By Justin Guillou / December 7th, 2015
|Title||Moco Moco Friends|
|Release Date||September 4, 2014|
|Age Rating||ESRB: E|
Here we have Moco Moco Friends; a nice contrast to Aksys’ previously released Code: Realize ~Guardian of Rebirth~ in that it is very lighthearted. Before any of you comment about the name, yes, I know what that word means in Spanish! Bizarre name aside, what we have here is a cute little monster-collecting dungeon crawler.
You play as a witch named Moco, and all she wants in life is to be able to become friends with all sorts of different kind of Plushkins. Plushkins are plushes that are alive and some can be extremely violent and fight each other. Of course, under the right circumstances, and with a bit of luck, you can recruit these beasts and have them go on an adventure with you. Moco recently graduated from the Plushkin Magic School and is now ready to take on quests in order to improve her rank so she can one day become a Charisma Master. Accomplishing this will grant her fame, magic and the ability to tame and befriend any Plushkin. There is a little more to the story later on as you meet other witches, but that is the main gist of it. In my opinion, the monster collecting and dungeon crawling is the real star of the show here. Many of you will say, “Oh, this sounds like Pokémon.” Well, sure, but not really. Online, I have seen some people compare it to Pokémon and say that it isn’t as good. The reason it is not “as good” or does as many things “right” as Pokémon is because Moco Moco Friends is its own thing. It’s not trying to be Pokémon, Yokai Watch or even Puzzle & Dragons, but, rather, borrows a couple ideas from them and turns it into something else. The game’s visual style is rather different, as it feels very Kirby’s Epic Yarn or Yoshi’s Wooly World-esque. It is bright and colorful with a large emphasis on yarn and sewing material. Sewing plays a pretty big part in the game, actually, but I’ll explain this in more detail later on.
The game plays out over the course of several days. You always start out at the central hub where you are given your main story mission. Then you are free to either pursue that or explore any of the available dungeons. Additionally, there are special dungeons for you to travel to that have limited availability but seem to appear and reappear at random. For example, there may be a dungeon that features a special Plushkin for you to encounter, but you only have 30 minutes to access it before it expires and is replaced with a different one. Each area has multiple difficulty levels that unlock as you clear them. Higher difficulty means the Plushkins you encounter will be at higher levels, but that also means more experience and better loot. Each dungeon (except the final one) has only three floors. Reach the end of a dungeon and you face a boss. While these dungeons are very short, I think it works well, as it allows you to enjoy the game in quick bursts, which is perfect for a handheld game. Unfortunately, the story itself is not paced as well. It goes on for nearly 30 chapters, and I think the story would have been just as good if it was five chapters shorter. Some of the chapters really felt like filler or the game trying way too hard to give you an excuse to go out into the dungeons. This is partly due to the fact that the characters can be extremely chatty, and dialogue scenes do not exactly move along quickly. On more than one occasion, I just wanted it to be over so I could get to some more dungeon crawling! The only problem I have with the dungeons is that they are all pretty much the same, just with different colors; like the forest, water and fire dungeons do not feature any unique obstacles that make them stand out.
Outside of dungeons, you can speak to NPCs to gain sidequests and you can plant or harvest seeds to gain materials to sew. These materials can also be found in dungeons. You can extract them from objects you find laying around by pointing your wand at it and holding the A button. Release it at the right time and you will gain an additional material such as a cloth, seed, or button. After planting a seed, it will begin to grow in real time; usually taking 10 to 20 minutes. You can send Plushkins to take care of the plants to shorten the time if you want. When you bring your materials to Sew, you can create items, equipment, and powerups for your Plushkins. It is kind of like the Atelier series, but simplified. Even though the items you end up getting are random, you get materials at a quick enough rate so that you can easily try again. I mentioned that the game has a Kirby’s Epic Yarn aesthetic. Well, the same can be said about the music. It is very cheerful and happy-go-lucky, yet fitting for someone who’s about to go on an epic adventure. You could put this music into a Kirby game and it would fit. I happen to really like Kirby music, so this OST is all right with me.
The actual designs of the Plushkin are absolutely adorable. They all look distinct and have really cool battle animations, though the names are weird. One of them is called Lard and it can evolve into BBQ because that makes a lot of sense! Each plushkin has an elemental type and the game has a basic weakness pattern. Fire beats leaf, water beats fire, wood beats water and light and dark are strong against each other. The battle plays out in a very simplistic turn based fashion. You can bring up to 4 plushkins with you in battle. Three will be fighting and one is a sub that can be switched out during your turn. They start out fairly easy but later on do get more challenging as enemies begin to use buffs and healing skills to their advantage. The battles have two speed settings which can be toggled with the Y button, however the default one is incredibly slow. Honestly, the ‘fast’ option should have been the default one. The Bosses are mainly normal enemies just beefed up with higher stats and more devastating attacks. After battle, a defeated Plushkin will walk up to you and you are given the option to allow it to join you. Say no and it walks away in frustration.
One rather amusing element to the fighting is that you literally beat the stuffing out of your opponents. Moco Moco actually features battle damage. As these monsters take damage, you can see their inner stuffing begin to come out. This actually allowed me to put the speed settings to somewhat good use by letting me slow it down to make attacks seem more dramatic. As for training your Plushkins, you can either grind in the dungeons, or have them fight each other to the death for experience! Well… the game says they give it their all during the fights so, to me, that was a cute way of the game implying there was a 1 vs 1 deathmatch with only one winner. And, in my mind, that sounds pretty badass!
For $40, Moco Moco Friends offers a fun, if somewhat simplistic, dungeon crawling experience. I spent about 25 hours playing this one before I saw the credits, and there is still plenty to do. The dungeon crawling mechanics are solid, the harvesting and sewing is surprisingly addicting and there is a fairly large variety of Plushkins for me to encounter. If you like dungeon crawlers or want one that is a bit more relaxing than usual, check out Moco Moco Friends. It is definitely a gem that will surprise you with how addictive it can be.
Review copy provided by publisher.
Aksys GamesMoco Moco FriendsNOT pokemonpluskinsRPG