Remembering ‘Monogatari’ Through ‘Pukupuku’

This article was originally posted on OTAQUEST, 30/8/2018.

When it comes to recent trends, I’m honestly surprised there hasn’t been a full-fledged Monogatari mobile game already. I mean, it already has tons of excellent original music that could be used for a rhythm game, and it has enough fights in it to do some kind of turn-based, Fate/Grand Order-esque mobile RPG, but here we are, almost 10 years after the initial airing of Bakemonogatari, and we finally have one. What we got may not have been exactly what any of us expected, but maybe that’s okay.

If I’m totally real with myself, I’m honestly thankful that it’s not a rhythm game or a mobile RPG. We’ve got far too many of them – and I play far too many of them – so when I discovered the latest application was going to be a puzzle game, it was refreshing news, to say the least. As the name suggests, Monogatari Pukupuku (sometimes referred to as Monogatari Puc Puc) is a collaboration between Nisio Isin’s original creation and the long-running match-three puzzle game, which is quite a break from the mold in terms of the current mobile game landscape. But we are talking about a Monogatari game, after all – it never plays by the rules.

Bringing in the already refined gameplay of Pukupuku was perhaps a genius move by the developers, as it provides the game with an already solid foundation upon which they can add some Monogatari flair. In Pukupuku, you attempt to match the same types of ‘pukus’ to clear the board, earn a higher score, ramp up your combo and activate the abilities of your chosen deck of cards, which all have different activation conditions and different abilities once they’re activated.

Pukupuku has already collaborated with every brand under the sun, from Yo-kai Watch to Disney (yes, just in general), and that just proves how reliably entertaining the gameplay can be. It’s incredibly addictive as you search for the most insane combos possible and chain your deck’s abilities together to clear the entire playing field at once, but it’s also incredibly accessible, owing to a core gameplay loop that almost anyone can get after a couple of rounds.

But that’s not to say that the gameplay is easy – rather, after a few levels in Monogatari Pukupuku, I found myself enthralled by clearing the special challenges attached to each level, such as getting a high score or activating abilities of your deck multiple times; after clearing which you can get special ‘ema’ card featuring iconic moments from the series. In this sense, for someone who just wants to clear the stages the gameplay is satisfying enough, but it’s for a completionist that the game becomes truly rewarding.

Beyond Pukupuku itself, however, the game offers a cathartic experience for Monogatari fans, especially those who have been around for a while. The structure of the game is that of series of stages linked together by iconic moments in the series that you can play through, unlocking dialogue, art and movies as you go. This makes it feel like a trip down memory lane as you relive some of your favorite moments in a different form. That being said, it’s certainly not something someone new to the series could get behind, since the presentation of its story is wholly inferior to that of the light novels or anime, but for a longtime fan of the series it’s perfect – and I felt myself smiling at all the same jokes and conversations, all over again.

With that being said, perhaps this is the perfect time to remember Monogatari. This year we’re going to see the final mainline installment in the Monogatari series get animated with Zokuowarimonogatari, headed up once more by the genius that is Akiyuki Shinbou, which will effectively spell the end of what has been a decade of Monogatari in anime – and what a decade it’s been. We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve fallen in love with Araragi and his strange, dysfunctional harem. Perhaps it time we celebrate that. Monogatari Pukupuku is available for download now for iOS and Android devices.

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