Trails in the Sky: A love letter

I just finished Trails in the Sky, and I'm both sad and elated. Sad because that amazing game is over, and elated because I relished every single minute of the 45 hours I spent playing it. Now I can scream it out loud: I ADORED that game. I adored it so much that I want to play every Legend of Heroes entry as well as every Nihon Falcom game ever released. Now that's a nice mission to appoint myself, yes precious.

The fact that I loved Trails in the Sky so much is still a bit of a mystery to me, to be honest. By all accounts, I should have hated it: story-driven RPGs are not my forte, and I usually tend to experience some serious storyline fatigue around the 25 hours-mark. So how come I could keep going for 45 hours and still want more when all was said and done? Well, maybe because Trails in the Sky is not really a story-driven RPG after all, at least not in the modern acception of the word. The game's approach to all things narrative is pretty much an old-fashioned one: the story is here to provide milestones and general directions but doesn't push the player around like cattle. There are ample amounts of freedom to be enjoyed and vast expanses of land to be roamed at one's own pace, be it to fulfill sidequests or just for the sheer pleasure of it. I would be tempted to describe Trails in the Sky as an atmospheric RPG rather than a story-driven one: it is a game in which gratification is derived from immersing oneself in the game world and letting the whole atmosphere soak in. The story is but a mere detail here—all the more so as it's entirely told in medias res, with characters constantly referring to past events and elements of the game world's mythology as though they're common knowledge. The player is basically expected to jump on board, take the settings in and enjoy the trip to the fullest—which I certainly did. And talking about jumping on board and trips, I certainly didn't expect the title to actually refer to airliners and the trails they leave in the sky. Isn't that a bit... mundane? Oh, well. It's still evocative enough, I guess, and no one prevents me from reading figurative meanings as well in this title. 

The last 30 hours of my playthrough were just as good as the first 15, maybe even better. I particularly enjoyed the fact that the core of my party was made of Estelle and Joshua up until the very end; I loved this arrangement from the get-go and half-feared that the game would force me to go full party as some point, but these fears were unfounded. I also lapped up the grindy crawl in the last dungeon, which was a nice and unexpected bite of classic dungeon crawling. By that time, I had discovered the ultimate trick to wrap up boss fights quickly, namely to fill up everyone's S-Break gauge before the fight and to start said fight by unleashing a slew of devastating S-Break attacks that allowed me to gain an overwhelming edge—if not victory altogether. I used that trick to harvest the overpowered pieces of gear hidden all around the last dungeon, gaining a couple of levels in the process. And all that grinding paid off a million times during the final showdown, indeed. I still don't know if I should commend or blame Nihon Falcom for having had the audacity of stacking up four final boss fights in a row, without any opportunities to save or refurbish in between. Sure, the fourth and last fight is but a mere formality; but it still took me nearly one hour to polish off that formidable meal of a final boss fight. I was lucky enough not to die in the process, which I attribute entirely to my dutiful grinding and to my patient collecting of overpowered equipment. For the record, my final party was made of Joshua, Estelle, Zane and Agate: only powerhouses with close-range weapons, true to my bull-like fighting style in RPGs. I guess one never truly recovers from starting their RPG career with Action-RPGs, indeed.

Last but not least, one word for the ending. It was quite long, just as I like my RPG endings to be, and it was also quite bittersweet, something that I had come to expect over the course of the game. I wanted some relationship drama and the game was more than happy to indulge me. I'm extremely glad I played Trails in the Sky in 2016, when the sequel has been localized and made available through the PSN, because playing it at the time of its release and being left with that cliffhanger ending would have been a nasty blow that could have retrospectively tainted my whole run. Fortunately, said sequel is safely tucked away on one of my Vita memory cards, and I can play it right away if the suspense regarding Estelle and Joshua's endeavours becomes too unbearable. As a matter of fact, I'm seriously considering doing just that.

