Monark is an upcoming RPG from Japanese developer FuRyu. Boasting talented individuals who previously worked at Atlus on the Shin Megami Tensei games, there's plenty of reason to believe that this latest project is worth keeping an eye on.
We were lucky enough to get an interview with Fuyuki Hayashi, who's behind the planning, scenario, and direction of Monark. We asked Hayashi-san about the game, its characters, and the inspiration behind it.
Push Square: To start with, can you give us a brief overview of what Monark is all about?
Fuyuki Hayashi: This is a new school RPG where "you" fight against the irrational, using ego and madness as your weapons.
The game features 4 companions with distinct egos. Which you choose and how you respond to the in-game “Ego Analysis” affects the story and battle system, allowing each player to have a unique gaming experience.
Immediately, Monark has quite a striking art style. How important do you think it is for RPGs like Monark to make a memorable first impression?
We produce titles where the concepts we come up with are the selling points of those titles. That is why we pride ourselves on visuals that intuitively convey the feelings behind those concepts. If you can make it so that all it takes is a glance to understand the feeling behind the concept a game is based on, then you can appeal directly to the people who would truly want to play that game.
Monark's got a tactical, turn based combat system. Can you tell us a bit more about it?
As the word “Monarch,” upon which the title of the game was based suggests, the game uses a system intended to make you feel in control.
The visual design of the characters in this title is based on a motif of "chess pieces" with the main character as the "king,” and there are even parts of the game where players can battle more effectively by taking positioning into consideration.
Also, there is no "MP" in this game. There is only something called a “MAD” gauge for players to manage during battles.
Are there any other RPGs that inspired Monark's battle system?
A game called “LOSTDIMENSION,” which was also created by FuRyu, inspired the battle system.
Having strong characters is so important to modern RPGs. Memorable characters can inspire fans to make art or cosplay, for example. Can you tell us a bit more about the party members in Monark?
Nozomi Hinata is a character with the motif of a knight from a chess set.
Her mentality is that of a knight, which explains why she carries a shield and tries her best to protect "you" or "something" with her life.
I have heard that the Chinese character for “Nozomi” is based on an image of someone standing on their tiptoes and gazing at the moon.
And just like the background of her name, she too stands on her tiptoes, reaching, and sometimes pushing herself too far.
If, during the time you spend with her as she stays by your side trying to protect you... If, you are able to bring her to her "tiptoes"... If, you can get to know the "real" her...
I'm sure you will be left with a completely different impression of who she is.
Shinya Yuda’s motif is that of a “queen” from a chess set.
Despite this "queen" motif and his androgynous appearance, Shinya prefers to be referred to as “he”.
In other words, in reality Shinya is not actually “her”. Those of you who may have been concerned about this, please look forward to spending time with “him”.
His nature as well as his backstory are centred around the word "faith”.
The question is, how will that "faith" in someone or something change as the story unfolds?
You may be able to guess, if you pay close attention to the Japanese meaning behind how the name Yuda is pronounced.
Ryotaro Date’s motif is that of a rook.
The way he lives his life, following his ego and going straight down his own path, is truly “rook-like”.
He’s what you might call, “a man’s man”.
Ryotaro is a Pactbearer, and his nature as well as his backstory are built around a theme of "gluttony”.
The definition of "gluttony" in "Monark" is "the will or desire to absorb and grow”.
As for the reason for his "gluttony" and what he is trying to “overcome” with his power?
Well, that will become clear if he is can stay true to his destiny.
Kokoro Surugadai’s motif is that of a “bishop”.
Bishops are pieces that move in a slanted, diagonal pattern across the chess board.
Her behaviour and mentality are also slanted or distorted (when compared to the normal or average world).
She is a Pactbearer whose nature and backstory follow a theme built around the word "sloth”.
The definition of "sloth" in terms of “Monark” is "the will or desire to be wise and stable”.
One could interpret that to mean that being wise leads to feelings of resignation, which then leads to laziness.
As for the reason for the “sloth” and the feelings of resignation...
Well, that will become clear if she is able to stay true to her destiny.
Do you have a favourite character in the game?
I like them all, so I can’t choose just one.
Continuing with characters, how do you strengthen your party in Monark? Are there skill trees, and can you develop unique styles of play at all?
You become stronger by making use of a resource called “SPRIT”. “SPRIT” can be collected through combat and via exploration. You can use “SPRIT” to unlock each character’s skill tree. As for levels, they increase as more of a skill tree is unlocked.
Only the demon avatar (servant) of the player’s ego can become stronger through the use of equipment obtained by defeating enemy demons.
Can you tell us more about Monark's story? It seems quite dark based on what we've seen. Would you say this is a more "mature" RPG?
There are 4 companions, and depending on which you choose, the story changes.
The story takes place in a school where an anomaly is occurring due to a connection with the spirit world. People will die, go insane, and there will be lots of bitter and dark developments.
Also, this story has been created with a theme based upon the human ego. I believe that the ego is the very essence of a person's pure and true heart. In this title, ego collides with ego in an unfolding story that includes dirty and shameful things.
I think this content is best suited for a mature audience who is interested in the mental health and spiritual aspects of the story.
Are there any particular works or themes that inspired Monark's world and story?
I guess I would say "Shin Megami Tensei if...”, "The Weather Child (movie)”, "Drakengard”, and the visual novel series "Tsukihime”.
Also, the environment created by the current pandemic was one of the influences on the theme of persevering in an irrational world.
This might be a difficult question to answer, but if you could describe Monark with just one phrase, what would it be?
Perhaps, “A story about defying the irrational.”
Have you been keeping up with MONARK? Embrace your own ego in the comments section below.
Thanks to Fuyuki Hayashi for taking the time to answer our questions. Special thanks to Kerry Barrett and the team at NIS America for making this interview possible.