We actually couldn't get started on this one before we registered an account on MAME Testers to submit a bug report for the first time. Bloody hell, next thing you know we'll be applying to be a beta tester at Taito or something. Anyway, until very recently Wonder Momo was listed and treated as a 4-way joystick game in MAME. This makes total sense as the game is on Namco System 86 hardware which is also home to Rolling Thunder, famously a 4-way joystick game. This means you can't turn while crouching which can be a little awkward but most normal people probably wouldn't notice that. However. Gaming Hell is staffed entirely by people who are not normal. My writer cohort noticed that the Arcade Archives rerelease of the game let you turn while crouching, but more damning is the fact that in the single attract demo of the game, you can very briefly see the computer-controlled Momo perform a crouch-turn. This lead to an investigation- shoutouts to MameHaze, Tom James (who pointed out that even in the Japanese community, the question of whether this was a 4 or 8-way game was hotly debated) and MixMasterLar whose replies during the investigation encouraged us to dig deeper, and Kimimi, Lee and JDThunder2 for the congrats after the fact- which lead us to submit a MAME Testers report which then lead jkburks to dig up this page from Game Machine No. 304 – March 15, 1987 and this page from Namco's NG Magazine that confirm the game is meant to be played on an 8-way joystick, which then lead to Steve Coomber fixing the game. That's getting shit done, baybee! ... Wait, were there any other notes for this one? Nah, don't think so, just read the damn thing now.
Decades before their megahit idol raising sim THE iDOLM@STER, Namco's first video game brush with idoldom was Wonder Momo.
(Don't take my word for it, they advertised the PC Engine port as an Idol Action Game!)
Released in Feburary of 1987 according to アーケードTVゲームリスト 国内•海外編 (1971-2005) (ISBN: 978-4990251215), a useful and generally trustworthy source for Japanese arcade game release dates (this date is also given in official Namco sources, so that seems pretty legitimate), Wonder Momo was Namco trying their hand at a single-plane brawler but in a radically different way from the likes of Kung-Fu Master and Bad Dudes vs. Dragonninja both in theming and structure. Momo isn't an ordinary video game heroine, you see- she's a stage actress in the lead role of a tokusatsu-style stage play performed at the Namco Theater, telling the story of a protector who came from beyond the stars, Wonder Momo, to fight against the evil ambitions of the Warudemon Army and their relentless attacks on the peaceful Earth. If the audience claps their hands and believes in Momo's wonder power, she can turn into Wonder Momo and save the day, otherwise this performance is gonna be a disaster! This ain't a panto though, no shouting "HE'S BEHIND YOU!" please.
If anything the level construction and structure is closer to something like Renegade rather than Kung-Fu Master, in that each stage (here referred to as Acts, a total of 16 divided across 4 Volumes) is a small, closed-in arena where you wail on mooks until the boss (or bosses) shows up. Here, of course, that closed-in area is a stage with Momo able to tread the boards all the way up to the curtains on each side (although try and jump into the wings and she'll be booted back onto the stage, no doubt by some surly stagehand telling her to get back out there- this does buy you some time and temporary invincibility, though) so you've got a fair bit of room to move about in, albeit on a single plane. The structure is a little odd but it's done this way on purpose, as defeating the generic mooks builds up your Wonder meter that you'll need to tackle the boss, but we'll get to what you use that for in a minute. Some mooks also drop power-ups in the form of life-restoring pills and secret powers for Wonder Momo, but one slight issue is that they always starting moving up and off the screen- if you destroy a flying drone as normal Momo, wave that health pill goodbye, you'll never grab it. That's the gist of things, then- survive each Act until the end!
Anyway, we have to explain what our little star Momo can do! With only two buttons to work with- Attack and Jump- you might think Momo doesn't have much of an attack repertoire but she has enough to get by, Your standard high-kicks don't have great range (although when jumping they're just the right angle to hit flying drones) so you'll want to use the crouch-kick instead for the ordinary mooks. Luckily, unlike Rolling Thunder, you can turn while crouching without having to pull off any arcane command but Momo can also do something not a lot of action game characters of the time can- she can face the screen. Lightly tapping the stick to turn around will make Momo face the player, and from here she can do a splits-kick while crouching or jumping that hits on both sides which is helpful for when you're surrounded but it has a lot of recovery on it so you can't mash it. Despite the short range of her normal high-kick, Momo's repertoire here reminds me a little of Rick's moveset from Splatterhouse in that it seems small but for the most part is suitable to the tasks the game asks of you (and similar to Rick, Momo can do her crouching kick in mid-air with the right command) and it feels like you have the tools needed to survive, with practice. Using those tools can sometimes be a bit trickier than I'd like but we'll get to that.
