Indie Spotlight: Moero Chronicle
Have you ever noticed when you leave your own city, people from other places sometimes appear to act rather strangely? You could be minding your own business, peacefully walking through a garden and next thing you know the owner is threatening to kill you. I mean sure, you may have accidentally trampled some of their plants but really you were doing them a favour, they looked like weeds anyway. For that matter, sometimes the places themselves look a little bizarre. Just the other day there was this forest that had some rather questionable looking mushrooms growing in it (magic perhaps) and even more questionable monsters lurking around it… sometimes you just wish you were not banished from your city. Sure, they say you can come back if you survive the suicide mission, but so far no one has had that much luck. I do not like those odds considering I do not have any skills at doing anything. Add to that, I am afraid of talking to women in case they see me as immoral just for existing. That last bit might not have been an issue if it wasn’t for the fact the suicide mission takes me straight into the heart of the Monster Girls territory! With only the Indie Spotlight to guide my way, I am heading off into an adventure that could include many bashfully uncomfortable conversations with women and probable certain doom.
You might remember a while back, the Indie Spotlight featured a game that had some fairly unique systems in it that might make you want to ensure your door is locked and the curtains are drawn. In that game you took magical cards and rubbed them to level them up, except, those magic cards were actually Monster Girls who lived inside the cards. When it came to leveling them up, you were not exactly rubbing their cards… well… although it isn’t even in the same genre anymore, Monster Monpiece has a sequel! The cards are gone and replaced with just the Monster Girls and rather than being a tactical card battler on a field, it is now more of a dungeon crawler. Moero Chronicle features our hero Io on a quest to figure out why the previously friendly Monster Girls have suddenly become hostile towards Humans.
In the previous game, Monster Monpiece, you had a game that was a mix of heavy visual novel and single screen tactical card battles taking place on a multilane battlefield. It had a world map with pre-assigned movement points and no real room to explore beyond that. You made decks of cards and then drew them each turn to see who could reach the enemy’s base three times first. The sequel Moero Chronicle, which this Indie Spotlight is featuring, throws away almost everything the first game had and morphs it into a first person dungeon crawler with JRPG style turn based team battles. The same visual novel style presentation is used for when the story is being delivered and the game features Monster Girls, but that is about all it has in common with its predecessor.
The first thing I would like to talk about, before we delve too deeply into the other elements of the game, is the gameplay. The game is broken down into a few different areas. There is the town, which primarily houses the Inn and a Store. The Store (the only one in the game, Capitalism, Ho!) will provide you with equipment and items to aid you on your quest. Fortunately items are also fairly plentiful as you explore so you shouldn’t really find yourself running low on provisions all that often. The Inn is where you will be spending most of your time when in town. Each of the Monster Girls you have teamed up with will be available here. You are able to configure what outfit they are wearing, their room quality and which pet will accompany them. General interactions with her such as talking or giving gifts all take place here. We will talk more about this later though. The world map shows each of the zones you can visit. You must complete the main quest in each dungeon before the next one becomes available although you do not actually have to fully explore any dungeon if you don’t want to.
The dungeons themselves are interesting labyrinths. You are dropped into first person perspective so you can see the maze just as your character would. For the most part, you can’t see off to the sides or behind you, you can only see what is straight ahead of you. You don’t even have a map of the area to guide you until you have actually explored the area. You will see paths branching off from the sides, but unless you turn and actually look, you can’t see what is down them very far. While in the dungeon you are unable to save anywhere other than a save point so you may find yourself occasionally running low on supplies or magic if you adventure for too long. Thankfully when you visit a save point or if you level up, your magic and health is restored so you are able to keep on traveling through the dungeon as you delve deeper. Scattered through the mazes are treasures and items for you to recover. Watch out though! Monsters are lurking around that want nothing more than to slaughter your team and there are traps intended to injure you as well. There are also the previously mentioned Monster Girls which are like bosses in each of the dungeons. The Monster Girls have unfortunately become corrupted by an evil mysterious force. If by self-determination and effort you manage to turn them back to normal, they become willing to join your crusade to save the world. Each dungeon has a main Monster Girl that you absolutely must save in order to continue, the rest are optional.
Unlike battling with cards, this time you are battling like one would in a JRPG. There is your team of up to five characters battling it out against an enemy team which can outnumber you. Each character, your team members included, has both an elemental strength and weakness. Knowing your enemies weaknesses will help you deal extra damage to them. If you hit them with something they are strong against you will still do damage, but the damage is typically reduced. The outfit your character is wearing will determine which abilities they possess. As you play while wearing a certain outfit, that outfit’s skills will begin to unlock granting even more skills and abilities to the one wearing it. However, if you switch to a new outfit, the old outfit’s skills do not carry over. This means you are back to square one for learning more advanced skills for the new outfit. You can also only change your outfit back at the Inn so you need to plan ahead what skills you need each of your party members to have. To help ensure their survival you can also manipulate their various stats by equipping rings, necklaces and hats at any time you are out of battle. If you are finding the monsters in the area are using a lot of fire attacks, you can put on an accessory that reduces fire effectiveness; this is something particularly useful if your character is weak to fire.
