If you've not have the privilege of knowing who Toro (Toro Inoue; Sony's Japanese mascot for Playstation) you have missed on an entertaining character. So to quickly assimilate you to the concept, Toro is a quirky white cat who enjoys being human. Very much a cat at heart, he's curious and particular, and a delight to behold. Sony has given US Vita audiences another dose of Toro (seen in both "Streetfighter X Tekken" and "Playstation Battle Royale") in the form of "Toro's Friend Network" for the PS Vita. This free to play game is awaiting players to engage socially with the Playstation Vita community. Free doesn't always mean fun, and quirky is annoying at times. So is this a game you want to waste your slowly dwindling memory on? I take a look with some insights to this intriguing title.
The game's goal appears to be lending players into the social experience for the Vita. It is no secret that one thing that Playstation Community as a whole lacks is communication. It appears that TFN tries to bring players together in a light hearted experience by merging the world of gaming with the social world so many have adopted. This helps in explaining Toro's goal to the player. Toro needs you to help him make 100 friends. He is shy and cannot do this alone and requires you to pander to the community for the sake of him and his surroundings.
The game's tutorial does a great job at explaining the primary ins and outs of the game. There are several concepts the player becomes familiar with the first few minutes of the game. There is the main world where Toro and friends hang out. This world starts off as a simple house, but through the course of play develops into a beautiful little home with gardens and interesting scenery. Eventually you will unlock MORE space to play, each with their own unique goals and attractions. Each new scene requires more friends and more MP (this is in-game currency.)
Toro explains the purpose of MP and glances on the idea of Coins (real-world currency) and what equipment does. Here you learn that the player has attack and defensive. While not giving away too much of the experience, the game houses an "RPG"system, similar to the "Find Mii" on the 3DS. This is because there is a Dungeon called "Toro's Friend Dungeon." First time players will have to wait to encounter this part of the game, as all players must have 24 hours of rest before they enter a dungeon, even for their first time.
In these dungeons, the players select 2 other friends who's combined level equals 5 or higher. Entering the dungeon, players engage in monsters which are actually other users in the TFN game. Once defeated, you can offer to be their friend, furthering your Friends List for that ultimate goal of "TORO FRIEND DOMINTION!" (I made that up.) Much like Toro's charge to reach 100 friends, the dungeon has 100 levels as well, each appearing to get harder and harder while limiting each entry into the Dungeon as 1 battle. Users who have gone in once must return to the top and wait 24 hours except for the player who maintains their HP throughout the days battles. Each battle can also last no more than 10 turns, with the player losing if they do not win in this time.
All of the games major concepts are covered and when engaged in the title, it feels much more like a "Sim" game in all the maintenance and upkeep you do. Sending your friends to work to improve the habitats and increase your stats for your dungeon adventures becomes cyclical. There are systems which keep you from manipulating the dungeons or sending out more than 10 friend requests daily, but there is always something to improve in the world surrounding Toro. An example might be that you have grown a garden and it requires one of your friends to maintain and improve. The friend you place on the task may be able to improve the task at a faster rate, but he might have an attribute which could come in handy for another task. This is due to a system where each player has either Muscle, Brain, or Artistry at their disposal. (I personally had issue with gathering individuals who were "muscle" and found I couldn't improve two particular plots of land without them.)
Friends who have Twitter accounts can allow their last Twitter post to be displayed on their gamer card. This can offer interesting benefits such as players who approve of your post granting you increased health. This increase in player attributes can also come about when approving of a friends new customizations such as new clothes, new gear, or new player cards, all of which purchased with MP or Coins. Friends who have upgraded their gear display icons over there head as to lure the player into touching their avatars and coaxing the information from them.
The method of gathering these friends is simple as well. There are ad hoc, Twitter, Facebook, and PSN lobbies. Ad hoc is easy enough and allows players in a vicinity to gather and become friends this way. Twitter and Facebook essentially gathers persons who follow you on either of those social medias to gather in these hubs. This is good if you have friends who are on those medias but are not immediately aware you have a Vita. I find this frivolous at best, but I also grabbed a friend from this room. The bread and butter is the PSN room. Here you enter and are granted 10 friend cards a day to hand out. Handing them out does not make them your friend, so you are at the mercy of other players.
That's both the strength and weakness of this particular title. It's goal appears to get players to utilize the features of the PSN's friends list while rewarding players with a fun user experience. It accomplishes this well. In order to get the full experience though, you do sort of have to be a jerk. Sending random friends requests selfishly for the purpose of this one game seems a bit awkward. This is made all the more odd when you recall that Toro's master plan is to gather 100 users together! This means that EVERYONE on your friendslist will eventually have to be playing this game. After all that work, not everyone accepts your request or they have their settings incorrectly set. Unfortunately that's where the game breaks down.
While TFN is great fun to be had, it's almost at the cost of either your current friends list or accomplishing the end game. This and the omission of any trophy support will disappoint several users. This title was originally released in Japan, so this version is merely a localized port. I was also unable to perform any tasks in the game without access to the PSN. Even though persons in my community in-game were performing tasks, it would not grant me access to the parks without being signed in. This was a bummer when I went on a road trip to Calico. These gripes aside however, TFN is great fun and a nice distraction, as well as an interesting way to gather friends who share a similar interest, even if it is simply Toro. The game is currently free on the Playstation Store for the Vita. I recommend giving it a try. Remember: You gotta be friendly to win this game! -Adam