That's just normal Momo though, for she has a secret power! Grabbing a tornado that appears on each Act or facing the camera and mashing Attack while standing lets Momo spin, and if she has meter she becomes... the heroine of justice, Wonder Momo! Decked out in a power suit, Wonder Momo has all the powers of normal Momo but takes half-damage, is no longer stunned by certain attacks and can jump up to the top of the screen. More importantly, she gets her Wonder Hoop, a powerful weapon she can throw at enemies which expands her attack range immensely and can even serve as crowd control- throw the hoop then tap the opposite direction and Attack and you'll send the hoop flying the other way to keep enemies at bay. When it hits a boss monster or the curtains though, it'll bounce off until you grab it or it ends up off-screen, where you'll have to wait for an unseen stage-hand to throw it back into the fray. There's also two different power-up pills to grab when Wonder Momo's around, one that gives her an Ultraman-style shot to replace her Wonder Hoop and another that activates her ultimate attack, the Wonder Typhoon, where she spins rapidly and fires shows on both sides (helpfully, your Wonder meter won't drain while this is active). The downside, of course, is that she's on a meter- the Wonder meter that you build up by beating bad guys begins to drain when you become Wonder Momo and once it's out, you're back to normal Momo... Which, if you're fighting a boss, could be a death sentence.
Generally these controls are OK but the whole facing-the-camera element is kind of an issue. Since you have to hold the direction slightly longer than you'd expect to turn around, turning to face the direction you want isn't nearly as snappy as it is in something like Kung-Fu Master and in a game like this, where you have to react to stuff very quickly, that's a big problem. It's pretty frustrating to get hit by an enemy from behind you because the turning speed was just a little too slow, and the recovery frames on the splits-kick mean that it's not an especially viable option for crowd-control, putting normal Momo and hoopless Wonder Momo at a big disadvantage. It doesn't help that the controls in general are loose and floaty, especially apparent when trying to jump to grab a power-up and not blunder into anything on the way down. The other thing is when you get hit, you get sent flying- people make fun of Ryu Hayabusa and Simon Belmont getting flung across the stage but Momo trips over in a way that can only be described as going arse-over-teakettle. She does get a tiny bit of mercy invincibility when she gets up but unlike other games, she doesn't blink or show any sign it's still active. This can often lead to a situation where you get absolutely pinballed around the stage, bumbling into one obstacle after another as you try to get to safety before your invincibility runs out and failing horribly, and it's pretty frustrating! Even after putting quite a bit of time into this one, I still found myself in situations like these.
Moving on and getting more specific on the Act design, you'll be fighting the generic grey Warudemons a lot (mostly through crouch kicks) but they get faster and slightly more devious as the game goes on (running at you at different speeds and so on) and other enemies slowly get introduced too that need to be approached differently- flying drones that take potshots at you have to be attacked in the air, tentacle plants need to be taken out before they take root in the ground, ninja dogs can sometimes form totems to launch stars at you and so on. There's not a huge amount of variety but the game does its best with what it has and does the job well enough. Each Act ends with a boss monster of course, and they too take different approaches- the crab-men play a high-low mixup game making them surprisingly dangerous, the hopping robots change their behaviour depending on how close they are to you so you have to pre-empt their attacks, Amazona has a jumping strike and better reach with her sword- and each fourth Act ends with a unique boss like a fire-breathing t-rex and a gigantic bomb-spewing walker robot. The fact I have to say 'unique' means that yes, many bosses will get repeated, which isn't necessarily a bad thing- there's some clever combinations such as being boxed in by two rock-throwing golems- but there's some cases where it's just you fighting one boss after another, becoming more a battle of attrition than anything else. Perhaps the bigger issue is that there's an awful lot of dead air and waiting around- the grey Warudemons spawn in pretty frequently but there are often times when there's just nothing happening and you have to wander around for something to happen which is a little odd for an arcade game.
