Time to put your glad rags on, don your red caps and cool jackets and send your children out on a journey to battle cute little monsters in order to earn badges.
Wait a minute... this all sounds so familiar. No young buck I’m not talking about the ‘pocket monsters’ that you’ve grown to love and has become the unstoppable
Nintendo powerhouse oh no no no, I’m talking about the fun for all ages Moco Moco Friends for the Nintendo 3DS!
There are few games in any series that I would call an all out clone, because this game itself doesn’t feel like that at all. What veteran Japanese developer’s
Racjin have attempted to do is make Moco Moco Friends feel fresh, whilst taking an already existing theme and making it their own.
Within Moco Moco Friends you control ‘Plushkin’ which are seen as ‘cute but violent’ creatures who can only be controlled by
witches - see, we are already deviating from the Pokémon theme. Moco, the titular character has just graduated and yes ‘she wants to be the very best that no one
ever was’ (sing along now) and is on a quest to obtain the elusive Stella Medal whilst saving the world of Dreamtopia from the dark forces that threaten it,
helped by various friends along the way.
Despite the story within Moco Moco Friends being rather generic, it does offer a very appealing and cutesy presentation. Part of that is the
differentiation of the various Plushkins from their less-evolved predecessors that are literally akin to plush toys - imbuing the feeling that you are waging
war with your very own teddy bears. The cast itself consists of a dog who is afraid of going bald (aren’t we all) to a talking cat-head staff (I nearly threw
up in my mouth you monsters).
Every character within Moco Moco Friends has its own unique charm and is very upbeat - the kind that makes you wonder what you are doing with
your life - the in-game character models are also well animated, employing a stylistic cel-shading that has grown especially popular in Nintendo games recently.
Moco Moco Friends uses a straight Japanese to English text-translation so sometimes reading dialogue can be rather head scratching, at
least they left the voice-over as the original raw Japanese dialogue, instead of attempting a half assed English dub similar to the bad but hilarious work on
Resident Evil for the original PlayStation (yes I’m old).
Unfortunately Moco Moco Friends has little to no exploration - with the emphasis on being a dungeon-crawler for kids - the chapters consist
of an errand or object that’s found at the bottom of a particular dungeon - which can be accessed in a list format within the hub world - leading to an
experience that can quickly turn repetitive, almost seeming like filler at times.
Likewise most of the environments tend to repeat within Moco Moco Friends and the mazes aren’t all too complex either. You can definitely tell
that Moco Moco Friends is aimed at children and it shows with its simplicity, this is further emphasised with each of the dungeons rooms,
which are interlinked in a box-like-fashion with very little deviation or enemies visible on-screen.
Making contact with an enemy within a dungeon, triggers a combat sequence - similar to the old fashioned role-playing game’s made by Square Enix -
creating a very familiar experience in terms of mechanics. But what sells Moco Moco Friends though is said combat system.
Using very intuitive touch commands to perform each of your party members unique skills - which can range from offensive magic to healing powers - along
with their Plushkins - each deriving from a distinct element, similar to its stalwart Pokémon contemporary - which can counter one another in a
rock-paper-scissors like fashion by simply using the Nintendo 3DS’s D-pad and touch screen to perform battle commands.
The hub world within Moco Moco Friends likewise has lots of small and unique ways for you to rank up such as; item shops, a real-time
botanical garden - using seeds acquired from dungeons - and a fairly deep crafting station.
It’s a shame Moco Moco Friends tends not to mix it up much in terms of the various mechanics, steering the player into either levelling up
and earning new Plushkins or wasting time in its hub world which can grow old rather quickly - only the truly hardcore will even attempt to obtain all 120
Plushkins available, a feat definitely not for me.
I nor any reviewer that I can contemplating writing a review for Moco Moco Friends are its intended target audience. As stated previously
many times Moco Moco Friends is specifically aimed for a younger audience, and only when I enlisted the help of my 7 year old daughter (Hina)
did the true magic of Moco Moco Friends reveal itself, as she got lost within its colourful charm and magical quirks.
If you are a big Pokémon fan or even find it to be little too advanced for a younger audience, then I would suggest giving Moco Moco Friends
a whirl. Though most hardcore role-playing gamers won’t find Moco Moco Friends very appealing and will quickly grow bored of its repetitive
mechanics, many children will be taken in by its colourful charm and simple, intuitive gameplay offerings.
Review copy provided by the publisher for the Nintendo 3DS.