Monster Kingdom Jewel Summoner
Playstation Portable
Reviewed: 02/21/2007

This review is not even gonna begin by saying all the same “blah blah PSP is starved for original RPGs” stuff that preceeds every RPG review on PSP. Just not gonna happen.

There’s an even balance of things to love and things to be all sad about in Monster Kingdom Jewel Summoner. (Yeah I don’t use a colon in the title either, cause the publishers don’t. I am right, and other reviewers are wrong.) One thing to love is the neat monster collecting. This game being directed by Kouji Okada of Shin Megami Tensei fame and all-around “collection RPG” cool guy, one could have guessed that aspect would be well-executed and fun. And it is.

Then comes the battle system using those captured monsters: also good, for the most part. The player’s party can pack three characters, each of whom can carry three monster-summoning jewels. Each character has one monster from his/her threesome up front and participating in the battle, and when that monster is knocked out, that summoner is done participating in the battle. Each monster has an innate elemental strength (fire, ice, and so on–the RPG standard stuff), but fusing it with special pieces of quartz can give it different abilities from other elementals, and it’s pretty fun to play around with all the possible combinations. The slight downfall to that aspect of the game is that it can take quite a bit of time–probably longer than one would hope, in a handheld RPG. Fusing quartz to a monster takes real time, not just game time, and the process will proceed even if the game is turned off–neat. The game’s menus are a kind of odd and not easy to get used to, and getting the hang of the fusion system can a while.

Screen Shot
These guys look tough, supposing the game took place in 1991.

For as fun as the game starts out, it soon becomes obvious that the developers didn’t just make the early stages easy so that players could learn the ropes; the whole game is like that. It’s really a breeze. Very rarely is a monster encountered that a smart player can’t kick the crap out of in short order. Even if the player does suck, near the end of the game, the story basically says, “Oh, yeah, hey, here’s the godslayer.” Players are guaranteed a vicious monster with basically no weaknesses. Where, then, is the challenge?

The game’s technical aspects are great. Its music was composed by an all-star lineup including Yasunori Mitsuda (Xenogears, Chrono series), Hitoshi Sakimoto (FFXII, BoF: Dragon Quarter), Yoko Shimomura (Mana series, Parasite Eve), and others. So it’s easy to see how this game can musically go toe-to-toe with pretty much any other handheld RPG out there. It’s also very nice to look at, with well-done character portraits and good-looking graphics all around, especially the monsters within battle.

Screen Shot
The monster animations are impressive.

Monster Kingdom Jewel Summoner tells the story of a “lone wolf” type character named Vice, who’s out to avenge the death of his mother, after she was killed by a crazyass monster called an “Abomination.” It’s an okay story of about standard grade, but made worse when opting to listen to the awful voice acting. Lines are overacted way too often, and the unnatural delay between them makes it sound like the player is sitting in on a first-time script reading for the high school play. Maybe the voice acting is made worse by the fact that every single character is annoying as hell.

Dungeon exploration is very simple, with players navigating Vice from a fixed camera view that works perfectly. The team gradually learns more field abilities, which enable them to explore more parts of the dungeons. This brings great potential for puzzles to be put into place, but unfortunately, most of that potential was not capitalized on. The vast majority of puzzles here are simply trial-and-error affairs that don’t take much thought.

Jewel Summoner is, overall, an okay game. It’s got a fun system of monster customization, great music, very nice visuals, and a passable battle system. It sadly balances out those good points with bland dungeonplay, overacted charcters, awkward menus, and the fact that the monster capturing and customizing becomes considerably less important near the game’s end. It’s also itching for some kind of actual challenge. This review will not conclude by saying something so commonly heard, like, “blah blah Monster Kingdom Jewel Summoner is a decent game, but doesn’t solve the PSP’s lack of a great, non-port RPGs. This is okay, but no system seller.” Not gonna happen.

-Heath Hindman

Score Breakdown
Out of 10
See our Review Criteria
Gameplay Good
Story Average
Graphics Great
Sound/Music Good
Replay Value Average
The Verdict: 5