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Monochrome Mobius: Rights and Wrongs Forgotten Preview and Hands-On Impressions

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Aquaplus — and its mostly retired 18-and-over imprint Leaf — is one of the most fascinating development studios of all time. Their impressive repertoire boasts such storied series as To Heart, such cultish classics as Kizuato. They have contributed immeasurably to the Japanese visual novel and adventure continuums. They (Leaf) literally invented the term “visual novel,” albeit to describe a much more novelistic style of game than the label encompasses today. As of 2023, they have asked and answered the still-pertinent question, “What if Resident Evil happened on a boat?” only two times fewer than Capcom has.

Before a few weeks ago, I had played exactly none of their games. Most of them are only in Japanese (though that’s slowly changing), glittering tantalizingly from the other side of a linguistic force field. Maybe one day I’ll be Japanese-literate enough to read slightly faster than a three-toed sloth with a hangover. Until then, you don’t want to hear me try. Luckily for the 20 puppies that die every time I attempt to pronounce Utawarerumono, these are just words on a screen. (Editor’s note: no animals were harmed in this author’s linguistic practice.) Even better, the English console release of Aquaplus’ Monochrome Mobius: Rights and Wrongs Forgotten is right around the corner. Courtesy of publisher NIS America, I got to rectify the lack of Aquaplus games in my life by taking this newest one for a spin ahead of its PlayStation 4 and 5 launch next month.

In recent history, the Utawarerumono series and its spinoffs have proven the flag in the Aquaplus ship; and while you wouldn’t know from the title alone, Monochrome Mobius: Rights and Wrongs Forgotten is part of the patchwork. In fact, Monochrome Mobius was meant to ring in Utawarerumono’s 20th anniversary in 2022, and indeed it did when it launched on Steam last November (plus PS4/5 in Japan) under separate publishership. As far as series celebrations go, MM is an odd one, shedding the gridlocked strategizing of prior titles in favor of a PS2-perfect JRPG flavor palatable to anyone with a taste for turn-based battling and 60-hour (source: How Long to Beat) slow burns. Indeed, Monochrome Mobius proportions its look, feel, style, and design sensibilities into a decidedly old-school plating that, despite some modern conveniences, may prove more bitter than sweet if you’re accustomed to a more contemporary template. For the old-souled or those of us actually aged enough to remember when Square and Enix were two separate companies, this is your favorite food. Welcome to my wheelhouse, Utawarerumono.

The traditional JRPG vibe applies to the story too. In out-of-the-way Ennakamuy, leading lad Oshtor lives a life as peaceful as his scarf is long: very. One unassuming day, an enigmatic young woman appears in town bearing news of Oshtor’s father. One tiny problem: he thought his dad died ages ago. The girl’s name is Shunya, and oh yeah, she might just be Oshtor’s kid sister. The jury’s still out on that one, leaving Oshtor with an important choice: either hit up The Maury Show or embark on an epic quest to locate pops and discover the truth. With Shunya along for the ride, Oshtor’s adventure to find his — their? — father begins.

Scarf-clad Oshtor walks down a dirt trail lined with grass and trees in Monochrome Mobius. Some wild monkeys are crossing the trail further down.
Seriously, look how long that scarf is.

This is where I found myself airdropped into the thick of it: a latticework of thicket-lined trails and highroads zigzagging a timbered plain. My destination, dictated by a few early-game story beats I wasn’t privy to firsthand, was a nearby forest. My minimap gently suggested I make a beeline for it, but I was free, the NISA staff on site said, to ignore all direction and just explore. The game lets go of your hand, they explained, and nudges you out of the nest early on. And while this is no open world — the phrase “wide linear” comes to mind, clumsy a descriptor as it tends to be — Monochrome Mobius certainly let me test my wingspan. I spent my first chunk of playtime exploring windswept grasslands, scouring secret green hideaways for rare treasure, strolling the sleepy streets of Oshtor’s home village, and even discovering a few locations and event scenes seemingly away from any quest marker. How’s that for old school?