Combat turn order is based purely on the speed of the characters and anything impacting their speed. Each character and enemy typically gets to do one action per turn. If they do something grand, like hit all enemies with a large damage spell, they will have their next turn delayed in comparison to those who simply used a basic attack. Items can only be used by Io and can only be used once per turn as well. Io plays an interesting role in combat. Like the game implies, he is rather useless at everything. He can’t even fight; he has the Monster Girls do all his battling for him. Io’s contribution is to either do other things or throw potions to assist the Monster Girls who are in battle. When he isn’t throwing things at the girls (or enemies) to help the team survive the battle, he is usually raising his Desires or unleashing his Desire on one of the Monster Girls. When he builds his Desire, you will see a percentage gauge rise and this where you need to be tactical. Each time he consecutively raises his Desire, the percentage gain grows larger. If he does something between Desire increases, it will only go up by 10% typically. The thing is if you raise his Desire too much his Desire will explode everywhere and he has to go through a Calm Down phase before he can restart raising his Desire or using items for the team again. If Io unloads his Desire onto one of the Monster Girls, she will get an attack bonus dependant on how much Desire he built up.
There are a few other things to take note of in combat as well. The pets the Monster Girls can be equipped with offer something to the Monster Girl. While there are a number of them (basically any non-unique enemy you fight has a chance to become a pet), some of them I found more useful than others. For some units, such as my battlers, I like to use pets that will occasionally attack an enemy or all enemies by themselves. For my casters, I prefer something that helps keep them alive by either restoring health or spell points so they can keep casting. If I find a Monster Girl favours a certain class of spell, such as water, I will equip a water pet to her that will assist by having a chance of casting a water spell itself when the owner casts one. Another thing to pay attention to is where each member of the team stands in the battle, be it in the front row or the back row. Front row does full damage but also takes full damage; back row takes half damage but does less damage. If you have someone who is dedicated to healing your team, you might want her to hide in the back row. Same with your casters which likely won’t do much physical attack damage without their spells anyway. Another feature I should talk about for combat is the traits each Monster Girl has. Some traits just give her some extra abilities, such as a chance to counter attack if Io’s desire is above 35%; other traits interact with each other. If you have two synergistic traits in play, they might do things such as weakly heal and restore a little spell points after each battle (incredibly useful!). Lastly up in the corner is a pink seal named Otton. He watches the battle unfold and will either enjoy the battle, be fairly ambivalent about it, or get very angry. Why this is significant will soon, as will other things, be revealed.
Let’s talk about rescuing a Monster Girl. This is where it is time to ensure your door is closed and no one is looking at your screen! The first thing that will happen is she will say something hurtful to you and then attack you. Sometimes some of the creatures from the area will aid her in battle against you and your team and other times she will be alone. Unlike a normal battle, against Monster Girls you have a more unique way of winning the fight. You could just beat her senseless if you want, or you can target various parts of her armor until they break. If you manage to break all pieces of her armor or if Otton enjoyed the fight enough, he will shower the screen with his pleasure which oddly takes the form of coins. This moves you quickly into the second phase of the Monster Girl battle, the forced on her treatment for her hysteria. The Rub system of Monster Monpiece makes its return! Hidden on the Monster Girl’s body are various sweet spots for you to find and to perform one of four actions upon. Choosing the correct location and correct action will reward you with hearts; if you just perform an action on the correct spot it will reward you with stars. If you can collect enough hearts fast enough you will trigger something called Nude Flash (which for those of you hoping for nudity will be disappointed, she is tastefully covered with pink/white hearts still!) and you just need to massage her whole body quickly to raise Otton’s pleasure bar much faster than with your typical poking and prodding. If you are successful, Otton collapses and she will join your team. If you can’t satisfy her and Otton within the time limit, she will leave frustrated at you. You can try again later though, so you can never truly lose her.
With that cat out of the bag, let’s visit the equipment in more detail. I mentioned previously that outfits had to be equipped back at the Inn, while hats, rings and necklaces can be equipped out in the field. The reason for this is likely two fold. Firstly, being able to change your character’s skills on the fly in the battlefield would diminish the whole strategy involved in picking which skills you feel will be most useful for where you are going. Secondly, it isn’t exactly just an outfit that she changes to modify her skills. As you explore the dungeons you will sometimes see a special icon marking an item on the map, other times while you are in battle you will see a flying heart icon above the head of a monster. Collecting from the special item icon or defeating the specially marked monster will give you an extra special reward: Panties. These panties are imbued with the uncanny ability of granting their wearer new skills and traits. So I’m guessing the real reason why you have to go back to the inn is so that she doesn’t have to change her underwear in front of everyone. Mind you they seem to enjoy taking mass hot spring baths together, so maybe I am just over analyzing things.