The way the game's health system works- you have one life and the only health you get back without power-ups is two blocks after every successfully-beaten stage- makes calling this a battle of attrition pretty apt really. The entire crux of the game lies pretty much on meter management, keeping your Vitality as high as possible and how you use Wonder Momo's power- whether you activate her early or wait for the tornado to arrive, and to use her as efficiently as possible so you don't lose all your meter before the stage is over. The problem is that eventually the enemy odds eventually become completely overwhelming if you're ordinary Momo, and the extra damage you take means that you won't last long at all. Activate Wonder Momo too late and you'll never even get the chance to transform and just get swamped, activate it too early and you'll run out of juice. Memorisation of when to activate it is the name of the game, but with the way the controls are (and Momo's tendency to go flying when hit), sometimes you'll just get dunked on by enemies and recovery is all but hopeless. Runs can go South very, very quickly, and if you don't have enough gas in the tank from around the second half of Volume 3 onwards, it'll be an uphill struggle to recover, and this is the main reason I can't 1CC the game- something always goes wrong leaving me in a desperate last-stand that leads to me draining my Wonder meter too early, meaning I can't recover enough meter to survive the later rounds. It's a rough game in that regard.
Still, Wonder Momo's real charm is in the presentation. The very concept of the game is novel by itself- it is as dedicated as it can be, given hardware limitations, to the idea of this being a stage show, with the crowd always visible, the edge of the stage being represented by the curtains leading into the wings and of course the curtain raising and falling at the beginning and end of each Act. The backgrounds are pretty plain with some repeated elements and the general colour palette is predominantly green and blue but there's a few different ones at least and in-context it makes sense- backdrops aren't easy to make for theatre productions, gotta reuse what you can! It helps that Momo herself is a really cute design and has a fair bit of personality for a game from this era, especially as one of the very few game protagonists outside of LaserDisc games to have actual voice samples- she vocalises pretty much every action including saying "Henshin!" as she transforms, thanking the player after a Game Over and asking them very nicely if they'd continue. Even the enemies are chatty and there's some pretty amusing clips in there! Some sound cues are also useful such as when a boss or a tornado has appeared although that's obviously not as useful in an actual arcade (good luck hearing this cabinet if it's next to something by Data East!). It's a little twee and cutesy (even the weird aliens are cute in their own way) but that's wholly appropriate. There's a slight salacious angle to proceedings of course, but while Momo's skirt is a little too short for purpose at times (mostly after a high jump and if she's hit in mid-air) and there's that upskirt cameraman on the loose, it never feels particularly seedy, at least not to me. It definitely leans more towards the cute side of the spectrum rather than anything like the nudie mahjong games companies like Home Data and Nichibutsu were cracking out at the same time, and while I can understand this element can be off-putting to people, I feel it's a rather small part of the work as a whole (and, as Queen's Gate would show a few decades later, it could've been way more objectionable).
Overall then... Wonder Momo is fine. It's got a unique premise for the time and to this day really, fitting presentation with some cute touches here and there and the game mechanics do the job with just enough variety and challenge to warrant you giving it a few tries. However, the controls being floaty, imprecise and a little bit sluggish due to the facing-the-camera stuff mean that it can often be more frustrating than it should be, there's a lot of waiting around for enemies to appear which isn't the best approach for an arcade game and a run can go wrong very quickly without much you can do as normal Momo gets overwhelmed. With a bit more time and some little tweaks it could've been pretty excellent, but Wonder Momo will just have to settle for being alright. She did her best at least, and while the staff who worked on the game beyond musician Kimio Yudate remain unknown, I'd love to know if the lessons learned making this game impacted Namco's next single-plane brawler at all... That's right, Splatterhouse was their next entry in the genre. A leap in hardware makes a big change, huh? Splatterhouse's controls do take a little time to get used to, but once you do they're significantly less floaty and awkward than the ones seen in Wonder Momo and yet there's similarities such as how the attacks both Rick and Momo have give them just the right amount of tools needed to survive. Putting aside my attempts to pair these two games together, on its own Wonder Momo is completely fine, if a little unrefined, and worth checking out if you have an interest in the genre or find yourself intrigued by its unique presentation. Thanks for visiting the Namco Theater, please take a look at the Momo souvenir store before you leave!
For doing her best, Wonder Momo is awarded...
In a sentence, Wonder Momo is...
A decent-enough afternoon at the theatre.
And now, it's that time, folks!
Before we do anything else, we have to start with a very important video released by Bandai Namco themselves.
