Monark from FURYU Corporation and NIS America is a JRPG set in a cursed school. Find out more about this title our Monark review!
This is a double review for Monark. Ceidz and EdEN played the game, and this review presents what they both had to say.
In an academy linked to a mysterious realm known as the Otherworld, four companions lead to four destinies. Nourish your Ego and madness to harness the power of Daemons in this tactical RPG.
In Monark from FURYU Corporation and NIS America, you’re a student of the Shin Mikado Academy when a huge magical dome covers the entire school grounds, cloistering you inside. You’ll have to progress through the school and the Otherworld in order to solve the mysteries around you. You’ll have to deal with students who have lost their minds and some who seem to have their minds being under someone else’s control.
I thought that the first few hours of this game were confusing. You wake up in school surrounded by a few people with no recollection of anyone or anything. As you try to escape the seemingly off-school, you’ll be teleported to another very scary place, the Otherworld, where you’ll encounter Vanitas. Vanitas has the ability to grant characters the power to fight the Otherworld’s Daemons. It is called an Imagigear – which is a representation of the soul – and is the actual combat form you’ll need to get rid of the Daemons.
The battle system is that of a slow turn-based tactical JRPG. You move each character on the battlefield to the desired position, and you can act with Arts or Authorities. If you have more than one character next to an enemy, they’ll also attack with you, which gives you some bonus damage – but, in turn, the enemy can counterattack. You also have to watch out for the MAD gauge, which gradually increases as it reaches 100%. If it gets there for the main character, it will die, and you’ll end up back at the infirmary. Each battle won raises some of your profile characteristics, and as you win multiple battles, you’ll earn enough Spirit to upgrade your skills or create items.
As of now, you should have realized that Monark has certainly taken inspiration from the Persona and Shin Megami Tensei franchises – the cognitive Otherworld, the battle avatar based on the soul, and even Vanitas, which reminded me of Morgana. The battle system isn’t as fun as Persona and felt a bit slower. The first few hours were also a bit confusing, and you’ll get a lot of tutorials for everything that this game offers.
On the presentation side, I noticed that the game engine looked a bit dated on PlayStation 5. While the game itself runs at a solid 60 frames per second, the character models and animations looked like those from a PlayStation 4 release. There are a few anime cutscenes throughout the game, and not only were they way too compressed, but their frame rate was also low, which set those animated sequences as a huge step down from the otherwise sharp graphical engine.
On the audio side, however, NIS America has completely localized this game with voiceovers in English. The voice acting is great, even if some of the characters do feel a bit exaggerated. The voice actor for Nozomi Hinata, however, does a stellar job. You can still enjoy this game with the original Japanese voiceovers if you want. NIS America doesn’t often record English voiceovers, so hopefully, this one sets the norm going forward.
All in all, the story was confusing at first, and the battle system wasn’t as exciting as I would have liked it to be, but the game manages to pull through, adding some interesting twists and turns as you progress through the story. This game also has a game engine that feels a bit dated graphics-wise, but it does feature dual audio, so you can listen to the game either in English or Japanese, as you please.
Before you can start to play Monark, there will be a series of questions to answer as you start the game, and these will determine how your main character’s stats are distributed between the seven deadly sins: Pride, Wrath, Envy, Greed, Gluttony, Sloth, and Lust. There are seven Daemons known as Monarks, one for each of the aforementioned sins. The way you answer these questions will also decide which Fiend joins you in battle at the start of your adventure.
Battles take place in player and enemy phases. The left analog stick will be used for moving the active unit, and you can switch between team members with the L1 and R1 buttons. The X button will draw out your command list so that you can take action as needed. Under said command list, you’ll have Arts and Authorities to use. Arts will require you to sacrifice some HP to activate. Authorities are brought into action by Pactbearers and Daemons and will increase the MAD gauge when used.
By using Defer in battle, the current unit’s turn will end, but it will allow a unit that’s already acted to act again while increasing its MAD gauge. This is why you can’t abuse the Defer ability, or else it will come back to destroy your chances of winning the battle! As expected, to win a battle, you must complete all of that stage’s victory conditions while making sure that the protagonist is not defeated. If his HP is depleted and he’s KO’d, then it’s game over!
At the end of the battle, your performance will be rated based on the number of turns it took you to clear the stage, how many critical hits you landed, how many assists attacks you performed, if you used Defer, if any of your characters died in battle, and so on. In the end, the score and rank you get will determine the Spirit Points you get for that battle. You might also end up winning some items after a fight.
