If there’s one word I hate the most in gaming, it’s “clone.” It’s so easy to label something as a rip-off of the most popular game in its genre. However, Moco Moco Friends is a game that lacks so much in identity that I can’t help but to label it as a Pokémon clone. And I definitely don’t mean that as a compliment.
You play as Moco, a young Witch who has just graduated from her school of magic and hopes to be the very best Plushkin Master. She’s an apprentice of Michiru, a famous Plushkin Master, and is as new to the world of the game as you are. If you’re looking for a story heavy JRPG, look elsewhere; Moco Moco Friends is targeted towards such a young audience that it doesn’t dare to have one.
Gameplay consists of making your way through dungeons and befriending Plushkins, something only Witches are able to do (if you’d rather get Plushkins a different way, there’s always the ability to craft them through the use of yarn). When encountering an enemy, this Pokemon-clone tries to make an effort with a unique battle system, but like every other aspect of the game, it’s too simplistic and barebones. You’re presented with four options during a battle: Fight, Item, Sort, and Auto. Get ready to use the latter a lot, as the battles are so boring and easy that there’s no use in putting any effort into them when the game can do it for you.
Plushkins have talents that drain Moco’s magic, or Dreamtropy, each round. It’s important to choose talents that won’t drain Moco’s MP, as you’ll have to wait until the next round for her to gain a chunk of it back. Plushkins are also tied to elements, which any fan of the “catch-‘em’all” genre will be familiar with. Additionally, Moco has a fever gauge that slowly builds, resulting in unlimited Dreamtropy for a single round when it fills completely.
Thankfully the battle system allows you to fast-forward through the action, as there’s simply nothing interesting or engaging about it. I constantly found myself selecting Auto and using the fast-forward function so I could simply get the battles over with. Certainly there comes a point in a JRPG where the battles start to feel like a chore, but Moco’s system gets too boring, too fast; by my third battle I was sick of it.
The characters of Moco Moco Friends are nothing special and are completely one-note (Moco really loves food, while Michiru is abrasive), but thankfully, the game has one saving grace in terms of its art style. Moco is a vibrant, charming looking game that manages to carve out its identity through world and character designs. I found myself using the 3D more than most games so I could appreciate the colorful environments better.
It should be noted that this game includes Japanese voice acting with English text, and while the localization is great, the decision to not re-record dialogue only furthered my confusion as to who this game is for. Younger players might be turned off by foreign VA work in such a text-heavy game, while older players might be turned off with how simplistic the gameplay is.