Monkey Puncher is a bizarre animal-based strategy game developed by Atelier Double/Taito and published by Event Horizon Software in the year 2000. In it you must train a monkey to become a successful boxer by showing him how to train, by feeding him food, and by praising him when he does good. You don’t actually control the monkey itself, but instead you devise a plan to increase its statistics in the hope that it’ll win matches.
At the start of the game you choose whether you want a male (Kenta) or female (Sumire) main character and the one you don’t choose is then kidnapped in the story and becomes the object of your efforts to free.
The game is divided into days and on the first day you’re given a monkey called Freddy to train. At first Freddy is unfamiliar with you and is easily distracted (and will sometimes even bite you), but by feeding it food it should then become more friendly to you. You must then show it how to train and eventually it will start imitating you. You can train it by skipping, using a punch bag, doing sit-ups, running, and going shopping. These activities will increase the monkey’s speed, power, strength, stamina and knowledge respectively.
Each activity in the game takes half a day and every three days your monkey must enter a Monkey Boxing League fight. Before sending your monkey out to fight you must choose between three different opponents, at least one of which will be ranked higher than your monkey. The higher-ranked your opponent monkey is, the more money you earn by defeating it. If your opponent’s monkey is ranked higher than yours then beating it will increase your monkey’s rank. Conversely, if you lose to a lower-ranked monkey then the player’s monkey will lose a rank.
While you don’t have direct control over the monkey during matches you can advise it which strategy to use and you can also can feed it certain items between matches to keep its energy levels up. Boxing matches are won either by a count or by knock-out. If neither monkey manages to knock the other one out then the winner is decided by how much health each monkey has afterwards.
The ultimate aim of the game is advance through the Monkey Boxing Leagues in order to confront the evil Saru Gang (a group of monkey gangsters) and rescue your kidnapped sibling.
You can also breed your monkey and create new monkey fighters which you can then train up. The idea is that you ‘date’ your existing monkey at a ‘dating shop’ – or with one owned by a friend (via link-up cable) – and it will be replaced by a new monkey. The maximum stats for this new monkey will be higher or lower then your previous monkey, depending on the monkey it is paired with.
Monkey Puncher is weird but original game. It’s fun to play and will appeal to anyone who likes cute animal games. Graphically, Monkey Puncher is good, and the training mini games are rhythm-based and easy enough to get to grips with. The soundtrack is pretty good too.
Monkey Puncher is one of those leftfield Japanese games that will delight some people while turning-off others. Personally, I enjoyed playing it. It’s simple, funny, and compelling.