(Review contributed by Misya McLachlan)
Moco Moco Friends is an adorable and child friendly adventure style RPG developed by Racjin and published by Aksys Games. This cuddly game is due for release on November 17th on the Nintendo 3DS with options for physical or digital copy, physical copies can be ordered from several online shops for those who prefer to buy online and it's worth a shot to check out the Moco Moco Friends official page for more purchasing information. For anyone wondering what this game is like I can say for certain that it holds some similarity to the long running Pokemon series as well as a few other games but it is still rather unique due to its silly and whimsical tone. Many aspects of the game make it more girly than other similar titles, the first time I noticed this was during the introduction to the character's use of a compact where I was instantly reminded of a few magical girl anime series but it didn't help that the many of the characters look like magical girls themselves.
Moco Moco Friends begins when it's young heroine Moco returns to her home as a plushkin master after her first challenge of graduating from the Plushkin Magic School. Immediately upon Moco's return the famous plushkin master she has been studying under begins giving her tasks in order to test her skills as a new plushkin master. Somehow moco manages to get through her many difficult tasks despite being a glutunous and air headed young girl but it helps that Neko is there to keep her in line even if he is just a stuffed cat head on a stick. Moco quickly becomes the official plushkin master for her town after proving her skills to the famous plushkin master Michiru and continues to work towards her goal of becoming one of the best plushkin masters in the world through completing quests and collecting plushkins to use in battle (I’ll bet that sounds familiar). As Moco works hard to raise her Plushkin master level she encounters many difficult trials such as crazed plushkins and an old rival from her days in the Plushkin Magic School, but she also reunites with some old friends who help her along the way. Even the many side characters have so much to contribute to the plot of the game as they continue to help the young heroine on her quest to become the very best.
As you continue through the game and collect more of the adorable yet fierce plushkins the similarities some of them have to certain pokemon will become more obvious, it was actually very obvious with the first one Moco forms a contract with but it's a little further in the game that more of them are that way. After each battle with a plushkin there is a small chance they will ask to form a contract, the chances of them requesting a contract can be increased by using a heart item. If you already have 4 plushkins in your team any new ones that form a contract with Moco will stand by in town. While you can carry 4 plushkin into a dungeon with you only 3 can be used in battle at one time, the fourth is for switching out with another on the team if they are injured or knocked out. There are many different plushkins but only 5 elements in which each plushkin could fall under, as usual if you hit an enemy with the element that it is weak against it will take more damage and the same goes for an enemy hit against one of your plushkins. Each plushkin will have a unique list of skills that match their element, as you level them up more of their skills can be unlocked and you can switch out the set of skills they use in battle limited to 4 skills. Since the item skill is used by the main character during the battles command phase you can heal or use items before having your accompanying plushkins attack.
Plushkins can be leveled up in town too by using the plushkin house, at the plushkin house you can train your plushkins which sacrifices another of your plushkins to the one you want to level up. Training can give a plushkin more than one level depending on the difference in level between the plushkin being trained and the plushkin being used as the training partner. A few other features of the plushkin house are formation which lets you switch or rearange your plushkins and bloom which lets you unlock more abilities, some features of the Plushkin house are only unlockable through quests. In the town there is also a sewing machine used for item creation and a garden which can be used to plant and harvest materials. The sewing machine can be unlocked by completing a mandatory item quest very early in the game. One of the first items with can be created after the sewing machine is completed is a waffle which is used for healing, it is silly and entertaining how synthesis works in many RPGs but I think this is one of the most ridiculous. Next is the garden which is pretty straight forward and simple, you simply plant seeds and they will grow into useful materials needed for item creation at the sewing machine. With a few options in the game for leveling up plushkins and unlocking their skills it is easy to prepare quickly for more difficult levels in the dungeons but beware of getting too confident.
Although there is so much to learn in the game it isn’t always so serious, by adding in the main character’s air headed antics and the cute anime-like art style the game is given a bit of a silly and light-hearted tone through much of the game. The art for the dungeons is simple but could easily remind anyone of other JRPGs, they are particularly reminiscent of many old PS2 titles. The soundtrack is also kept simple but adds greatly to the tone of the game, the music for the dungeons helps keep harmony between the main character’s silly behaviors and the great urgency of some of the far more serious quests. There isn’t very much variety in the entire soundtrack, this is a problem which I am sure many gamers have noticed in many titles released within the past two years. The lack of variety in this game’s soundtrack does not particularly take away from the gameplay as a whole as it does with many other games.
While Moco Moco Friends has some similarities to other games it is still a very fun and unique game with a perfect mix between innocent humor and serious quests. With it’s fun and sometimes strange cast of cute little plushy monsters I highly recommend this game to fans of the Pokemon series. For gamers who aren’t fans of Pokemon this game can be just as great as it has more straight forward and specific quests with a faster paced battle system. As a gamer with more interest in JRPG series I can recommend Moco Moco Friends to JRPG fans who prefer a more innocent game with some humor thrown in.
SCORE – 80%
This review is based on a digital copy of Moco Moco Friends on the Nintendo 3DS provided by Aksys Games. It was reviewed using the Nintendo 2DS.