School life in Japan seems pretty rough. Here in the US you’ve got homework, tests, cliques, that kind of thing…it’s kind of a drag, really. In Japan, though, it’s even worse. You’ve got all that plus battling supernatural creatures, saving the world, dealing with serious matters of existence itself and so on. That’s a lot to put on kids, huh? In Monark, you’ve got all that plus demonology and more. School life has never been more brutal.
It’s tough waking up without any memories. At least you could use context to figure out what’s going on, right? Well, here’s what we’ve got: you’re a student at Shin Mikado Academy. It’s probably not going to win any School of the Year awards anytime soon. There’s spooky, madness-inducing mist all over the place, some students have developed superpowers and are using them to kill off their classmates and to top it all off, there’s an impenetrable barrier locking everyone in. It’s up to you and your friends, as part of Shin Mikado’s True Student Council, to figure out what’s going on and put a stop to it.
Fortunately, you’re not entirely helpless against all the crazy stuff that’s going on. By forming a pact with a powerful otherworldly entity called a Monark, you’re able to wield the powers of the seven deadly sins against your foes. This manifests as a goofy edgelord outfit, goofy edgelord weapons and magic abilities called Authorities that let you fling fireballs, brainwash enemies and more. When it’s time to fight, you’ll engage in strategy-RPG combat against skeletal baddies and other Pactbearers, moving and attacking using a radial system similar to FuRyu’s previous game Lost Dimension. Combat’s fairly snappy and quick once you get the hang of movement and ability ranges, while later maps introduce mechanics like teleportation gates to spice things up.
Oh, and about the whole seven deadly sins thing…you’ve also got your own special sin, Vanity, which allows you to form Resonance links between your allies and enemies. This results in a transference of stat changes and status effects, allowing for crazy strategies like spreading out buffs between your allies or forcing bad status onto your enemies. This mechanic is central to success with combat, since it allows you to use your characters as a force multiplier and accomplish more with less. Victory earns you Spirit, which can be spent Dark Souls-style on gear and levels. There’s a fair amount of grinding involved if you want to keep up with the game’s difficulty curve, so consider yourself warned.
The combat is solid and enjoyable, but there’s a good chance you’re playing this for the plot. Uncovering the mysteries surrounding the Academy is a great time reminiscent of recent games like Caligula and there’s an interesting cast of characters to interact with while doing so. From the class president Nozomi to the delinquent Ryotaro, there’s something to be said for pretty much all of your party members. Without spoiling too much, later on you’ll end up choosing a team member to align yourself with, which drastically changes the outcome of the game and offers a fair amount of replay value.
From a presentation perspective, this is fairly standard anime fare. Character designs are interesting enough, though the fact that there’s really only one variety of enemy is an unusual decision. There’s an overall lack of detail to a lot of the characters and environments, though. One suspects that the game suffers somewhat from being on the Switch since technical specifications need to be kept down for a decent experience on that platform.
Still, this isn’t a killer issue or anything. Monark is an enjoyable strategy-RPG with an interesting plot and tactical combat that offers a surprising amount of content. There’s a lot to see and do, you can grind for days if you want…that’s a pretty easy recommendation for fans of the genre. If you’re interested, there’s no reason not to apply for Shin Mikado Academy.