|All for one dolla'|
Scratch that. They're actually quite a bit more expensive than that. Starter decks cost about 10 bucks and booster packs are another $4 apiece. If you want to get into a decent CCG, or stand a chance in any actual duels, you can usually expect to drop quite a chunk of change on all those cards.
Not so for Elemental Monster, an online CCG that quietly released on the PlayStation Network a couple of weeks ago. The title is a remake of a DS game that has somehow managed to fly completely under my (and I'm guessing your) radar until now.
Seeing as the core game cost a single dollar, I figured I had to at least check the title out. If nothing else, I wanted to see what the catch was.
I thought that, at only a dollar, there was no way this game would be very good, right? Or, if nothing else, I figured that dollar would only get me a few cards and a handful of matches, with the rest selling piece meal at a premium.
I was wrong on both counts.
As it turns out, you can actually enjoy the entirety of Elemental Monster for that initial single dollar. It's easier to spend some cash here and there to access more cards and certain modes more easily, but that's not a necessity.
The game proper comes with a single player campaign featuring 50 matches. The story revolves around your quest to save the world from the Demon King, but that's really just a loosely connected series of events used to tie all those matches together. What you're trying to do here is unlock new cards, and doing so is as easy as playing the game.
After the first few stages of the tutorial, you'll start earning a new card or two for every victory. The first two decks of 60 cards (total) is available here, and you can grind all of those missions to get any cards you missed out on the first time through.
|Like this, but in English|
If you take your game online, you can play Elemental Monster in regular tournaments or free play with your friends and strangers. Playing ranked matches costs "tickets," which your initial purchase nets 10 of. Tickets are sold through PSN in a tiered system that gets you 10 for a buck or up to 100 for $20. There are also six additional decks available to purchase ($5 a pop), each containing around 30 new cards.
But, like I said, you don't need to spend more than that initial dollar. All cards from those additional decks can be unlocked as rewards through free tournament play or ticketed ranked play. Even additional tickets can be won online, meaning that a patient player can have every card in the game and take part in all the ranked matches they want without spending another dime.
At this point, I probably sound more like a salesman than a games journo. But, the truth is, Elemental Monster offers a buttload of content at a ridiculous bargain, and that's just something you don't see popping up on the digital market all that often. There's even a full trophy list (Platinum included) for that dollar investment. In short: I really didn't expect what I got.
However, none of this would be worth a damn if Elemental Monster wasn't much fun to play. I've dived into quite a few card games in my day and, while EM doesn't offer the most complex system out there, what's available is simple enough to get into quickly and complex enough to have my brain whirring with possible strategies every time I get a new card.
The largest deck you can build is only six strong, but there's still a surprising amount of depth to be found here. A monster duel game, your deck will consist of various creatures and, if you choose, helpful items. Combat is the standard rock, paper, scissors variety, with several little tweaks thrown in to make it more complex than "blue overpowers red."
Most cards have standby abilities, which means they can be used to beef up whichever card is currently in combat, tone down your opponent's monster, do damage, alter battle and stats, etc.
Putting your cards into certain "formations" will also affect how they perform, as will unlockable gems that could be used to strengthen your entire deck.
Pretty quickly, you'll have a nice collection of cards and spend about as much time coming up with creative decks as you do actually playing them. The six card limit keeps things nice and simple but, like I said, the variety of cards, abilities and formations mean strategy enthusiasts will be able to sink their teeth in nice and deep.
In a time when many gamers bemoan a $15 downloadable title that "only lasts five hours," Elemental Monster provides some of the biggest bang for your (literal) buck. It doesn't hurt that it's a lot of fun to play, too.