A prequel to Utawarerumono: Mask of Deception, the verbosely named Monochrome Mobius: Rights and Wrongs Forgotten is a fairly typical Japanese RPG. It follows the story of a young warrior named Oshtor, who, after a strange meeting with a mysterious girl, sets off on a grand adventure to uncover the secrets of his family's history. So far, so very JRPG, but in its eastern-inspired fantasy world and penchant for decent plot twists, the game manages to carve out its own identity.
Oshtor encounters plenty of likeable characters on his travels, and although the narrative does slow to a crawl at times, there's a nice sense of adventure across the title's 40-ish hours. There are a lot of reasonably large environments to explore, each of them peppered with enemies and treasure chests, and so more often than not, reaching your eventual destination feels quite rewarding.
Having said that, Monochrome Mobius can struggle to hold your attention as you journey from place to place. Its turn-based combat system isn't bad, but it's hard to identify the hook. Each party member comes with their own set of abilities and magical spells, while an 'action ring' determines turn order and potential bonuses. The game's early tutorials stress the importance of the action ring, but the mechanic never really comes into its own.
Theoretically, you can manipulate the ring by using specific commands at the right time, moving your characters ahead in the turn order so that you deal more damage, or take more turns. But in practice, the action ring is simply difficult to read, and sometimes, it feels as though you're just better off being efficient with your existing turns, instead of trying to play along. The system never stops feeling like a missed opportunity.
If you're in the market for a mostly typical JRPG, and you can stomach some low budget presentation along with slightly flawed gameplay, you could do a lot worse than Monochrome Mobius. It's one of those games that feels like a heartfelt effort, and that might be just enough to outweigh its problems.