Namco Museum of Art is a YouTube series focusing on the key art, original materials and deveolpment history behind many a classic Namco game, and surprisingly Wonder Momo was featured in its third episode. This covers the original arcade game how the flyer was made- drawn by Yoshiharu Sakakibara, the art employed animation cell techniques to give the key art that anime vibe, and the PC Engine version's art by mangaka Kōichi Tokita even had 'settei' (model sheets) drawn for Momo to go along with it, to help further define Momo's character and appearance. There's other details in this video that we'll be looking at just a little later, but this is an absolutely essential watch- not just this episode either, watch all of 'em!
Of note, you'll be watching these English versions on archive.org for... Baffling reasons. This upload was by "Critical Kate" Willaert as the 'official' English subtitles versions previously on YouTube... Were in fact done by an anonymous imposter and their account was terminated. Yeah, I didn't see it coming either, but those subtitles were so professional they apparently fooled the whole internet. Including me. Whoever you were, mysterious imposter, we salute your efforts in translating this essential material.
Let's properly begin with a tiny look at an early version of the arcade game.
Gamest #7 (April 1987) (on archive.org too) has a feature on Wonder Momo with a few interesting screenshots.
First, the title screen here is an early one with a pink background and no image of Momo, transformed or not.
Second, while the in-game shots seem to match up with the final game, the game isn't divded up into Volumes yet.
It's hard to see, but the Volume and Act counter is not here, with a general Stage counter in its place. Weird.
NG Magazine #5 (March 1987) has similar screenshots (as well as a faux-interview with Momo herself, cute).
Let's move on to home ports, there's only a few to deal with here.
First up to bat is the PC Engine version released in 1989, only in Japan of course.
As we've seen before with Splatterhouse and Marchen Maze, Namco were pretty keen on supporting the PC Engine with several of their arcade games getting exclusive contemporary ports to the system. Wonder Momo is another one of these, although it's not quite as successful as Splatterhouse in staying faithful to the arcade original. Obviously the presentation has taken a hit (with no voice samples being a notable omission) but for the most part the graphics in particular are close enough to the arcade game, so it's not bad in that regard. The basic mechanics are pretty much present and correct but there's also a lot of strange oddities with some of the specifics- the Wonder meter incorrectly drains during the spinning super move, the Vitality meter's missing two points at the start of every life, the splits kick no longer has those long recovery frames so you can spam it as much as you like, you can't turn while crouching... Weird little things like that mean you can't necessarily transfer all your skills from the arcade game to this port and vice-versa. At least you don't have to transfer your 100 yen pieces to your PC Engine if you want to make it to the end- you get infinite continues and restart at the last Act you reached rather than the start of the last Volume.
However, a more obvious change is just how much of the game's been gutted. There's now only 12 Acts instead of 16, several backgrounds are gone, any interstitial cutscenes are missing like the kids running away at the start of the game and a huge number of enemy types are completely absent. Specifically, the t-rex boss of 1-4, the blob boss of 2-4 and the purple walker boss of 3-4 are gone, and of the normal enemies the tentacle blobs introduced in 2-1 and the yellow robots introduced in 4-2 are missing. To compensate, the pink flying drones are a lot more aggressive, attack more frequently in pairs and sometimes instantly respawn plus many boss encounters are replaced with two of the same boss. Despite these cuts, the game now has four extra cutscenes (including a new ending) with Momo doing some slightly risqué, gravure-esque photoshoots including a schoolgirl outfit, a swimsuit and even in the bath. She's an '80s idol after all, I guess, and one of the scenes reveals her three sizes (I would never divulge them here, don't be so gauche) so, combined with the advert showing some fans fawning over Momo and the tagline "Idol Action Game", I guess Namco wanted to emphasise that aspect of the game. Still, this isn't a terrible port by any means, it's just not quite the arcade game. On the plus side, the cover art by mangaka Kōichi Tokita is an all-time classic, and that pose was even reused for her Namco x Capcom art!
This version also has a cheat code as described by The Cutting Room Floor- on the Title Screen, when Momo begins flashing, press Run the instant her flashing silhouette changes from normal Momo to Wonder Momo. To be specific, that's not when you see the full-colour image of Wonder Momo with the helmet on, but while she's still flashing. The timing is very precise so you won't get this on your first try, but if you're successful you'll see the screen above, captioned MOMO IZIRI. Here you can select music and sound effects to test with up and down, select an act with left and right and start the game with Run. There's some extra cheats to do here too via GameFAQs- Hold I + II and press Select when Skip is set to 0, 1 or 4 to see the between-stage cutscenes and 0B to see the ending.
