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[Rant] Is the Monkey Paw Kickstarter worth it?

Yesterday Monkey Paw and Gaijnworks revealed their Kickstarter intentions.  They want $500,000 to fund a hard copy of the PSP JRPG, Class of Heroes 2. The game itself is already in translation with a plan to release digitally on PSN as a PSP and PS3 title.  This Kickstarter will not affect the planned distribution of the game on PSN, however it will benefit the localization of the title.


That’s the project in a nutshell.

Interest seems very mixed, even a few indie developers have been questioning the move.  There are a lot of reasons for this.

The fact that it’s kickstarting a hard copy of a game on a system that’s successor has abandoned backwards compatibility is a legitimate claim.  That alone doesn’t make much sense.  Monkey Paw has already confirmed that they won’t be packaging digital codes alongside this, so that leaves the question as to why you would want a hard copy over a digital one?

This isn’t a Kickstarter for the practical. This is one to prove if people in the industry care about the effort in quality that comes from the elaborate physical distribution of a product anymore.  That’s actually pretty important for Monkey Paw right now.  This has been a digital distribution only company since it’s inception.  Class of Heroes 2 will also be their first localization as a company.

Monkey Paw’s deal with Gaijinworks’ Vic Ireland opened them up to a great many things, but they aren’t a localization company.  Not yet at least.  They have developed games like Burger Time World Tour and Ante Up.  That’s all there really is to the company besides their partnerships to re-release PSOne Classics and Imports.

This is a deal to move the company in to the ranks of Xseed Games and Atlus. To give them a chance to become not just a localization company, but a localization company that can put enough care in to their products.

Is that worth funding though?

Well, that’s actually a really tough question to answer.  Class of Heroes had plenty of mixed reactions upon it’s release here in the west.  Not many reviewed it and the ones who did ran the gambit of review scores.  To assume class of Heroes 2 will do the same is a rational fear.  What makes it worse is the somewhat wonky way of presenting all of this.  Starting at the low price of $59, you will get a hard copy of the game with all the fancy fixings Vic Ireland is known to offer through a limited edition print.

Lots of people are hung up on this and it is understandable.  While spending $60 on a video game isn’t unheard of these days, the barriers they have erected around it are a bit tall. Robert Boyd postured that $5-15 is the sweet spot and that a digital copy of the game should be offered to those who support this.  I’d agree that a digital option is absolutely reasonable for those who want to hit $40. The $5-15 is absurd though as Class of Heroes was $39.99 last week on PSN.  Fortunately, Atlus is smart enough to price drop it down to $14.99 in the wake of all this new press on the series.

So, I’d argue $40 should net a digital copy of the game.  I’m not sure I know how they would do that however as there is no game to freely distribute or codes being prepared to give out until long after this Kickstarter is over.  It’s not as if they control the distribution method of the digital release in the same way that the Guncraft people will so the costs incurred for the digital distribution platform might be a factor in doing so (especially since this is releasing in Europe and North America).

From this logic, it is understandable why a game like this is only being offered in this way.  It does raise the question of whether or not to fund this project though.  To make something better seems to be Monkey Paw’s response.  In discussing this on their Kickstarter, they have said that “support will allow us to make the games even better than they are, adding features like extra saves and better controls, smoothing out the user interface experience, and adding perks.” Vic Ireland has a proven track record with localizing games, so I’m not about to question if he could add some improvements to these games.

Not stopping with only tweaking the game, Monkey Paw fully plans to license the series itself which has continued with quite a few more games for the PS3, PSP and 3DS.  Thinking of this as an investment in to some future titles might be the best way to look at this.

“The campaign will be a test for fan power,” the company said on it’s twitter account, and I’m one to believe that.  This is a Kickstarter to test fan investment in Monkey Paw’s localization of JRPGs.  This is the first step to see if Monkey Paw can grow in to the next Atlus.  If it fails, there will be a question as to whether the market is interested in some of these lower tier JRPGs.  There has been a question recently as to whether or not the high end JRPGs should come over with the titles in the Operation Rainfall initiative.

While I’m not sure this Kickstarter can answer that question, I’d argue that it’s an interesting one to ask.  Double Fine raised over double the amount for their project because people wanted to see something big from the Adventure genre.  I doubt Monkey Paw has that ability with this title.  Funding this however will bring support to getting more JRPGs out in the west. That’s what Monkey Paw is trying to achieve.

It’s an interesting idea with a terrible reveal unfortunately.  Within a day of the Kickstarter reveal, the dungeon crawler Unchained Blades was announced for PSN and 3DS from Xseed.  After a year devoid of RPGs, this year is shaping up to be one of the better ones in this generation.  Where that leaves this $500,000 investment is up in the air.

Class of Heroes shouldn’t be an obscure series.  This franchise spans multiple consoles and is the reason why Acquire was allowed to create the most recent Wizardry.  It is pretty hardcore, but it should at least garner a bit more attention in the west.  It just needs a chance.  Whether the oddly scaled bevvy of goodies acquired through this Kickstarter is worth this really is up to you.  This game is coming either way.  The mark it leaves upon release however will be determined by those who wanted more.

Click here to check out the Class of Heroes 2 Kickstarter page

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