While I'm still pondering the matter, I ordered copies of all the PSP Legend of Heroes entries that I didn't own yet—namely Ao no Kiseki, Zero no Kiseki, Sora no Kiseki the 3rd and Sora no Kiseki SC, just for the sake of owning a physical copy. My mission is to play them, along with any other Nihon Falcom game, and confirm whether the series can indeed become one of my favourite RPG series of all times and Nihon Falcom one of my favourite developers of all times. Only time—and play—will tell! Until then, thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!


Collector's delight: The rules of my game

Let's open this post with an telling anecdote, fellow gamers. One day in 2012, I went to the local posthouse to pick up a game I had ordered. Once I was done paying those cursed custom fees, the employee handed me the game and asked me good-naturedly if I was a collector. Despite the fact that I had obviously been purchasing enough games for this guy to spot my name and address, I denied being a collector and added that I was just ordering stuff from internet because it was so comfortable and easy. I pocketed my game and left the place, internally laughing at the guy's assumptions. Me, a collector? What a silly idea!

Four years and hundreds of games later, I have to give credit to that post employee for having shown an amazing amount of insight and spotted something that was still invisible and in the making at the time, namely the Game Collector in me. Although I never actively tried to be worthy of that title and still occasionally marvel at how things turned out over just a mere couple of years, the sheer volume and frequency of my gaming purchases does qualify me as a de facto collector. Still, I'm far from being a purist when it comes to collecting games: I only adhere to a couple of collecting rules—mostly custom-mades ones derived from experience. Without futher ado, here are these private rules I dutifully follow when indulging in game-hunting and collecting!

  • Pay to play: I always purchase games that I intend to play—be it five or ten years later. Even the rarest and most wanted game on the face of the earth means nothing to me if it belongs to a genre that I don't favour. As a result, my collection is nearly exclusively composed of RPGs, with a couple of games belonging to other genres here and there. This also means that I don't keep games factory-sealed nor purchase an extra brand-new copy to revere as a cult object—and possibly resell fifteen years later with huge benefits. Mind you, some of my games may prove to be excellent investments on the long run; but I get my paws on them first and foremost to play them.

  • Old is as good as new: I buy second-hand games just as willingly as brand-new games; the only thing that matters is that I own the game in question. The choice of one or the other option usually boils down to the price tag: if  brand-new copies and second-hand copies of a given game cost a similar price, then I will obviously get my paws on a brand-new copy, thank you very much. If the price difference is staggering, which is usually the case with old and/or rare games, then I will wisely go for a cheaper second-hand copy. As for games belonging to the current generation of console, I often purchase them brand-new since the price difference between brand-new and second-hand copies is virtually nonexistent. 

  • The full package: One thing I totally refuse to compromise on when hunting for games is the completeness of my purchases. I want the full package: game, box and last but not least, instruction manual. I do not own a single lone cartridge or UMD and I firmly plan to keep things that way. I would rather spend months hunting for a full copy of a game rather than purchase said game alone, even if it is excruciatingly rare. Heck, I would rather give up on the purchase entirely than settle for a cartridge alone! Now, there are obvious exceptions to this iron rule, which are none other than Gameboy and Gameboy Advance games. Since such games were sold in cardboard boxes not designed at all for conservation and perennity, finding full sets in decent condition is excruciatingly hard and ridiculously onerous—not to mention that these cardboard boxes are not practical at all when it comes to housing games. For all these reasons, I go for cartridges alone when hunting for Gameboy and GBA games—although I won't reject a complete game with a decent price tag if it comes my way.

  • The lure of Specials: Like most collectors, I have a soft spot for any edition of a game sporting the tagline "special" or "limited". That being said, I don't jump blindly on every special edition under the gaming sun; my motto is to purchase a special edition only if the feelies included can somehow enhance the gameplay experience. In practice, this always translates into the presence of an artbook including strategies and data about the game world—so much so that there is virtually no chance I will purchase a special edition if it does not contain an art book. My dream idea of a special edition is embodied by the Silver Edition of Ys: Memories of Celceta and the "Let's get physical" edition of Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus, two gorgeous packages graced with splendid art books that also happen to be comprehensive strategy guides rife with interesting data.  

