A Place For Me To Rant And Rave

Road to XV: The Extended Universe (Justice Monsters Five)

With Justice Monsters Five, Square-Enix attempts once again to harness the power of the mini-game outside of the game that spawned it. Are we looking at a FF7 Snowboarding-level of failure?

Square Enix has a bit of history with making the minigames found within their series available for play outside of the game. FFVII had FFVII Snowboarding, a snowboarding game for mobile phones in the days before cellphone games were called “apps”, and Triple Triad, the ever-popular FFVIII minigame, has been both an actual, printed card game as well as a built-in diversion to Square-Enix’s informative Final Fantasy Portal app. These two examples are good mainly because they show the gamut that these things can range; from forgettable and regrettable cash grabs to completely and immediately life-absorbing.

Justice Monsters Five plays like a pinball game without a trap. Sound easy? It REALLY is.
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What it is - JM5 is a pinball-styled FTP mobile game, complete with daily log-in bonuses, friend recruiting, daily dungeons and the usual FTP “spend money on a chance of getting a rare character!”-model. I signed up Day 1, giving me a bonus of Golden Eggs, which are exchanged for drops from the character roulette. The characters themselves are the game’s bread and butter; each character is based on a monster or summon from the Final Fantasy series, given its own action-packed character art, a la Puzzles and Dragons, and stats and effects based on that characters specs. Levels usually have an elemental basis, so constructing a party with multiple elemental varieties to take on different foes is important, and each level is structured slightly different, so choosing monsters with abilities that take advantage of the level’s structure is also paramount.

How it works - Each level is a pinball map with enemy monsters located near the top, and one large flipper guards the ball from falling across the entirety of the lower screen. Tapping the screen gives your ball (which has an elemental attribute, stats and appearance based on the monster you currently have selected) a slight bump, and pressing and holding it activates your ball’s special ability, which can range from automatically hugging a wall up to the top and falling straight down to homing in on an enemy automatically. Damage is given as well as recieved in the usual FF manner; based on stats, weaknesses, etc, numerical damage is tallied against HP until the HP reaches zero. For you, this is an easy task; any contact your ball makes with an enemy, no matter how slight, slow, or lightly you hit them, produces damage. The enemy, on the other hand, sends attacks at you by radiating damage, meaning that if you’re not in the monster’s vicinity after it charges, you can often avoid damage altogether. Clear the stage of monster, and you move on to the next stage. Beat 2 stages to reach the level’s boss, and beat the boss to clear the level. Level progression is done by advancing through a set list of levels, one new level unlocking upon the completion of each preceding level. With exception to the tutorial quests, there doesn’t appear to be much story, which is disappointing in itself, given how much character and pizazz the JM5 cast has at the beginning.

Familiar FF monster “Bomb” joins the main cast, and brought his spicy attitude along with him... until he didn’t.

What was expected - One of the main (read: only) reasons I went out of my way to not only play but keep up with the daily logins was because somewhere along the way I thought that this wasn’t a recreation of the mini-game, but the minigame made to be played outside of the game. What’s the difference? Well, in Final Fantasy VIII, the Triple Triad cards could be broken down into useful in-game items. If there was a way to play Triple Triad away from my PlayStation, I could gain new cards and them use them when I got back to the game. I thought JM5 would work this way, perhaps earning me items I could transfer to my XV save, or in the very least allow me to play from my JM5 account in the game proper. I was also hoping for a story with a coherent body, no matter how silly or odd, that would bring the character art (that obviously they spent a lot of time on) to life.

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For all the promotional art and the team’s excitement over the game in the trailers, I was really hoping for more of a connection between the two games.

What was received - Imagine my disappointment Tuesday when I finally reached a point in the story where the JM5 machines are finally playable. I had my account info ready, I was fresh off of nearly 3 months of continuous play, and thhhhhbbbbbb. XV’s version of JM5 not only doesn’t link to the app, but is a poor bastardization in comparison. That’s not to say that the app itself is amazing; it’s not, especially without any point in playing it outside of the usual FTP addiction. A good opportunity to monetize XV without actually monetizing the game proper was missed here, in my opinion, and with the missed opportunity I can’t imagine too many people playing beyond the first few levels. There’s no character development, no discernable baddies or end; just mindless pseudo-pinball, as far as the eye can see, with very little chance of losing anything but the time spent playing.

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Each and every monster is depicted in an action-packed side-of-a-van art style that’s wonderful to behold. Too bad you have to play the game to see them -.-

Final Verdict - Pass

Justice Monsters Five had the opportunity to begin blurring the line drawn between our real lives and our game lives, bringing an FF minigame to our smartphones for us to play. However, missed synch opportunities as well as a lackluster in-game representation will most assuredly see this game deleted from even the most hardcore XV fan’s phone. A special note if you do decide to take the plunge; don’t respond to friend invites. Any time I do, I get a force close; this problem has been evident since launch and endless updates have done nothing to solve it.

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