placed in the summoner's third position, it will regain JP faster. Jewel points are restored by walking around the world or reaching a save point, which restores both JP and life points (LP).
Though Jewel Summoner allows each character to carry three jewels (monsters), each monster does not have its own LP. Each monster reflects its master's LP, so if a monster were ever to fall, the summoner is defeated and needs to be revived.
Victory is achieved by either defeating all monsters in play or destroying certain monsters and capturing the ones you want. In order to capture the monsters, three conditions must be met: ensure the monster isn't a boss (bosses can't be captured), the monster's health should be at least half depleted, and you must have an available element prism.
There are two ways to get prisms: hope the monster drops them or buy them from stores. Within some cities, the character may be able to purchase prisms, food for healing, and items to cure infection. The items I purchased most often were prisms, accessories, and quartz. Summoners have two slots for accessories, which can add various "buffs," such as increased LP, augmented JP, and better resistance. Accessories are expensive, but the gain far outweighs the cost. Quartz can be used in battle as attacks, or they can be used in amalgamy.
Amalgamy is the easy way to add abilities and strengthen your monster. Using quartz amalgamy gives monsters new skills – a fire monster may gain ice abilities if you amalgamate it with an ice quartz. If you combine a monster with quartz of its own element, it will eventually gain another attack slot, which surprisingly makes a world of difference. Amalgamy can also be used to speed up the leveling of characters by increasing EXP or statistics. If there's a monster that you're partial to, then this is the easiest way to use it to fight stronger monsters if you feel that the A.I. is getting too strong.
If you don't like speed-leveling, you can remove the monster from battle. The system only awards EXP to the monster in the last turn, so if you bring in a new monster before defeating the enemy, the low-level monster will gain all of the EXP. This is good if you are trying to level up a monster, but if there is a monster you want to level up and you run out of JP during the battle, it gains zilch.
Jewel Summoner uses a random battle system, but unlike other titles, "Field Effects" that can be use to speed up this process. Field Effects are abilities that you can use in dungeons, such as lure (lure more enemies to you, resulting in more battles), reveal (unveils secret passages), detect (shows how many treasures remain), hover, trap (trap stronger monsters), and more. These extra items add depth by giving the player some extra actions to execute during gameplay.
In addition to the well-balanced game mechanics, the game deploys an excellent soundtrack and story. The soothing background music blends well with the gameplay. Almost every section is voiced over, and the voice-acting sounds great, but the developers did include the option to turn off the voices, if you prefer. To complement the sound, the title has a very clean picture quality and a good variety of attractive graphics. This is definitely one of the better-looking PSP games out there.
Jewel Summoner has a network mode, which allows players to trade monsters or battle them. Since this was an early build, I was unable to try it out this feature, but I'd imagine that it's similar to card-based games, in which gamers trade monsters with one another to complete their collections.
All in all, Monster Kingdom: Jewel Summoner is looking to be a great offering for RPG fans. This is going to be a banner year for portable RPGs, and Jewel Summoner is a great place to start. Keep an eye out for its February 13th release date.
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