  • Completion galore: Ironically enough for someone who's not a completionist when playing games, I happen to be quite the completionist indeed when it comes to game collecting. When I purchase a game belonging to a series, I usually want to get my paws on the full series in the wake of that first purchase—sometimes without even knowing if I can enjoy said series in the first place. I don't step as far as to purchase games released on platforms that I don't own, fortunately; but every entry released on a system I play must be mine, even if it happens to be a Japanese exclusive. I only show a modicum of restraint if the series is a long-running one that has spawned countless games: in that case, I usually purchase only one or two entries to test the waters first. For instance, I only own two Harvest Moon games, which I yet have to play; if it turns out that I love them, I will go on a full collecting rampage and purchase every single instalment of the series, just like I did with the Pokemon series before. 

These are the five golden rules of my collecting, the guidelines I dutifully follow when hunting for games. Apart from the fifth one, there are actually quite restrictive; as a result, my collection, whilst of respectable size, has not gained massive proportions. It is certainly not huge enough to fill a full room, but rather a couple of shelves—all the more so as portable games come in rather small cases—and things will probably remain that way since most of my collecting is actually behind me. The PSP and DS libraries are done and dusted after I've "back-purchased" every single game that caught my eye—those were the golden years, spent hunting for games so cheap that I could purchase several a week—and all that's left to collect are games from the current generation. I went from purchasing several games a week in a frantic attempt to harvest all the goodness I had missed during my years away from gaming to a much more placid purchasing pace of 1-2 games a month. And maybe that's all for the best, because we're now dealing with brand-new releases with a hefty price tag, not deliciously cheap offerings like back in the days of collecting for the DS and PSP. As for you, dear fellow gamers, feel free to let me know about your own collecting idiosyncrasies in the comments! Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!


Trails in the Sky: Sweet beginnings

Here it is: the retro-looking, story-driven, drama-laden RPG I was craving after clearing three first-person dungeon crawlers in a row. On top of fitting the bill perfectly, Trails in the Sky also provides me with a nice opportunity to give some love to my long-forsaken PSP and to confirm whether Nihon Falcom has the potential to become one of my favourite developers of all time. It's fair to say that things are shaping up nicely and that I may end up writing a passionate love letter to both the game and Nihon Falcom if they keep going that way. But I'm getting ahead of myself there; for now, let's concentrate on my most auspicious first hours of play.

We're talking about 15 hours of play there; and given the game's overall pacing, I guess that these 15 hours amount to no more than a fifth of the game's length, or maybe even less. Especially since I'm taking my sweet time and enjoying the trip to the fullest, lolling about rather than rushing my way through. Not that the game is forcing me to do so despite its slow pacing, mind you: I do this on my own free will in order to enjoy the surroundings and atmosphere to the fullest. Never before have I seen a game world so exquisitely and breathtakingly detailed and so amazingly alive; the closest thing to it I've seen was the game world in Legacy of Ys, which makes me think that an uncanny love for detail may be one of Nihon Falcom's trademarks. It certainly helps that the camera can be rotated full circle, allowing for the discovery of even more details and eliciting a pleasant feeling of being in control of the environment. Cherry on the cake, the retro aesthetics of the game are an endless feast to my retro-hungry eyes.

Although Trails in the Sky is undoubtedly a story-driven RPG, it is one that judiciously gives the player a lot of leeway. There are numerous places to explore as well as side quests that give a welcome opportunity to take a break from the flow of the main story and indulge in other activities. The art of creating compelling side quests is a delicate one indeed, and I must say that Nihon Falcom masters it to perfection: not only is the number of side quests available just right, neither too overwhelming nor too stingy, but the content of these quests is both varied and interesting and they yield interesting items and monetary rewards to boot. What more can an RPG aficionado who wants to do things their way ask for? Well, maybe a highly customizable fighting system that lets one modify the characters' abilities to good effect. Or maybe a flexible party with two fixed members, the titular duo Estelle and Joshua, and guests fighters that come and go as the story unfolds.