As one final bonus, here's a PDF of the PC Engine's manual from Gaming Alexandria.
The next port wouldn't show up for a while- the Playstation version in Namco Museum Encore released in 1997, again Japan-only.
As discussed elsewhere on this site, the Namco Museum series on PS1 had five volumes released internationally but the final one in Japan, Encore, was not so lucky. One of the seven games included was Wonder Momo! However, as also noted on our page on the series, the Namco Musem series was not necessarily the home of super-perfect ports of games. These were never true emulations but ports using the original assets so to speak and while the quality of ports in these sets definitely increased over time, Wonder Momo is an unfortunate example of it not quite being right. To start with the positives, this comes with a lot of extra options and bonuses- you get the full suite of dip-switches to play with (including a level skip option) as well as a test mode; there's a small gallery of items like the flyer, the cabinet standee and even the original printed circuit boards for those into true arcade porn; and there's Memory Card support for saving your high scores and stats in all the games with a ranking and unique art being doled out depending on your performance- here's Rank A, Rank B, Rank C and Rank D (which has a cameo from the old woman from Genpei Tōma Den) for you.
Moving on to the game itself, graphics and sound are mostly fine (although the voices sound a little tinnier than usual, at least to me) so on the surface it seems alright. However, there is definitely some kind of timing issue which is pretty unfortunate- as explained to me by Kevin Gifford of Magweasel in an email once (I forgot to say thank you, sorry! Please come back to the internet, Magweasel) the time it takes for the Wonder Hoop to return after it's been thrown is not right, so any patterns learned in the arcade version won't work here. There seems to be other issues related to this elsewhere in the game- if you watch the attract mode demo, Momo seems to be fine at first but eventually starts attacking the air and getting hit by stuff she normally wouldn't be hit by in the demo, meaning the inputs have gone out of sync. Still, it could be worse- Encore has severe backwards-compatibility issues on Playstation 2, meaning most games including Wonder Momo run way too slow (and the Wonder Momo music will interrupt your game of Rolling Thunder). In any case, this is not a 100% faithful version of the game but it was the best you'd get for a long, long time.
Of course there was a bloody mobile version that I can't say anything about! Released in 2007, screenshots and info from Dengeki Online, looks fine, mumble grumble, moving on.
Both the arcade and PC Engine versions would show up on the Wii Virtual Console (2006-2019) but that's no longer an option.
The Wii VC Namco arcade selection page is still up as are the instructions
The main thing here is the title screen has an altered copyright date and company name, common practice with these versions.
Finally, we have Arcade Archives: Wonder Momo on Playstation 4 and Switch worldwide in 2022.
Yes, international Wonder Momo fans would finally get to eat well courtesy of Hamster's Arcade Archives line of arcade reissues. Oh, you better believe I was on this rerelease day one. As with all of Hamster's rereleases, this is not stuffed with extra features but it has enough- the original Japanese arcade version (no other revisions, unsurprisingly), a Hi Score Mode (get the highest score on one single credit) and a Caravan Mode (you have only five minutes of gameplay to get the highest score possible) with online leaderboards for all modes, plus a few basic visual options and filters, dip-switches, a manual and so on. Honestly, just having this game available in the West properly for the first time is wild enough, plus until it was fixed in August 2022 this was technically better than MAME as it correctly emulated the crouch-turning ability. As a cute bonus, the game allows you to switch the original boot-up sequence back on- this isn't always an option in Arcade Archives releases but it was added to this game because you hear Momo's voice as the game starts up. We wouldn't want fans to miss out on that, right?
Next... We have two cancelled Wonder Momo follow-ups to look at.
We begin with a straight-up sequel, Wonder Momo 2!
Namco character design Tatsuya Ishikawa / siropen revealed in 2010 on his blog in three different posts that a sequel to Wonder Momo was in development at some point (later in 2017 he would clarify it was in development in 1993). Apparently the focus was going to be on two-player co-operative play, as two sisters- Mimi, a second-year college student and Nana, a first-year juniour high school- fight against bizarre aliens and more human characters this time around. According to Ishikawa's blog posts, there's some background and move designs done too but not much else (whether he's saying not much else was done on the game or not much material remains is unclear, I'm trying not to read too much into the machine translation I have to work with) and was cancelled as, as beautifully put by Google Translate, Namco was beginning production of "that magnificent parent-child fight" which was taking staff members away from other projects, including Wonder Momo 2. That parent-child fight, of course, would be the first Tekken. Thanks to Ishikawa's posts and VGDensetsu's page on these design materials though, we at least get a glimpse of what could've been. Be sure to browse the rest of that blog for treasure like this incredibly sick Galaxian3 jacket!
