I have always wanted to try Monster Girl Quest and I thought Paradox Part 1 would be the most entertaining entry point into the series since it was rated more highly than the original trilogy. I was expecting this to be the best RPG Maker game I ever played. Maybe I set the difficulty too low or I suffered from the few untranslated parts in the version I had, but it wasn't as enjoyable as I expected.
THE GOOD - Monster Girl Quest Paradox Part 1, despite being only one in three parts feels just short of a good length RPG. You could easily spend hundreds of hours just experimenting with this game. It is a game that I feel would possibly benefit from some in-depth "FAQs". First of all, the game is filled with characters as most of your enemies are recruitable allies. This is perhaps an unprecedented move in a more traditional RPG like this rather than Poke'mon. Due to racial differences being fixed and the existence of character-specific traits, each character is indeed special. However, it feels a bit like the special nature of the characters can only be valuable in the highest difficulty levels of the game because the differences are kind of slight and hard to take advantage of without having specific strategies.
A lot of the enemy designs are really cool, as should be expected. At first I thought frfr was a rather weak artist, but after looking at all of their work by the end of Part 1, I think they actually have the best overall art and more range in tone than I was expecting. I would consider the second-best artist to be Xelphy. Although they design monsters that look stupid to me in an odd way, some of their other designs really are emblematic for the game. The other artists are still not much worse than them and maybe some are better but just have fewer pieces of art. Since quite a few are in Japanese characters, I don't know if I could give them credit anyways.
Oh yeah, and probably the biggest feature of this game is the wide variety of classes. It is a branching class system with so many choices that they could take forever to choose from. It reminded me of Final Fantasy V, but unfortunately, unlike Final Fantasy V, you don't get a Freelance class that can automatically use a variety of passive skills learned in other classes. However, it probably is better to not have a broken class to keep switching back to when things get tough. There are some really interesting classes in this game, although it can feel like most of them are lacking in skills. The only ones that have felt like they had a good wealth of useful skills for me were maid, anything that uses grimoires and makina and taoists. I guess there is still quite a bit I did not explore so maybe there are great classes I didn't notice...
Anyway, not only do you have classes and races, but you level up those classes and races from level 1 to 10. There seems to be no information on how race level ups are supposed to be determined, but Job XP can be increased by multiple items and abilities. The interesting thing about abilities (learned from both jobs and race) is that they are equipped. This is a pretty nice system, but I feel like a lot of classes are a bit too lacking and it gives me the feeling I don't like, which is being restricted from experimenting and thus, learning the game. I don't really think a lot of these skills are overpowered so I find it a bit ridiculous with how few abilities you are able to equip on even second tier classes. And it also gets annoying when a lot of characters will have whole portions of abilities completely unassigned even after reaching level 25 or so and having mastered 3 jobs and a race or two.
As for music - the game does a great job for the most part. A lot of the music is recycled from the past trilogy, but the music is nice. The cave and tower music is the best, but it does get a bit tiring when going through so many dungeons and I would probably hate it if I had heard it a lot in the past trilogy.
Lastly, my favorite part of the game is that it implements the reverse rape theme in combat without forcing you to watch rape scenes. Some of the rape scenes are good, but I really prefer the BF challenges as they have real suspense as well as better music and usually more fun scenes. Perhaps the highlight of the BFs in Part 1 is with Sara, who has basically a fake version of it. Anyways, the part I love about the rapes in this game is that you can actually force Luka and other male party members to endure extra long while healing him. Each turn of getting raped, the enemy will be increasing damage. Also, the technique being used on each turn can be changed to stronger techniques, which is fun. And of course, you can just revive Luka and the boys after they take their punishment so they can experience it again. You can also add to this the fact that there are items and abilities that can increase or decrease how much a character is targeted. I imagine that, besides being a fun mechanic, getting male characters straddled and raped can actually save you during some battles in the highest difficulties. On the other hand, having an all-female team that does not get raped that way can often prevent damage from getting too high so there are trade-offs between having male and female party members. In Normal difficulty, I found it best to just stay an all-female team unless I wanted to mess around.
THE BAD - There are quite a few parts of the game (many of them mentioned above) which while making the game better, also had slowly gotten me annoyed during my playthrough.
However, I would like to start with something I didn't mention before. I originally got this game because I believed that the writing would be top-notch, which led me to want to play the original trilogy afterwards.... Yeah, this game isn't the most entertaining writing. There are some great scenes, but the problem with this game is mainly that it goes through everything too quickly. It feels like everything is inconsequential because they are focusing on figuring out the problems with the void of Tartarus and whatnot. I guess the writing in this game mostly caters to those who played the original trilogy, which I suppose is rightfully expected.