And talking about Estelle and Joshua, these two have the most amazing alchemy I've ever seen between party members in an RPG. It certainly doesn't hurt that they seem to be secretly in love with each other, which provides an ample amount of the relationship drama that I was craving after cruising as a solo runner for so long. I'm feasting on the convoluted developments of this duo's relationship while hoping that everything will end well, and I'm rejoicing at the thought that I will meet them again in Trails in the Sky SC.

To add to that long list of goodness, Trails is in Sky is decidedly user-friendly. We're talking about instant save (insert eyes teary with happiness), maps coming in various sizes, direction signs, quest and main adventure logs, deliciously fast walking speed à la Ys, little marks that point at objects that can be checked or collected and save one from the hassle of fine-combing the many nooks and crannies of that huge game world, possibility to sell the equipment of guest party members after they leave the party, and so on. They say hell is in the details, but so can be heaven, and it is definitely the case in that game.

Had I written this post a couple of hours ago, I would have expressed irritation at the slow pacing and the drawn-out battles as well as worry that they could ruin my fun on the long run. Since then, I've taken them in my stride and accepted them as part of the game's style. More than just accepted, in fact: I genuinely relish Trails in the Sky's placid pacing. The slow unfolding of the story makes me feel like I'm involved in a full-blown fantasy saga à la The Wheel of Time or Lord of the Rings; as for the long battles, I've embraced them after I realized that level-grinding is not mandatory in that game and have since learnt to make the most of them and enjoy them to the fullest.

The only two things I'm really not fond of are the washed-out colour palette, which is not always to my retinas' liking, and the cooking feature, which I deem superfluous and not worth the hassle. Cooking has never clicked with me in any RPG I've played and Trails in the Sky's brand of cooking won't do the deed either. I really don't see the point of buying myriads of ingredients that are sometimes hard to find and/or insanely expensive when I can just as easily replenish my HP by crashing at the local inn or stocking up with potions—or fully prepared dishes from the local restaurant, for that matter. Not that these two elements detract from my fun in any way, mind you; I love the game too much to be hindered by such mere details. The cooking feature can easily be ignored entirely, and I think that I may learn to love the faded colour palette on the long run.

This sounded like a love letter to the game all right, and I can only hope that my next posts about Trails in the Sky will ooze as much love as this one. See you in a couple of gameplay hours, fellow gamers! Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!


Final Fantasy Explorers: Sweet but (cut) short

When I started playing my freshly received copy of Final Fantasy Explorers, I had an instant and intense crush on the game. I played it until the battery of my 3ds was depleted, and as I was waiting for it to refill, I started devising a lauding post about the game that would have started with the words: "Sometimes, not having expectations at all is the best way to be pleasantly surprised". This starry-eyed post will never come to exist, though: eight hours of play later, I'm on the verge of quitting the game entirely.

The weird thing is, I still love nearly everything about that game. See for yourself that long list of goodness:

—The vistas are breathtaking and the game offers such gorgeous crystalline colours that I could spend minutes just gazing at the sceneries. The level of stylization is just right, with characters models that are neither sickeningly kawaii nor boringly realistic. I'm not a fan of Square, but they sure know how to craft amazingly beautiful games when they want to.

—The physics are awesome. This is pure hack-and-slashy goodness, easy to grasp yet never getting old no matter how many foes you slice. Cherry on the cake, the weapons are as classic as they get: we're talking about swords, staves, knuckles, bows and the like, all weapons that will make A-RPG aficionados feel right at home. No over-complicated custom weapons à la Monster Hunter—I'm looking at you, Insect Glaive—which is just perfect for a brute like me who loves nothing more than to charge mobs like a bull and slash them senselessly.