This sylvan starter area is, naturally, not the only biome the game boasts. Screenshots I’ve seen hint at more zone types to come, including kinetic castle towns and distant desert deathscapes where sand-swimming foes hide in the leeward of hunched dunes. A quick scrub through any YouTube longplay of the previously released PC version will show you other environments to expect. Monochrome Mobius’ world certainly promises to prove engrossing and represents a new way for fans and noobs alike to explore the series’ rich setting and signature Ainu-influenced culture.

It isn’t all breezy, though. Scale the scope down from environments to the level of individual character models, and the budget start coming to bear — and it gets a little grisly. Main characters like Oshtor and Shunya are stylishly rendered and awesomely animated, especially in combat, but there’s a chasmic quality gulf between the leads and the NPCs. Even though the models for minor characters in this upcoming console release drastically leapfrog their PC-launch counterparts, the disparity in detail is still almost comical. The quality has since been upgraded on PC too, but yeah, it used to be even worse. Let’s say there’s a reason some characters and locations appear only as 2D art, which, for what it’s worth, is undeniably slick.

Mikazuchi, one of Oshtor's allies, rides a goose-dinosaur-esque hybrid beast on a bridge near a guarded checkpoint.
Later on, you can ride these goose-raptors (actual name: woptors).

In terms of performance, the game appeared locked at 30 fps, even on PS5. This was the very first aspect of Monochrome Mobius I noticed once I was in control, which, in hindsight, says more about me and almost nothing about it. For maybe six soul-annihilating seconds, the game appeared to my spoiled eyeballs to perform about as well as a Prius at a monster truck rally. My blown mind cranked to a halt as it absorbed a strobe-choppy salad where it’s been trained to expect silken 60-fps cream. In the following seconds, I came to my senses, simultaneously used to it and over myself. Seriously: it isn’t a big deal. Aside from the fact that 30 fps really isn’t an issue in a turn-based game, clever use of per-object motion blur literally smooths out a lot of the visual rough edges, coming in clutch to highlight some cool choreography in cutscenes and combat. Additionally, the version of the game I played was an in-development build not entirely representative of the final product.

Speaking of turn-based combat, like many RPGs released post-2001, Monochrome Mobius luxuriates in the aftermath of Final Fantasy X’s “conditional turn-based” battle arrangements. All key pillars appear: slingshot-snappy character commands, move-by-move strategizing as opposed to entire-round inputs, and, most importantly, a tunnel of portraits off to the side, rendering the order of turns perfectly transparent and, in tactically adept hands, infinitely manipulatable.

Of course, every game to invite itself to this turn-based party tries to throw the system’s rock-solid core for some kind of loop, and even if its shift isn’t totally tectonic, Monochrome Mobius by no means spurns the mantle. The game’s particular wrench involves trading the tried-and-true turn tunnel for a series of concentric circles along which character and enemy icons orbit. Characters live on one of three rings at a time and take a turn every time their icon arrives at six o’clock; the smaller the ring, the quicker the unit circles back to its turn. This means that you generally want your characters on the small, innermost ring and your foes on the large, outermost one. Bumping your characters into the interior rings while keeping the enemies out involves deft application of the game’s stagger system.

I’ll refrain from going full instruction manual on you, no matter how much I wish games still had ‘em. However, while the system comes across as a little elliptical at first, soon it all clicks. Once you get the hang of it, you’re repelling foes like some crazy chimeric cross between Sonic the Hedgehog and Sun Tzu: a speedy, strategic beast, lord of these rings, stacking turn after turn while preventing those who would be foolish enough to stand in your way from making so much as a move. And if you like the idea of struggling against arcane menus and cumbersome controls as you plan your next onslaught of moves, consider a different game. Combat in Monochrome Mobius comes whip-quick and razor-clean.

