Bright, colourful, and cuteness overload. Moco Moco Friends, developed by Racjin Co., Ltd. under the Nippon Columbia license, was localized and published in North America by Aksys Games on November 17th. With a unique spin on the classic RPG element that you could only expect out of Japanese game, Moco’s journey to become the next Plushkin Master is an interesting experience.
The game begins with the main character Moco just barely graduating from the Plushkin Academy. For some special reason, the current Plushkin Master has taken a fancy to Moco (likely because they can related... they’re both over-the-top airheads). You embark on a quest to bond with various Plushkin, stop evil vortexes, and just have a great adventure in general as you work towards the role of Plushkin Master.
Now, you may be thinking “you’ve said Plushkin several times now. There’s masters, academies... Just what is a Plushkin?” Great question, stranger. A Plushkin is stuffed animal that lives out in the wild. They’re greatly affected by Dreamtopy (happy/positive energy) and Tormentropy (negative energy). Those with magical powers (witches, who can then become Plushkin Masters) generate all sorts of Dreamtropy, and can use it to form contracts and bonds with Plushkin. Masters gather Plushkin, akin to Pokemon Trainers catching wild Pokemon.
Unique Battle System
Moco Moco Friends, on the surface, plays like a relatively normal JRPG. Quests with tower/dungeons, random battles, and a standard levelling system. The uniqueness lies within the battle itself. As you embark on each quest, you pick a party from your library of Plushkin. Each Pushkin has an elemental type (earth, water, and fire work like rock-paper-scissors, while dark and light are super-effective against each other). Once the battle begins, you send out three of your Plushkin. Since Plushkin feed on the Dreamtropy made by Moco, they have a shared pool of Magic Power. Each technique has a cost that pulls from the pool. Each turn restores a bit of Magic Power, so you better make sure not to use it all turn. It adds a nice level of strategy on how to handle the battles and manage your Magic consumption.
After each battle, there is a chance to form a contract with the Plushkin you have defeated... How could you not form a bond with those cuties?
This is something that I wasn’t expecting in a JRPG. Daily gifts are something that you see in many free-to-play mobile games as a tactic to keep you around to possible drop another dime on those jewels/crystals/coins. Well this time, when I flip the game on in the morning for my daily dose of in-game items, I don’t feel guilty.
The design style, the little touches? They all add up.
The game is bright and vivid. The design of each Plushkin is fun and unique. Even when they take damage, some of their seams split a little and their stuffing pokes out. It’s so cute, yet so sad. Poor guys. Even Moco’s design is cute, with her big iconic hat, and a talking magic kitten rod.
All of this is slightly undone by the fact that the 3DS can’t handle the resolution that this game attempts to command. There were several instances were I struggled to read some of the fonts, and pixelation hinders some of the cute designs.
I wouldn’t have been surprised if our game started out with Moco running late to school with a piece of toast in her mouth.
Moco is the classic airhead, didn’t pay attention in class, needs everything explained to her multiple times. Michiru, the Plushkin Master, is a narcissistic genius-type. Even the little Gurumin (helpers around the plaza) have catchphrases.
While it doesn’t fully detract from the game, it doesn’t help develop the characters or further the story.
Extremely Long Tutorial
Now, I know that this game is aimed at a younger audience. Then again, so was Pokemon. I just can’t excuse a tutorial that takes me literally a couple hours to get through for a game that has an, albeit unique but, simple gameplay. This is a situation where the extended dialogue makes an already necessarily lengthy tutorial almost unbearable.
I certainly won’t deny that this game has some odd quirks (quirks that are common among cutesy Japanese games, mind you), it’s still a solid RPG. It’s a nice change of pace from all of the more serious stories being told in JRPGs.
With an assortment of collectible Plushkin, an ensemble of interesting characters, all with unique designs, Moco Moco Friends is the light-hearted game that can change your mood in a heartbeat.
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Evan Chambers is a fellow video game connoisseur (specializing in the Nintendo variety). He occasionally writes other articles and reviews that you can find here, and sometimes he tries to Twitter, at @EvanChambers.