—Although the game world is not enormous, it is still vast enough to justify the presence of the world "explorers" in the title. Many different types of landscapes are here for the roaming, and the fact the various areas of the game world are connected and can be reached by cruising around on foot makes said game world feel more wholesome and cohesive—although the transitions between areas are often quite abrupt. Add to this the gorgeous vistas and you get a delicious roaming experience that really made me feel like a full-fledged explorer.

—The game offers a lot of flexibility when it comes to classes, special attacks and the like. The avatar's class can be changed anytime to gain access to new weapons and tons of interesting abilities can be learned for a modest fee. Some of them can really turn the tables and make an explorer's life easier, such as the "Regen" ability that gradually replenish the HP bar.

—The menus are clear, detailed and pleasantly intuitive. I've had to endure a slew of crappy menu systems in games I've played lately, so this comes as a real breath of fresh air. 

—Last but not least, FFE is not stingy when it comes to monster drops, farming points and quest rewards in general. There is always something to grab as one is roaming around, and even the shortest trip on the field will yield some items and a monetary reward. To be presented with a list of your loot at the end of a quest is a fine pleasure that fills the heart with giddy—and greedy—joy.

On top of being fond of all these elements, I couldn't get enough of the initial quests offered by the game. We're talking about tutorial quests and fetch quests that involved roaming the game world under a very lenient time limit; and roam the world did I, drinking in the breathtaking vistas and wreaking havoc on the local fauna. Oh, the joy! It was both relaxing and stimulating, and I could have gone on like that forever, exploring new remote areas while looting and slaughtering every beast in sight. But this dream plan was not meant to be, because once these appetizers were polished off, the game started for good. Off with twenty-bear-asses quests and welcome to the slaughtering of formidable monsters, starting with four Eidolons. Since then, I feel like I've been fighting an endless stream of boss fights, and my interest waned with every one of these fights. Gone are the exploration, the sightseeing, the hack-and-slashing and the looting that I loved so much, and in their place came strict time limits and 30-minutes-long fights against single massive enemies. I lap up epic boss fights as a rule, but not ten times in a row. And not if that's all there is to a game.

This is a very peculiar situation that I've never encountered before in any other game. I love everything about FFE except the content of the missions; and yet, since said missions are basically the core of the gameplay, I cannot keep playing despite loving every single other aspect of the game. FFE aside, this turn of events may be the surefire sign that monster-slaughtering games à la Monster Hunter are simply not my cup of tea—which is quite a pity, because I own a couple of titles belonging to that genre. Oh, well. I'll try them all just to be sure that I'm not missing on a gem, but I don't think I will purchase any other Monster Hunter entry. Or Toukiden, for that matter.

Since I started writing that post, I've not been touching FFE at all, so it's safe to assume that I'm done with the game for good. The five first hours will go down in my personal gaming history as an incredibly pleasant experience, though, and I won't forget about them. I've at least gotten a modicum of enjoyment out of that game, so the purchase wasn't for naught! And this eye-opening experience will save me from investing more money in monster-slaughtering games that I may not be able to enjoy no matter how hard I try. Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!


Collector's delight: Never say never

Maybe I'm just weak. Or maybe I cannot help but love Nintendo after all. Or maybe my collector's instincts are just too overwhelming for my own good. Or maybe all of the above. Whatever the answer, the facts are here in all their empirical glory: a couple of weeks after I claimed that I would probably never buy a Japanese Nintendo 3ds, I did exactly that and purchased one. Behold my gorgeous Metallic Red Japanese Nintendo 3ds and its killer app!

