If role-playing games were as prevalent on the iPhone as puzzle games, where there are more than any sane person could possibly play, a game like Monster RPG 2 would easily be lost in the App Store abyss. The reason is simple: Just as a puzzle game requires an ingenious hook to keep you playing for more than a few minutes, a role-playing game depends on engaging combat and a story that matters to the player. Monster RPG 2 lacks both.
When Final Fantasy I and II hit the iPhone, we knew we were investing in a long-standing series that essentially created the Japanese RPG genre. Even with simplified stories compared to today’s standards, they still had heart. Because of this, we can forgive the occasionally annoying and needlessly difficult aspects of the gameplay. Old-school JRPGs are notorious for their hardcore nature; they can be quite unforgiving.
Hey lady, those are some ugly dogs.
Monster RPG 2 falls squarely in this hardcore RPG category as well. The turn-based combat is exactly what you’d expect. There is a steep learning curve and a high likelihood that you will die often, at least until you get a handle on the combat. And as usual, you’re a lowly peasant who rises to the occasion to save the world. The dialogue and story are simply lacking the epic feel required to make it worthwhile.
Granted, this is not a big-budget title, but there should be a rule if you’re making an RPG: hire a good writer. While gameplay mechanics seldom change from game to game, the only thing that’s going to set the game apart is an intriguing story, and the generic name of this title clearly sets the bar a bit too low.
Where’s the beef?
Beyond this, the game is technically sound. The controls take some adjustment, especially the menu system with its drag-and-drop elements, but they are a decent replacement for a virtual D-pad. The graphics are appropriately pixelated (perhaps too much so when larger sprites are used in battle), giving it a 16-bit era feel. There is a charm to the visuals that gamers over the age of 21 might enjoy. Younger gamers may not appreciate the the throwback as much, especially given that this is a new game and not a port of something much older.
At the end of the day, if you’re a die-hard JRPG fan who jumps at every chance to play games in this genre, give the game a shot. It’s a bit generic, but some people will appreciate this game simply for the nostalgic shot in the arm. For the rest of us, there are better RPGs out there.