The other confirmed cancelled game is... Wonder Momo Quest, a Dragon Quest-style RPG?!
There's much less to go on with this game, as it seems it was never properly announced but revealed as one of 'several other projects' launched after the PC Engine port of the arcade game in the Namco Museum of Art episode- if you haven't watched it yet, what are you doing here?! Watch that instead of reading this stuff! Ahem. All that's really shown is a few screenshots where you see a basic overworld map, a cutscene and a battle scene very similar to Dragon Quest, the title Wonder Momo Quest and a year, 1992- not even a console is mentioned, but judging from the screenshots and where Wonder Momo was ported to, it was probably headed to the PC Engine. The fact that it's got the year of 1992 may offer a small clue as to why it was cancelled- Namco's final PC Engine games were in 1992, so maybe they decided this was the time to get out of that market. In any case, it seems that some work was done on this one, but I'm curious what the reference to 'several other projects' could mean- was the video referring to Wonder Momo 2 or other cancelled Wonder Momo games? A mystery...
Next... A Wonder Momo J-pop single? Sure, why not.
Haruko Momo, also known as Halko and momo-i (who has an adorable website) is a Japanese singer, songwriter, voice actress and band producer who seems pretty interesting (her Wikipedia page goes into some detail, just look at all the US convention tours she did, damn). In 2005, released a single called WONDER MOMO-i~New recording~ that's an arranged version of the two main Wonder Momo themes, the standard BGM and the henshin BGM (with her dramatically changing her voice and performance style between the two). It's a banger, as the kids say these days, and as the cover of the album shows she is absolutely committed to the bit, decked out as Wonder Momo herself. You should definitely give it a listen! The 'New recording' bit makes me wonder if this was something that she performed at live shows before but I couldn't find anything about that unfortunately.
Anyway, here's scans of the album inlay cover- you thought I didn't own a copy of this? Oh, you poor fool, of course I do.
(Thanks to Ultra Powerful Pal of Gaming Hell _sharc for helping us get this many moons ago.)
Here's a video of a live performance of the song (in full Wonder Momo gear) from HOT WAVE, November 2005.
Sadly, a performance of this song where she's wearing a Power Glove has disappeared from the internet. What a crime.
Next... Wonder Momo's brief revival in the 2010s. Oh boy, this is going to be a long one, make yourself a cuppa or something.
We could write an entire article about the whole thing- in fact, an unfinished draft is where most of these notes come from, now that's clever reuse of scrapped assets!- but to briefly sum things up... Back in 2012- or 2011 as that's what the farewell message says, it's just I can't find any press releases for that year- Bandai Namco announced the ShiftyLook project which was ging to bring back dormant legacy Namco IPs in webcomic form, starting with adaptations of Sky Kid and Xevious. Eventually, the ShiftyLook project would encompass webcomics based on IPs like Dig Dug, Wagyan Land and Tower of Babel, webtoons based on Bravoman and Mappy and, what we're interested in here, a webcomic, video game and web anime series based on Wonder Momo. It was all very transient though- it was shuttered in September 2014, with all the webcomics gone (preserved by supercomputer276), the browser game Namco High vanishing (preserved now by klonoa.org's mirror of the game), the iOS and other games disappearing, with only the Wonder Momo stuff on Crunchyroll being spared, lucky for us.
Let's look at the webcomic first.
Written by Erik Ko and Jim Zum and drawn by Omar Dogan, Wonder Momo: Battle Idol, running from May 15th 2012 to March 14th 2014, was a follow-up to the arcade game with the original Momo retiring to raise a family, specifically her klutzy, slightly-dense daughter Momoko who dreams of being an idol. However, after being found by the alien Glooder and mistaken for her mom, Momoko gets given miraculous powers to fight evil aliens... Although she's more interested in becoming an idol like Akiho Mazo who happens to also have wonder powers. Things get complicated when it turns out the Wonder Momo powers can build up toxic rage if used too much, leading to a little Dark Wonder Momo arc, then there's a robot Wonder Momo that goes haywire and... Ill level with you, it's not for me. The humour is very much in the 2010s webcomic style and it's aggressively not my thing, especially since they seem to have one joke that they never stop using- having actions spelled out as comic book-style exclamations, such as 'OMINOUS POWER NOISES!' and 'GARBAGED!', which is charming the first time but gets way overused. Additionally, the pace is absolutely breakneck even for a webcomic, with newspaper-sized comics ploughing through the story as fast as possible so there's never any time for anything to breathe. Still, there's a few cute things here such as flashbacks to the original Wonder Momo and the art is certainly fitting for the series. Eh, sometimes this kinda thing ain't for me, you know? And that's fine. The Bravoman comic did have a brief crossover with Wonder Momo too, but that webcomic is its own thing entirely, we barely have enough time to cover the Wonder Momo one as it is!
