Moco Moco Friends - Review  

I'm Going To Punch the Stuffing Outta You!
by Sam Wachter

Very Easy
Less than 20 Hours
+ Fantastic localization
+ Great for RPG newcomers
+ Interesting premise and concept
- Too simple
- Repetitive quests
- Combat needs a bit more depth
Click here for scoring definitions 

   Most RPGs follow a particular formula: become the one, go on a grand journey, and save the world. There are not too many role-playing games that go beyond this concept, which is quite a shame. Racjin and Nippon Columbia have attempted to break this mold with a game geared towards younger audiences in the form of Moco Moco Friends. What is Moco Moco Friends? Well, it might be one of the most loco games I've ever had the pleasure of reviewing.

   Moco Moco Friends begins with Moco, a young witch who has recently graduated from school. Under the guidance of her mistress, Michiru, Moco is tasked with helping the citizens of her world with odd jobs. Using Dreamtropy, she has the power to befriend Plushkin, adorable stuffed creatures with unique abilities. By forging a contract with these little guys, Moco can protect the realm from the forces of the Dark Vortex. Along the way, she meets her fellow classmates, who in turn help her on this journey to ensure that their world doesn't fall into the hands of darkness, and stays on the path toward the light. Oh, and to find the Stella Medal, because reasons.

   While the story of light versus dark is nothing new, it's oddly not the core focus of Moco Moco Friends. Since the game is geared towards much younger audiences, the story is approached in a simplistic, yet engaging, way. The focal point of the game is more about the importance of friendship, learning about people's differences, and how to co-operate with one another. These messages are frequently ingrained in Moco Moco Friends' story, but aren't shoved in the player's face to the point where it becomes annoying. This positive tone feels so refreshing, and the overall moral that the game harnesses is truly something special given the audience that it is geared towards.

Punching the stuffing out of cute monsters makes me sad. Punching the stuffing out of cute monsters makes me sad.

   Although this message may seem hokey to some, it's quite valuable in the game, and Aksys Games' localization does a great job of displaying it. While the characters in Moco Moco Friends seem downright nuts at times, it's part of the game's charm. The dialogue is both as crazy as it is inspirational, and while the overarching story is very simple, it's also incredibly accessible for younger audiences with its Saturday Morning Cartoon vibe. Overall, this might be one of Aksys Games' crazier localization projects, and that really is for the better s it takes these tired tropes and morals and really shakes them up into some incredibly fun dialogue.

   Since this game is geared towards younger audiences, combat in Moco Moco Friends is a fairly straightforward turn-based affair. As Moco forges contracts with more Plushkin, she can send them out into battles. Similar to that of Pokémon, each Plushkin has an elemental type that is it both strong against and weak towards, though this does not go as deep as the game it's modeled after. Each action corresponds to a button on the D-pad, and like Pokémon, Plushkin can only learn up to four moves. Moco can only have three Plushkin out at a time, with a fourth that sits in reserve and also collect experience from the battle. The battle system in Moco Moco Friends is fairly straightforward, though due to how easy the game is, this system is quite flawed. While exploiting elemental weaknesses can be a key to victory, bashing enemies over the head also works as an effective strategy, which calls into question as to why the developers decided to include this at all.

   In fact, despite being geared towards younger audiences, Moco Moco Friends' greatest flaw is that it's too easy of a game. There's no real strategy to combat, and while there's plenty of Plushkin to collect, there's no real incentive to train them because any combination seems to do the job just fine. For veteran RPGamers, there's not enough to the battle system to keep it fresh or engaging, while for younger, more inexperienced RPGamers, there's enough simplicity to the system, but not enough depth to stand apart from series such as Pokémon. Moreover, recruiting new Plushkin can be quite the challenge, as it's often a much more random occurrence than it should be.

Moco! Get it together! Moco! Get it together!

   Outside of combat, the core gameplay of Moco Moco Friends is focused on delving into dungeons to fetch items for people and Plushkin in town. Whether finding artefacts, ingredients, crafting materials or even new friends, a lot of the dungeon-diving is a fairly straightforward process. Each dungeon has three floors, with the top floor dominated by a boss fight. While this formula never changes, there are lots of items to collect and plushies to battle in each dungeon, and it feels just right. Even the pacing of battles and story content feels perfectly on the level, never feeling bloated.

   Speaking of other elements that don't feel bloated, Moco Moco Friends has a great crafting system that young audiences can definitely sink their teeth into. In the town there's a garden where Moco can plant seeds that she finds in the dungeons to create crafting items. She can also put Plushkin to work to harvest more resources. Using the sewing station, Moco can craft items to help evolve Plushkin, create awaken items to max out a put a Plushkin's level, create equipment, or healing items. This system is quite intuitive, and considering the plethora of ingredients to collect in the dungeons, Moco can craft to her heart's content.

   In terms of presentation, Moco Moco Friends is insanely bright, bursting with every colour of the rainbow. The visuals vary in quality, as the graphics in battle often look much cleaner than outside of it. Outside of battle, the visuals feel a bit on the small side, meaning a lot of the characters and monsters lack detail or look blurry from a distance. Still, the game offers a very inviting atmosphere, especially in terms of its soundtrack, which is quite charming and fitting the overall tone of the game. The game also only has Japanese audio, which for most people should suffice, though since this is geared towards a younger audience, an English voice track would have been welcome.

   For all of Moco Moco Friends' faults, I absolutely loved this little game. I never felt frustrated or bored, and it did something to me that a lot of games just don't do — put a smile on my face. Moco Moco Friends shines in a way that many games do not with its completely genuine approach to storytelling, and I loved it for that alone. While it may not be the most complex RPG I've played, it has a ton of heart, and sometimes that can go a long way.

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