Spirit Points can be used to improve the effects of your powers or to obtain items you can use during your journey through the Otherworld. Since you can’t just easily grind fights over and over again – but you will find a way to take on some extra battles – you need to spend your Spirit Points wisely! Speak to Vanitas, and you can create by spending Spirit Points to craft items. You can also decide to dismantle items to gain some extra Spirit Points.
Since you made a pact with a Daemon, you must now work on breaking said pact in order for the mist at school and other anomalies to disappear. When a pact is made, three crystals form in the Otherworld. These crystals are the source of a Pactbearer’s power, so once they’re shattered, the pact is no more. The mist in the school can transport you to the Otherworld, where you will find Ideals that need to be destroyed.
By checking your smartphone, you’ll be able to review your To-Do-List with the pending objectives to complete; check the Map, which displays your story progress and location; Call to contact the Otherworld under special conditions; Character, where you can review or enhance a unit’s abilities; Item so that you can check and use the items in your inventory; Library, where you can check the many reading materials that are added as you progress through the game; Achievement, which keeps track of your progress and the trophies; and Profiles, where you can dive a bit deeper and check some extra info on the many characters you encounter.
A few of the school’s students with a particularly strong sense of self will end up leaving powerful crystals in different areas in the school. These are known as Alter Egos. The location of each Alter Ego will vary depending on which student generates it. You might want to take a closer look at a student’s profile to get a better idea of where you should go searching for an Alter Ego. To gain an Alter Ego, your won Ego must be above specific thresholds. Once you meet this requirement and find an Alter Ego, collect it to permanently increase the stats of your units. The good news is that characters that have yet to join your group will have their stats boosted as soon as they become part of your team!
Ego is a special stat that only the main protagonist has. It will increase based on the answers you provide during the many assessments given during the game’s story, but it can also be boosted by defeating Fiends of the corresponding sin. There are also some psychology tests that will affect your ego! To be able to command Fiends for each of the deadly sins, your Ego will need to be considerably high. And, as mentioned before, Ego will play a role as to which Alter Ego crystals you can collect.
Mist is very dangerous since it will make the MAD gauge increase at a steady pace. If the MAD gauge for the protagonist hits 100%, he’ll go crazy, and you will be sent back to the infirmary. The MAD gauge can be lowered by visiting the infirmary or by using a Mental Stabilizer. You’ll get one during your first visit to the infirmary, but if you talk to the doctor before leaving, he’ll give you another four. Keep an eye on your MAD gauge as you search for the area where you can make a call to visit the Otherworld.
If a unit’s MAD gauge goes to 100% while in battle, they will enter a state of Madness. During this, you won’t be able to control that unit, and its defense stat will be lowered while all other stats receive a buff. You do need to hurry up when a unit enters Madness because after three turns have passed, the unit will experience a Breakdown and will be K.O. Your units also have an AWAKE gauge, which increases by taking damage or using Resolve, buffing all stats while also allowing the use of Arts and Authorities at no cost. If both the AWAKE and MAD gauge are maxed at the same time, the unit will go into an Enlightened phase, with all stats gaining a major boost while also being able to use all Arts and Authorities at no cost for three turns.
Trophy-wise, there are some good news and some bad news for trophy hunters. The good news is that Monark has a full trophy list with a Platinum trophy to unlock, and none of the trophies are missable! A bunch of them will unlock as you progress through the game’s story, but there are many that will require that you complete specific story paths for your companions, properly equip the Fiends that you’ll command, collect an Alter Ego, entering into a Madness status, entering into an Awakening status, entering into an Enlightened status, resonating with an ally for the first time, unlocking every ability for one unit, unlocking every ability for all units, registering half the profiles for all characters, adding at least 20 phone numbers to your smartphone, and more. It’s not going to be a short journey since you’re looking at 60-80 hours before you can add a new Platinum trophy to your collection.
Monark is an interesting JRPG that plays off some of the classic elements we’ve grown to know and love – high school students coming together under bizarre circumstances, an unknown mythical entity out to destroy everything, pacts with Daemons to unlock additional, well, personas, in order to even out the odds. It’s a bit rough around the edges in some elements – battles can feel a bit too slow and can drag out during the second half of the game, and the graphics don’t take full advantage of what the PlayStation 5 can do – but there’s certainly an interesting journey to experience in this game. It’s not an AAA release, but there’s at least one A in Monark. Monark is out on PlayStation 5 with a $59.99 asking price.
This Monark review is based on PlayStation copies provided by NIS America.