MONARK – Review
Follow Genre: SRPG
Developer: FuRyu
Publisher: NIS America
Platform: PC, PS5, Switch
Tested on: Switch

MONARK – Review

Site Score
Good: Interesting combat system
Bad: Convoluted story
User Score
(2 votes)
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Rating: 6.5/10 (2 votes cast)

It’s quite obvious that NIS has high expectations for MONARK, FuRyu’s new SRPG title, which recently arrived on Switch, PS5 and PC. The game was developed by former ATLUS staff members, several of which were instrumental in the development of games like Persona and Shin Megami Tensei. MONARK is also backed by one of the more elaborate marketing campaigns we’ve ever seen from NIS, so it’s obvious that the publisher thinks they’re got something special on their hands. There’s a free demo available if you’re still on the fence, of course, but you could save yourself some time and simply read our review to decide whether this is one for you.


If you’re expecting to completely understand MONARK’s plot from the get-go, you’re in for a disappointment. Several hours in, we were still wondering what the hell was going on, as the story is a bloated, convoluted mess that suffers not just from the poor characterization of the cast, but several plot holes as well. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s try to piece together the plot in a way that somewhat makes sense. MONARK is set in Shin Mikado Academy, a high school overrun by a mysterious mist. The mist affects the sanity of anyone that spends too much time within, gradually eroding their brain until they become utterly mad. The origins of the mist can be traced back to the Otherworld, a realm where seven daemons rule, each one representing one of the seven deadly sins.

These daemons, known as the Monarks, all have a representative on Earth, known as a Pactbearer. As it happens, the Pactbearers are all students at Shin Mikado Academy. Enter our protagonist, the new student at this school, who happens to be the key to defeating the Pactbearers and getting rid of the mist. He is approached by yet another daemon, Vanitas, who appoints him the role of the eighth Pactbearer. Together with an ever-growing cast of characters, including school staff and other students, our hero takes on this Herculean task.

Most of the backstory is explained through lengthy exposition dialogues, rather than showing events. This does make sense somewhat as our hero suffers from amnesia (because of course he does) and MONARK starts out while the events are already in full swing. The game doesn’t take time to set things up and expects you to piece everything together as you move through the linear adventure. This would have been fine, had it not been for the convoluted writing, with characters that don’t act like teenagers, let alone how anyone would behave in a life-threatening situation like this.

School staff doesn’t take responsibility, and students just roam around in the hallways, most of them acting like this is business as usual, even though they cannot leave the school. The school’s dean -whose family has been dealing with the daemons for centuries, apparently- and the school’s doctor rely on the protagonist to save the day, even though they are the adults in the situation, and the student council president is perhaps the biggest asshole in the entire game, yet is allowed to do whatever he wants. The icing on the cake is that the text is littered with edgy quotes about human personality, which attempt to make the game seem mindblowing and deep, but ultimately are as shallow as a kiddie pool.


While we can’t vouch for the PS5 or PC versions of the game, the Switch version of MONARK at least is very underwhelming visually. Environments look bland and empty and lack variety, mostly due to the high school setting, though there are some other areas such as the Otherworld that look a bit more interesting. The 3D character models are also a major letdown. The animations are decent but nothing special, and during dialogue scenes, character faces lack emotion. The only redeeming feature when it comes to the visuals is the hand-drawn art, which showcases that the character designs themselves are actually pretty good, so it’s a shame that they don’t really get to shine in-game.


The standout feature here is the voice acting, which is of mixed quality to say the least. It’s obvious that most of the voice cast is talented, and many of them have experience in voicing anime dubs, though for most, it’s their first video game. The voice actors do their best with making what was handed to them sound convincing, but there is only so much they can do with poorly written dialogues, of course. The latter leads to some characters sounding very awkward, like Chiyo, the protagonist’s sister. The music sounds exactly like what you’d expect from a horror game set in a Japanese high school, and could have come straight out of an anime.


In terms of gameplay, MONARK doesn’t really bring anything new to the table and feels very reminiscent of other SRPGs in a high school setting, such as The Caligula Effect 2. There are some elements of survival horror here as you have to clear the school from demonic influence by walking through mist-ridden areas to track down a phone that will take you to the Otherworld, where you’ll need to fight against the minions of the Monarks. Defeat these and you’ll clear another part of the school, rinse and repeat. It’s a simplistic and monotone concept that is somewhat broken up by having to solve simple puzzles to make your way through the mist. Students that have gone mad, known as the Unsettled, populate the mist-filled areas, and you’ll often need to figure out a way to get past them to make it to the end of an area. MONARK limits itself in how difficult these puzzles can be, as you’ll slowly see your own sanity deplete while you’re walking around. This acts as a time limit of sorts, because when your Madness meter is filled, you’ll go insane and it’s game over. As such, puzzles are fairly easy to figure out, as having extensive, time consuming ones would feel unfair.

These puzzles range from piecing together the combination to a locker by tracking down pieces of paper scattered around, to convincing an Unsettled student to move out of the way by explaining that they’re holding the handle of a closet rather than the hand of their friend. There is a severe lack of variety, both in puzzles and environments, as there is only so much that can be done in the high school setting. MONARK does attempt to shake things up by having different NPCs accompany you as you explore the high school, and these will also join you in combat.

The combat system has a little more meat on its bones than the exploration part. There is an interesting risk and reward system in play here, centred around both your Madness level as well as another stat called Authority. If either of them reaches 100%, you’ll enter a different state which provides you with buffs in the case of Authority or makes you lose control while Mad. Reaching 100% in both will instead apply the Enlightened state to a party member, which comes with massive bonuses. It’s a bit of a tricky system to get right and it took a few tries even during our first battle to really get to grips with, but once it clicked, it was easily the best part of the game.

Battles can be replayed in order to increase your ranking, thus reaping higher rewards. These rewards come in the form of SPIRIT points, which can be used to upgrade party stats as well as buy items directly from Vanitas, meaning your party becomes better and it becomes yet again easier to increase your ranking. S-ranking every battle will take you a while, and MONARK can become really repetitive in this regard. It’s something that’s seen in every aspect of the game, not just combat. While there are some small inklings of Persona or Shin Megami Tensei to be found here, MONARK does not live up to either of its spiritual predecessors, and it becomes a tough game to recommend as a result.


Perhaps our expectations were a bit too high, but given that NIS themselves marketed MONARK as a passion project from ex-ATLUS staff, we were very underwhelmed with what was on offer here. The convoluted writing, bland presentation, and overall repetitive nature of the game make for a title that isn’t going to appeal to most people. Even if you’re a die-hard SRPG fan, this one’s difficult to swallow at full price, so if you’re considering picking up MONARK, we suggest waiting for a sale at least.

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Rating: 6.5/10 (2 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
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MONARK - Review, 6.5 out of 10 based on 2 ratings


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