Surprisingly, the first half of the webcomic is still available in print form courtesy of Udon Entertainment (although at the time of writing it's in its 'Last Chance' section so don't bet on a reprint anytime soon), gathering the first 104 instalments (May 15th 2012 to May 10th 2013) complete with commentary on every single comic, a general history of Wonder Momo (including PC Engine version screenshots saying they're the arcade version, whoops) and a bonus concept art section. While labelled as Volume 1, there was never a follow-up with the other 96 strips and the same applies to the Bravoman collection so even if it's one of the few ShiftyLook projects to be preserved in physical media, it's incomplete. Yes, I have a copy of the Wonder Momo book, of course I have a copy.
Next up is the web anime and lucky for us, we have a whole press event to cover!
So, at said press event held on Jaunary 29th 2014 at the 'Bandai Namco Miraikenkyushu Fun Theatre' and uploaded to Crunchyroll and elsewhere a few days later, Shigetaka Kurita, General Manager Online Services Department of Bandai Namco Games Operationg Group 2 hosted the announcement that, as a result of Wonder Momo being the most popular of ShiftyLook's webcomics, there would be a multimedia push for the franchise with a series of five web anime shorts, music tracks and even a new game. Focusing on the anime, it was announced to be directed by Tatsunoko Production veteran Yutaka Kagawa and animated by the studio Graphinca whose previous works include the Hellsing OVA and CG scenes in Girls und Panzer, with Area 11, Tommy Pedrinini, Decktronic and Patrick Trinh producing music for both the anime and game with singing by FUJIKOMATUNE, a duo consisting of the two newcomers voicing the lead heroines in the anime, Yuka Fujiwara and Mitsuki Komatsu. Producer and Editor-in-Chief of ShiftyLook Rob Pereyda, alongside script writer Ayumi Inabe, Kagawa, Fujiwara and Komatsu were present to answer a couple of basic questions (take a shot every time the phrase "COOL SEXY ACTION ANIME" is said in full) and show both a teaser (that refers to the original arcade game as THE MASTERPIECE OF THE CENTURY which makes me think they were doing this a smidge tongue-in-cheek) and the first full episode. The press event, honestly, is a must-watch to be at the epicentre of the start of one of these multimedia projects... Although I can't help but feel a little sad rewatching it, especially for the voice actresses who didn't do much after Wonder Momo ran its course.
The series itself, which goes roughly through the same story beats as the first dozen or so webcomic instalments (although weirdly changing Akiho's second name to Matsuo) suffers from a similar problem to the webcomic- it has absolutely no time to rest on anything because they have five minutes in each of the five episodes to try and tell a story. This also impacts the ending as it just sort-of... Ends. Short-form anime can absolutely work but it's definitely better for comeday adapatations such as the peerless Ai-Mai-Mi or Teekyu rather than this sort of thing. It also does the 'actions shown as words' thing but leans on it a lot less and generally tries to be more focused on the action rather than cracking wise. The animation is completely competent and the voice acting does the job well enough, plus having Haruka Momoi play the original Wonder Momo is a very nice little touch, but it's just a little dry without much to it, to the point where I'm kinda struggling to find things to say. Rob Pereyda did manage to insert himself into the show though- he makes a cameo in Episode 5 on a billboard and voices one of the good aliens, Glieger. In summary, the Wonder Momo web series exists, I suppose. I'd probably sooner rewatch this than both seasons of The Tower of Druaga but, you know, it's short.
We're ending on the one that got away from us, the video game.