To be honest, 7th Dragon III played a major part in my decision to purchase a Japanese 3ds. I saw a couple of screenshots and videos and instantly fell in love with it; and since there is virtually no hope of seeing that colourful dungeon crawler localized, I decided to take matters into my own hands and to get said hands on that game—and on a system to play it. Granted, I could have used one of the many region-lock bypasses available; but Nintendo has a way of countering them on a regular basis, and purchasing a game means nothing to me if I do not have the full certitude that I can play it on and on as years pass. Now, let's take a closer look at this game that single-handedly prompted me to break my word and purchase yet another Nintendo 3ds:

Look at this, people! Leaflets!! Covered with gorgeous, vibrant art! Seriously, I could nearly weep with happiness. Sure, these leaflets are ridiculously thin compared to the ones offered by games from the previous generation, but they are there, and that's more than we usually get in the West. And that Sega logo... It brings back fond memories of the time when Sega was ubiquitous, and I couldn't help but smile when I saw it. Even though Sega has this infuriating way of snubbing us Westerners. Oh, well.

The good consequence of that purchase—apart from the fact that I can play 7th Dragon III anytime now—is that it somehow opened the floodgates for the collecting of Japanese 3ds games. I have no reasons to hold back anymore and I can now purchase such games without a second though, and I firmly intend to do so. More potential material to sate my collector's cravings, yay! If you know of a must-have Japanese 3ds title, feel free to let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!


Moco Moco Friends: Cute but unpolished

I'm done with cute Pokemon-like dungeon crawler Moco Moco Friends after... well, an undertermined number of hours of play, since MMF doesn't provide the player with a timer. This oversight somehow sums up the entirety of that game: Moco Moco Friends is cute, charming and addictive, but it's also lazy, unpolished and superficial. The game's undeniable qualities are tarnished by numerous shortcomings that prevents it from reaching gaming greatness; instead of a cult classic or even a excellent game, we have a palatable one that is certainly enjoyable but by no means extraordinary. Without further ado, here's the enumeration of Moco Moco Friends' positive sides, along with the flaws that mar them.

—The small dungeons are perfect for sweet and short bursts of crawling. It's like the very essence of dungeon crawling, i.e. exploration, looting and fighting, has been extracted and repackaged in a pint-sized version. Each dungeon hardly requires more than ten minutes to be cleared, but these ten minutes provide plenty of roaming, fighting and looting. Especially looting, because MMF is anything but stingy with items. Cherry on the cake, all the dungeons are gorgeous—those vivid colours!—and sport upbeat theme tracks that make one want to run around joyfully. What a pity, then, to see this fulfilling crawling experience spoilt by an uninspired dungeon design that doesn't make room for traps, puzzles, hidden areas or anything that could spice up the roaming. Even a trick as simple as making one of the resident Plushkins hold the key to the next floor until they are defeated would have pleasantly livened up the monotonous roaming of these never-changing succession of rooms and corridors. And it certainly doesn't help that dungeons are so tiny: with two floors only, they barely qualify as dungeons. It's pretty obvious that the developers indulged in as much laziness as they could get away with and that they would have gladly implemented single-floor dungeons if not for the fact that the game would have become a mere platformer in the process.

—Fighting is a stimulating, fast-paced and streamlined affair that never gets old despite its simplicity. I was really fond of the shortcut system that allows to choose an action by pressing the D-pad and the lush fighting animations were a feast to the eye. Seeing the stuffing pop out of injured Plushkins was nearly too adorable to handle, and their cute little voices made me melt. And let's not talk about their looks: all these fluffy creatures were so incredibly charming that I wanted to recruit nearly all of them on the spot, especially in the late stages of the game. (These foxes and deers were so elegant!) Yes, you read that right: the serial solo runner wanted to play a full-party run. Alas, it turned out that the game wasn't exactly in the mood to indulge me. For, lo and behold, recruitment in MMF is totally random. There is no device à la Pokeball to capture the Plushkins, who decide themselves whether they wish to follow you. And unfortunately, they do not wish it that often. And when they do, they turn out to be mostly useless anyway. Let's face it: the party dynamics in MMF are terrible. Not only are all the Plushkins significantly weaker than Scrunchie, but they are also affected with arbitrary level limitations; and whilst Scrunchie evolves automatically, other Plushkins can only evolve through the use of ridiculously rare items that are a pain to obtain. Maintaining an efficient party in that game requires much more effort that it should, and it wasn't long before I was cruising with Scrunchie alone and using other Plushkins solely as Training fodder to level her up. Once at her peak level, she was pretty much unstoppable and could one-shoot most opponents without breaking a sweat, which was tremendously fulfilling. And yet, had the game been more accommodating and made party maintainance a pleasure instead of a hassle, I would have gladly roamed the dungeons with a full party.

