Monochrome Mobius: Rights and Wrongs Forgotten Review – A Fabled World

    Title: Monochrome Mobius: Rights and Wrongs Forgotten
    Developer: Aquaplus
    Release Date: November 16, 2022
    Reviewed On: PC
    Publisher: Shiravune, DMM Games
    Genre: Turn-Based JRPG

While the Utawarerumono franchise’s sheer name may make it difficult for some people to get into, the series is known for its strong emotional narratives. The original game, Mask of Deception and Mask of Truth, boast well-paced stories with memorable casts, excellent twists veiled by a fantasy setting, and stellar soundtracks.

Following the ending of Mask of Truth, I was unsure where the series could go, save for a gacha. So, the announcement of Monochrome Mobius: Rights and Wrongs Forgotten as a prequel was largely unexpected. Plus, its gameplay approach and presentation were set to be an evident change of pace from what came before. With no real expectations in mind, I set off to experience this prequel and came out the other end feeling an array of mixed positivity.

Monochrome Mobius: Rights and Wrongs Forgotten begins with the protagonist Oshtor, a resident of the quaint village Ennakamuy, meeting a strange, determined girl named Shunya. She informs Oshtor that she is supposedly the daughter of his father, who he has believed to be dead since his youth.

Unfortunately, due to rather grave circumstances, Shunya was forced to leave her father’s side, somehow transported from her homeland of Arva Shulan. Yearning to reunite with their father, she sets off on a quest back to this land Oshtor has never heard of, with him choosing to follow.

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Unlike the previous mainline entries of the series, which were visual novels with occasional tactical battles, Monochrome Mobius is a traditional turn-based JRPG. Players explore several vast maps of differing biomes housing branching paths, treasure chests, and enemies.

There are also many towns boasting NPCs, shops, and quests. Conveniently, quests are usually detailed, telling players exactly where to go on a specific map. Regarding its gameplay, Monochrome Mobius is a by-the-books, comfortably familiar experience with a few standout mechanics that potentially freshen up battles.

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For instance, the Action Ring on the screen’s top left depicts each unit’s turn order. As turns pass, the icons rotate clockwise, with there being three inner rings. The further out a character’s ring placement is, the more time it takes for their turn to trigger, so the goal is to reach the innermost ring for more rapid turns.

And reaching those innermost rings is dependent on two primary methods; one requires attacking enemies who are staggered, then collapsed. The other is called Ascend, achieved when a character’s Zeal gauge is maxed out from attacking, receiving damage, and defending. However, unless you’re ill-prepared on Hard mode, you won’t have to think much about the rings unless you battle mighty common foes or bosses, where encounters last longer than usual.

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Two more straightforward facets to take note of regarding the rings are Knockback and Gems. The former mostly affects small or floating units, as attacking them moves them counterclockwise in their ring, causing them to spend more time reaching their turn initiation.

Gems, on the other hand, are buff boons placed throughout the rings, acting as a supplemental incentive for reaching certain placements. Moreover, later in the game, you’ll acquire a pseudo-party member named Halu, who essentially acts as backup when needed. And leveling grants party members BP, allowing players to choose which stats to invest in, with each character having transparent specialties.

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Summatively, the combat system is moderately rewarding with neat ideas. Still, most battles can become thoughtless and monotonous. You can approach and win several fights by spamming area-wide skills, with the intricacies of the mechanics only being required to embrace during specific encounters.

In the previous Utawarerumono games, battles were more of an occasional scenario in the story, so their relatively simplistic methodologies didn’t have to be considered much. However, the gameplay is far more of a focus in Monochrome Mobius, and since the visual novel style of storytelling isn’t quite as present, the mediocrity of combat stands out.

Further, because of this spaced-out approach to storytelling, the pacing suffers, with lore and worldbuilding not as cleanly interwoven into the narrative as in prior titles. Regardless of whether the story is the main focus here, this is still an RPG with several other systems that can’t be ignored. Speaking of, the story is expectedly where this title is at its best. Significant narrative moments are well-handled, and it’s a genuinely worthwhile journey to see to its end. There are also plenty of endearing character moments helping each party member shine when appropriate.

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Though, without going into strict detail, this entry personally comes off as meant for those who are already franchise fans rather than complete newcomers because while the latter party can certainly understand and enjoy what’s being delivered, the setting and some terms aren’t introduced well. There is a glossary that houses definitions and explanations for terminology. Yet, I can imagine it being at least somewhat overbearing to frequently peruse, especially for the standard RPG crowd who isn’t accustomed to visual novels.

Additionally, the protagonist, Oshtor, and many other characters, like Munechika, Nekone, and Kiwru, are all prominent characters from future games in the chronology. It’s difficult for me to assess this point as one familiar with the series, but the title seemingly depicts itself as more intended for those knowledgeable of these characters. Regardless, I found myself attached to the cast and the various developments despite the pacing being hampered by boringly expansive maps and admittedly dull dungeon design. On its own merits, Monochrome Mobius tells an adequate narrative, but it undoubtedly comes up short when compared to what the rest of the series has to offer.

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Unfortunately, this entry does suffer from some technical and graphical hiccups. Firstly, the NPCs look…awful. They’re low-textured, lack facial features, and their models rotate when they’re meant to turn around. I usually don’t mind low-quality presentation, especially when it’s in favor of an engaging story, but I found myself distracted here more often than I’d like to admit. The life of each town is significantly obstructed, and a few scenes are difficult to take seriously. The major characters’ models and environments are at least passable; I just wish the NPCs were given more attention.

As for technical faults, the script’s translation looked mostly fine, except for a few notable instances of odd spacing and typos. They don’t detract from the quality of the storytelling, so I wouldn’t stress over it. Still, there is one pressing point I should bring attention to on the off-chance of it affecting other players.

When at a later point in Chapter 3, the story text started to stop appearing for whatever reason. The lines and the log were entirely blank. Sadly, this occurred more than once, though verifying the integrity of game files fixed it. Hopefully, I was just unlucky and faced a rare bug, but it is a worrisome issue you should be aware of.

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Monochrome Mobius: Rights and Wrongs Forgotten tells a captivating story Utawarerumono fans will appreciate, coupled with a terrific soundtrack and a well-written cast. However, narrative progress is not strongly paced, and combat tends not to be particularly engaging or compelling despite boasting intriguing concepts. Further, spots of poor presentation and technical faults can ruin the experience at points.

If you’re a prospective newcomer, I recommend playing the other titles before this one since its cast and depiction of the world are substantially better appreciated with context. Though, you won’t be lost if you choose this as your opening avenue.

Score:
7/10
A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Orpheus Joshua

Random gamer equally confused by the mainstream and the unusual. Fan of JRPGs, Action, Platformers, Rhythm, and Adventure titles.