Not only does the story seem to be rushing, but the setting just doesn't feel quite properly fitted to a world with monsters. It feels like the way that monster girls interact with societies or create their own societies is overlooked far too often. Because of this, the only time I felt real immersion was when it came to the slimes at the beginning, followed by the harpies and the mermaid dungeon later on. Nothing else really felt too fitting, which I guess is because the game was more focused on big powerful characters who were apparently everywhere and having a war over the paradoxes or whatever. And despite being a character-driven game because of that, it is hard to say that many of the characters have a real personality. Unlike most games, Luka is probably the best written character.
Even when the void is finally focused on, it is only the last scene with the void (in this part) that actually felt worthwhile so far. And it was a really good scene... maybe one of the saddest moments in the history of video games. But it just makes me feel annoyed to turn the game back on because that was the only part I ended up really feeling and I would have to replay so much just to get there again.
One last thing I didn't illustrate above is the problems with crafting. Crafting feels like too much of a hassle while there is also rarely a need to work on it. First of all, items used in crafting are a bit too mixed up. They can be highly localized in the area where the blacksmiths (and there are only blacksmiths) are located, making it get confusing when a few items start having more varied locations. Also, there are just too many items to keep track of in the crafting process since old equipment is usually important and thus cluttering inventory is made important. And yes; the worst part of all is that there are only blacksmiths. The beginning of the game gives me an impression that you could cook up special meals, but unfortunately, there are only in-battle skills capable of doing this (to a small extent), which is really just stupid. Why is it so stupid? Well, the gift system which food and some other objects were designed for requires you to feed characters HUNDREDS OR EVEN THOUSANDS OF ITEMS ONE BY ONE to get a single party member's affection level high enough to receive their prizes. While you can hold the A key to feed these items rapidly, it is still bad game design. Instead, they should have offered food crafting/cooking which allows you to put large amounts of food items into special dishes that will raise affection by very high amounts. Food already costs enough and is uniformly important (in most cases) as gifts enough that this would easily work well and seems like common sense. Well, there will be a need mostly for blacksmiths if you are to do the highly specific strategies that would be needed in the highest difficulties, but the end result is that casual play feels lacking even more than what the upcoming features in this review cause.
Now for the things I mentioned earlier... Classes and races don't feel rewarding enough. Not only that, but many weapons and armor feel a bit underdeveloped too. The game is full of customization, but it feels like a lot of it is kind of worthless unless you are on a really meta level of gameplay or you have read some kind of tier lists for the game. What's worse is that the game makes you feel like you should try mastering everything with how mysterious it all is, but at the same time, it was clearly designed to make sure you were diversifying your team, especially when so many characters are recruited. I felt like I was spending too much time in the game focused on job leveling and similar things rather than enjoying anything. Leveling up jobs really feels unnecessarily slow and really accelerates later in the game. If it wasn't so streamlined with every job and race requiring the same experience, maybe it would have felt a lot more genuine at least. Also, we don't even know how race levels are obtained and there seems to be no item to increase your race XP while job and character XP are possible to double. Believe it or not, you have various characters who can learn multiple races after mastering their first.
Speaking on the characters front, it feels like there are just too many. I would have felt better if they restricted us.... Yes, each character gets their own sex request scenes and rewards for giving them enough gifts, but from a gameplay perspective, I was getting really tired of encountering new recruits so often. The game DOES give you the option to recruit almost no one if you want to, but the problem is that there are also special events tied to characters you recruit so not recruiting them seems too risky unless it is one of the BF girls (but they are some of the most interesting recruits you can get...).
On presentation, the music for towns is really bad in my opinion. I also know that it plays in the original trilogy. I can't imagine how annoyed I would be if I played the trilogy first. Then there are the battle cut-ins.... Ilias has a battle cut-in where she basically reveals everything in spite of her clothing... Just because of this, I didn't pick her. I am pretty sure you can't turn off battle cut-in art, or if you can, you have to sacrifice other things in addition. Sonya's is also pretty distracting. Normal enemies don't have different art from normal so they are mostly fine. While this is a sex game, it is stuff that makes you a bit afraid of accidentally getting caught showing. The rest of the game is presentable enough with rape scenes turned off.
Okay, I guess that is all. Basically, this game didn't leave a big impression on me and it got to be annoying, but there is still enough game and difficulty for it to be a great RPG to return to occasionally.
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