—The crafting system is both simple to grasp and really original, and makes good use of every single collected item. There's something curiously addictive in the act of planting seeds in pots before literally reaping the materials that blossom out of these pots and taking said materials to the sewing factory to obtain items. It's efficient, it's productive, and it allows you to get your paws on tons of items. Too bad that 90% of these items are literally useless. The only items that are really useful—Rainbow Hearts, high-level Awaken items and the like—are also incredibly rare, and obtaining them require an awful lot of crafting, because the production of items is just as random as the recruitment of Plushkins. Every step of the crafting process will produce a certain type of item, but there is no way to choose precisely which specific item will be produced, which is an absolute pain in the behind. And since the selling prices of the local shop are ridiculously low, the mountains of useless items that come out of the crafting process can't even be used for shameless enrichment. Jeez, what a waste.

—The production values are excellent. We're talking about lovely graphics, lively soundtrack, adorable character designs and an overall lushness that makes the game quite irresistible. All that goodness makes the following shortcomings all the more surprising and disappointing. Why is the game world so pitifully tiny, making Gameboy-era Pokemon entries look like Skyrim compared to MMF? Why is the pacing of the missions so tedious and repetitive, alternating between Sealing Evil Vortex/Helping friends train/Retrieving important item—rinse and repeat ad nauseam? Last but not least, why was the ending completely blotched, sending the player back to the point before fighting the final boss even after said final boss has been beaten? That was understandable in older RPGs without postgame that didn't automatically save after beating the final boss, but MMF does save automatically after the last fight and grants access to a postgame dungeon; so why do all the characters keep acting like the final boss has never been beaten? Whether this is a glitch or an oversight, it is frustrating and ruins the pleasure of having cleared the main game.

MMF has an addictive quality that made me want to play it over and over again. It seemed that I could never get enough of the fast-paced combat, the quick and flowing roaming and the productive looting, and I would gladly have explored more dungeons if they had been available. Thus, there was absolutely no need for the copious amount of fake longevity that was injected into the game. There was no need for this imprecise crafting system that requires tons of tries and retries to yield something useful, nor was it necessary to make the high-level Evolve, Bloom and Awaken items so insanely rare and difficult to obtain. And let's not even talk about the criminally stupid decision to leave Plushkins' recruitment to chance AND to make all Hearts but the elusive rainbow one basically useless in boosting up recruitment rate. If you want your game to be longer, fill it up with extra content, not with gameplay limitations that ruin the fun. 

Mind you, I actually liked Moco Moco Friends despite its flaws, and I do have very fond memories of it. However, I have to admit that I expected to like it more. The mix of Pokemon-inspired recruiting and fighting mechanics and dungeon crawling seemed like a match made in heaven, but the result was underwhelming and missed the mark on both sides. Neither the recruiting and fighting mechanics nor the dungeon crawling are fully satisfying, and the game suffers greatly from it. That being said, I think the formula is quite promising and could be easily improved on and yield great results. Make the dungeons larger and more cleverly designed, rebalance the Plushkins, add a couple of features to get rid of the need for fake longevity and voilà! This could produce the perfect mix between creature-recruiting and dungeon-crawling, and I certainly hope that such a game will come to exist and that Moco Moco Friends will be more than a one-shot game. We need new exciting RPG franchises, we do! Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!