Moco Moco Friends Review: Cute and Cuddly
It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who's followed my writing that I would be reviewing a game like this. I've made my love of monster battling RPGs quite well known with my articles about the Pokémon series here on Kulture Shocked. When it came to my attention that a new monster battling RPG was coming to the 3DS, I knew that I had to play it. With no Pokémon game releasing in 2015, it appeared that Aksys Games had picked the perfect time to released Moco Moco Friends. It will certainly see its fair share of comparisons to Nintendo's juggernaut RPG franchise, but perhaps Moco Moco Friends can do enough different to stand on its own.
Moco Moco Friends revolves around the story of Moco, a young girl fresh out of Plushkin Magic School. Despite her low grades and nonchalant attitude toward school, she was able to become an apprentice under the Michiru, a renowned Plushkin Master from Konpei Tower. With her love of Plushkins and a great master, Moco is ready to set out and become the greatest Plushkin Master in all of Dreamtopia.
If any of the previous paragraph sounds familiar then you shouldn't be surprised. Moco Moco Friends' story does take some cues from the insanely popular Pokémon franchise. Moco Moco Friends seems like it would follow much of the Pokémon formula, but it forgoes the idea of a silent protagonist in favor of the more chatty Moco. While Moco is something of a savant when it comes to Plushkins, she is a bit dull in other respects. Her forgetfulness comes off as a way to give information to the player in the first few hours of the game, but as you progress it quickly loses its charm. After several hours with the game, I found myself growing tired of Moco's bubbly personality and wishing I had been playing as Michiru or any of the other characters.
After my previous comments regarding the similarities to Pokémon, one would assume that the gameplay would be a cut and paste of that series, but thankfully that isn't the case. Moco Moco Friends does feature a turn based battle system, but instead chooses to take a page from theShin Megami Tensei series and offers players a three Plushkin team as opposed to Pokemon's one on one battles. These battles do play out with a "rock, paper, scissor" style six different elements including fire, water, nature, and so on. This ends upplaying out a bit more like a mixture between the aforementioned franchises, and actually finds a good balance between the two styles.
This brings us to the act of befriending Plushkins in the wild. In an odd move, recruiting new Plushkins appears to be a random occurrence. Unlike Pokémon, you are unable to simply choose which Plushkin you want to tame. Instead at the end of a battle, one of the Plushkins may stand up and attempt to come with you. This can cause the player some frustration, since if you want to recruit a specific Plushkin you may need to spend more time than you'd like grinding battles in order to recruit it. This system left me scratching my head, and I feel it leaves a blemish on an otherwise solid battle system.
Much of your time in Moco Moco Friends will be spent navigating your way through the game's dungeons and Konpei Tower. Acting as a hub world, the tower is your town and gives you access to everything you'll need during Moco's adventure. The inhabitants of the tower, the Gurumin and Michiru, will also give you various tasks to complete. Some of these tasks will help you in moving the plot forward while others are simple fetch quests that have you revisit previous areas. The game's dungeons are fairly short, so many of these sidequests can be completed in short order and can offer the player more chances to obtain additional Plushkins and items for the game's crafting system.
One glance at the cover art for Moco Moco Friends may lead you to believe that it was designed with the female audience in mind. The game features a very bright palette and offers up many bright colors and visuals to go along with this ascetic. Each of the characters and Plushkins in the game feature a 3D model, which look quite good for a 3DS game. The detail on the Plushkins in particular looks great, as their stitching gives them the feel of being an actual stuffed toy. This isn't as noticeable in the early game, as many of the early Plushkins share a similar look. However, as the player makes their way through the game, the Plushkins will begins to become more varied and offer up some more unique designs.
One of the biggest surprises in Moco Moco Friends was undoubtedly the musical package. Each of the game's songs are very well composed, and songs like the game's battle theme are quite catchy. While the music turned out to be a highlight of the game for me, my issue with the audio package was the repetitive voice over.
The game doesn't feature a lot of voice acting. Many of the lines are repeated ad nauseum during the game's story scenes. I was very tempted to turn down my audio during these moments, not because the voice over was still in its native Japanese, but instead because I found Moco's voice to be very grating. The repetitive voice over simply isn't enough to drag down the audio package as a whole to really bring down my opinion of the game. However, with the game's small amount of voice over work, it feels like it simply should have been left out so that players could enjoy game's musical score.
The biggest issue with Moco Moco Friends is its inability to nail down its target audience. At first glance, the game appears to marketed at young girls with its packaging and premise. However, digging into the game shows that its audience appears to be more of a teenage or young adult crowd. Its mixture of cute graphics with concepts from games like Pokémon and the core Shin Megami Tensei series leads to an oddly enjoyable amalgamation, particularly if you're into monster battling RPGs. Despite my issues with the game, Moco Moco Friends offers up an enjoyable experience for newcomers to the genre and seasoned veterans alike. If you enjoy games like Pokémon or Shin Megami Tensei and are looking for an easier and more light hearted adventure, then look not further than Moco Moco Friends.