2015’s Holiday release season continues to be packed with heavy hitting titles. We’ve got Fallout 4, COD: Black Ops 3, StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void and so many other AAA blockbusters coming out one after the other. It’s unfortunate for those developers and publishers, then, that 2015’s Game of the Year has been released. You knew it was coming. You waited with baited breath. Well, the wait is over and we’re going to talk about Moco Moco Friends. We’ll sell you the whole seat…but you’ll only need the edge.
Moco Moco Friends, original Japanese name (no joke) The Apprentice Witch and Fluffy Friends, is a sordid tale about a young witch and her army of cuddly monstrosities from beyond this plane of existence. You play as Moco, who uses her magical powers to command stuffed animal monsters called Plushkins. Moco’s goal in life is to become the Plushkin Master, which, as several other reviews of this title have stated in an eerily similar fashion, is “the best there ever was.”
Without any discussion of originality, they say this because Moco Moco Friends is basically the latest iteration of Pokemon clone. These were huge back in the day and never really died off. It’s not a bad thing – as I always say, innovation for innovation’s sake isn’t necessarily desirable – but you need to know what you’re getting into, and what you’re getting into is Pokemon. In this case, your quest to be the best there ever was involves obtaining the Stella Medal, basically the Pulitzer Prize of witchery.
Moco Moco Friends lacks the same epic journey feel that’s always characterized Pokemon, as there’s only one hub city from which you’ll travel to multiple dungeons. Instead, it feels more like the lesser-known 3DS games Master of the Monster Lair and My World My Way, along with sharing the latter’s aesthetic sensibilities. Moco, the cuddly beasts she commands and the NPCs she interacts with all look like they sprung from some sort of pastel nightmare. Fans of that particular style are bound to love it, and it’s a pretty decent RPG besides.
Your adventures are separated into quests that typically revolve around reaching the bottom of a dungeon or fetching items. There are items to grab and roaming Plushkins to battle; running into a wandering beast will send you into combat, which plays out like a version of Pokemon where you command multiple creatures at once. Plushkins have a variety of attacks and skills and will learn more as they level up, so you’ll need to aim for enemy weaknesses and use support skills to prevail instead of just throwing your soft, adorable face at a cuddly brick wall. What’s more, some Plushkins will evolve into more powerful and more heavily stuffed forms, so it’s worth trying out a variety of creatures.
As mentioned, Moco Moco Friends uses a very cute pastel aesthetic that will appeal to fans of that style and completely turn off everyone else. The game is completely unapologetic about this, which is actually kind of appealing, and even the dialogue is adorable, with Moco screaming PAPRIKA as a greeting and Plushkins complaining about being overpetted. Battles involve polygonal models and are animated in a fashion similar to the modern Pokemon games.
My one complaint would be that the spell animations tend to be a little overly elaborate, but you can speed through them so it’s not that big a deal. A nice touch worth mentioning, by the way: Plushkins are, of course, plush, so they’ll get tattered and lose stuffing in combat. You might say that Moco Moco Friends is…stuffed with detail! And then you’d cry yourself to sleep at night.
Despite its appearance, Moco Moco Friends is an entirely competent monster-collecting RPG. It might also be a good choice for new players, as it never becomes especially challenging. Anyone who would avoid playing it because of the incredibly cutesy style (an entirely valid complaint) probably isn’t considering playing it anyway, so if you’re reading this review at all then I can recommend this one.