With the mental picture of group hot springs in mind, let’s talk a bit about the visuals. First thing first, when you equip new panties on the Monster Girl, her appearance changes to reflect her new wardrobe. Rather than keeping on whatever bulky clothing she may have been wearing when you first met her and just wearing her new underwear under her clothes, she strips everything off and only wears her new underwear. Each pair she has looks different from the last, some of it gets very risqué while others are more modest. The Monster Girls themselves are pretty well detailed, each one having her own unique look and well detailed drawn art style. The starting dress, which I am sure for some people never gets a second chance as soon as some of the slinkier panties are acquired, is surprisingly well detailed as well. The dungeons themselves get less attention given to them, but that is actually alright. The backgrounds of the dungeons look very detailed and sometimes quite pretty although the walls of the dungeons may leave a little to be desired mainly because you will be staring at them often. The monsters in each of the dungeons tend to be unique to the dungeon they are found in. Recolors still occur as you move more deeply into a dungeon, but that is mostly done to signify it is a stronger version of the same monster. The Town is simply a backdrop with a menu over it but that works well for this sort of game.
Let’s talk about the town in a little more detail just for a moment before moving on. When you are visiting the Inn, one of the things I mentioned before was the ability to upgrade the rooms for the Monster Girls. Those who go out on adventures with Io gain experience and affection points, those who stay behind usually don’t. To help ensure you don’t leave any of the Monster Girls behind, you can upgrade their room so that they can still receive some experience or affection points. To upgrade a room you have to do something that is a bit bizarre in my opinion. You pick a Monster Girl whose room you want to upgrade, that bit makes sense. You take one of the generic panties you found in a dungeon that has the building trait attached to it and then you take one of the pets you collected from the dungeons and combine them. This combination produces an egg which then hatches into basically a better room for that Monster Girl! There are other generic panties that will produce other items from eggs as well, but the room one is the most useful I have found. Besides just talking to the Monster Girl and changing her clothing, assigning her pet and giving her gifts like I mentioned before, you can also give her another good rubbing if you are inclined. Spending a little Rub Points on her will help increase her affection if you are successful, however, the game also gives you the option to just rub her to your hearts content without any in-game gains or Rub Point costs.
Like its predecessor, Moero Chronicle is only available in spoken Japanese with subtitles telling you what is being said. Each Monster Girl has her own voice which helps to truly make her unique personality shine even if you have no clue what she is saying. The voice actors and actresses seemed to deliver an exceptional performance which always helps when playing a visual novel or other heavily story driven game type. You just can’t help yourself from being charmed by some characters with their vocalizations. Making you want to protect them from harm is just a sign of how perfectly portrayed and well done the characters are, especially when you consider the fact you have no idea what they actually just said. The music is a little repetitive, but it isn’t all that bad. This isn’t the kind of game you expect to have full musical scores accompanying each move so the looped music fits it well. It is atmospheric enough to be a suitable accompaniment as you work your way through the areas the game as to offer.
This game does have a few flaws that I feel compelled to mention before leaving you to decide if you want to partake in the game yourself or not. To start with, there are a number of typographical errors in the translated text. Some of them are more glaring than others, but if you can look past that it shouldn’t impact your ability to enjoy the game at all. Using a controller, the game handled smoothly however the Rub system seems awfully hard on the controller. Possibly I am just over doing it a bit when I get to those sequences. With a keyboard and mouse, the Rub system seems to work better but the control layout feels a little awkward that way. The game will also occasionally crash while transitioning between floors of a dungeon or even just entering dungeons. With an earlier beta build of the game it was almost an epidemic for me but thanks to the pre-launch patch, the crashing has become less common. The crashing may not even have been that big of deal if each floor had a save point on it, but it did get frustrating at times to have to repeatedly clear the same few floors of a dungeon just because it would crash before I could save.
Overall, Moero Chronicle (it’s actually also known as Moe Chronicle), is an interesting dungeon crawler that mixes visual novel elements, heavy Moe fan service, and a noteworthy crafting and character management system. If you are a fan of games that are not afraid to be a little perverse in all elements of its design from the suggestive mushrooms and monsters to the panty obsessed Otton and the whole Rub system in general, then you should likely enjoy this game. If you are looking for a dungeon crawler that lets you customize your team to suit your tastes and needs, you should also consider this game as well. If you are sharing a room with someone and have a personality like Io who is afraid of what others will think of you if they see you playing something that is a little naughty, perhaps you should try finding a closet to hide in and play Moero Chronicle on a gaming laptop. If you are looking for a game like the Neptunia games, well it comes somewhat close, although Io will never steal the title of Protagonist of Protagonists away from Neptune!