Oshtor and Shunya battle soldiers on a highroad. Shunya attacks the enemy lineup with a flame spell.
Combat is pure JRPG comfort food.

But all good things must come to an end. With my remaining time quickly diminishing, I decided to call the random roaming and battling quits and see some of the main story through. So after enough gleeful slaughter of the local wildlife to single-handedly give this world grounds to alert PETA, I finally got where I was supposed to be going: Yaisal Forest, woodland home to Ryogen, a wise old songstress harboring information important to Oshtor’s quest. At her abode deep in the woods, Ryogen reluctantly agreed to sing Oshtor the ballad containing the info he needs to know on one condition: he and Shunya must retrieve Ryogen’s lyre from a nearby storehouse guarded by a mischievous, fruit-flinging menace that had been keeping her from so much as approaching the place lately.

At the storehouse, I watched a funny scene. The rascal keeping Ryogen from her instrument turned out to be a Noya-Rimusa, a living, berry-bearing plant sporting a bunch of spider-leggy branches. This specimen was a real prankster, and took instantly to teasing Shunya. Fire in her irritated eyes, she vowed payback; a boss battle ensued. Shunya was on DPS duty, blasting the tarantula-treant with a burning barrage of flame-based spells. Oshtor provided healing when necessary and extra damage where possible. Turns out my butchering of the local fauna paid off: I went into the boss with plenty of experience manipulating the action ring, and in no time at all, wood-for-arms was mulched into a neat sum of XP. After quickly scooping up a blink-and-you-miss-it treasure chest hiding casually behind the boss arena and reminding me just how old school MM’s sensibilities truly, delightfully are, I returned to Ryogen, harp in hand. Sure enough, her song spelled out the next leg of Oshtor and Shunya’s journey, but this was where my story drew to a close. My time with the game was up.

I want to make sure I address the obvious question for the Utawarerumono-unacquainted interested in this game: “Will I be able to enjoy Monochrome Mobius narratively if I’ve never played Utawarerumono?” The short answer (“probably”) is unsatisfactory, and the correct answer (“story doesn’t matter in video games”) instantly obliterates any license I ever had to write for a site with “RPG” in the name, so I’ll defer to what NISA staff said about MM’s connection to prior Utawarerumono titles: absolutely nothing until I personally asked. (Sorry to those 20 theoretical puppies.) When I did bring it up, I was reassured that MM is friendly to newcomers, and my time with the game completely supports that. That said, this isn’t just a sidestory set in the same world; the game shares characters, concepts, continuity, and more with Utawarerumono proper, so series fans will certainly get more out of the experience than first-timers. Regardless, Monochrome Mobius should prove worth the while of any RPG player aligned with its old-school design.

Monochrome Mobius: Rights and Wrongs Forgotten arrives on PS4 and PS5 on September 5th in North America, and on September 8th in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. It is available right now on Windows via Steam. We thank NIS America once again for the opportunity to try the game prior to its console launch.

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Kiyan Mullen

Kiyan Mullen

Like so many kids in the early 2000s, Kiyan cut his RPG teeth on Pokémon, trying to catch ‘em all into the wee hours of the night. Now he’s spreading the love for RPGs as part of RPGFan’s social media team. When he isn’t playing RPGs, he’s reading or writing about them. And when he’s not doing that, he’s trying to watch, read, listen to, or otherwise consume every piece of Doctor Who media in existence.

2 Responses to Monochrome Mobius: Rights and Wrongs Forgotten Preview and Hands-On Impressions


You're not alone - I'm still mourning the death of the instruction manual. Loved them, & used to look forward to reading them front to back before starting a game. Thanks for the nice preview! 👍🏼


If they dub it I'll try it out. But I've seen subs done where people didn't even put the text on the screen. Not in combat or in death scenes. People always say subs are better. But what about when you flat out don't know what the character said? Or when so much is happening on the screen you can't read the text at the bottom?

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