Yes, there was a new Wonder Momo video game that you probably didn't get the chance to play before it was delisted! Wonder Momo: Typhoon Booster was released in May 2014 (a scant four months before Shiftylook shut down operations) on Android devices (in particular the NVIDIA Shield) and the Mac App store (a PC port was planned but cancelled) and was developed by... WayForward? Yes, the Shantae developers, and also the people behind smoe of the most love-it-or-hate-it retro remakes / sequels in recent years (ask a few people about Contra 4 or Double Dragon Neon sometime, see the different reactions you get). Rather than turn the game into something new like Bravoman: Binja Bash! on iOS, Typhoon Booster is a proper sequel to the original arcade game, just with the characters replaced with their modern webcomic equivalents. The main focus changes from arena-based battles to platforming with combat (although some areas do fence you in) with most of the moves and mechanics from the original present and correct with a modern lick of paint, plus a Wonder Catcher minigame to unlock artwork and music, which is notable for being set in a little Namco arcade that uses music from Mappy and Libble Rabble (!) for the BGM. That's all I can really tell you though as it is long, long delisted, and even if it was around I don't have anything I can feasibly play it on. Sorry! Fortunately, the video above is a complete playthrough of the game so you can still see it in action at least.
One last thing related to ShiftyLook, Wonder Momo did get represented in their browser visual novel Namco High, but not as you'd expect.
Akiho Matsuo (drawn by Tyson Hesse) is one of the students you can become friends with, complete with her Amazona transformation and a brief cameo from the Warudemons in her ending.
Now normally we'd end with all the cameos in other games, but, well... This is a Namco game. This job will not be easy.
So consider this a truncated list of cameos of Wonder Momo characters in other games, mostly stuff I happen to have to hand, in no way definitive.
Family Pinball is the Japanese version of Rock'n Ball, and before VAP published it in the US, it was published by Namco and full of cameos!
So, you can select Momo as your character. That's about it.
Marvel Land, a cute platformer in a theme park, has bonus stages set in a parody of Disneyland's Main Street Electrical Parade with floats of Namco characters.
One of these floats is, of course, Momo herself. No Wonder Momo, just plain ol' Momo. She also stuck around for the Mega Drive port.
Tinkle Pit has an obscene amount of Namco cameos both in-game and on the name entry screen, where a random character will walk across the bottom of the screen.
One of these is Momo. For some reason her non-Wonder form is more popular...
Mach Breakers: Numan Athletics 2's Hyper Glider event has a blink-and-you'll-miss-it blimp that shows a random Namco character.
Guess what? Momo's here too. Oh, she's in her henshin form this time, good for her!
Point Blank 3's festival mask stage has a selection of Namco cameos, including Wonder Momo with that helmet of hers.
Let's skip ahead a few years, with art from Creative Uncut. Probably Wonder Momo's most significant appearance outside of her original game is the Playstation 2 cross-over strategy RPG Namco x Capcom developed by Monolith Soft but only released in Japan. Watching this walkthrough, Wonder Momo actually appears basically at the start in the first Chapter as a playable unit paired with Bravoman, ending a run of shows at the Namco Theatre which ends up with her being attacked by her stage friend Amazona only to be saved by Bravoman. In this world, Momo is just an actress but gets given 'Ultra Transformation' powers by Bravoman to fight alongside the other heroes, so she spends most of her time transformed. Other characters from the game including Amazona and Crab Fencer appear as enemies and both the normal and transformation music get remixed by Yuzo Koshiro and Yasunori Mitsuda! I'm just sorry I don't have much to say beyond strategy RPGs not being my thing but I can send you over to Kimimi's blog on the game, and I can at least show you Bravoman and Wonder Momo's Mutliple Assault which is pretty great, ending with the curtain drop from the original game. Neat! One important thing here is this game refers to Momo's full name as Momo Kanda. As far as I can tell, this name hadn't shown up anywhere else before this- it doesn't seem to be in the PC Engine manual at least- but it's often seen retroactively used to refer to the Momo of the original arcade game. Whether it's canon is a little up in the air.
Unsurprisingly, Namco's idol-raising juggernaut THE iDOLM@STER also has a nod to Wonder Momo although the extent of it is perhaps a little less than you might think. As detailed on project-imas wiki (which is also where the image above comes from), Wonder Momo's battle costume is available as a downloadable costume for the Xbox 360 port of THE iDOLM@STER, its console-exclusive spin-off Live For You! and the pachislot LIVE in SLOT! because of course there's a pachislot game. Despite what is often said on the internet and what cleverly-edited videos may lead you to believe, Haruko Momoi's Wonder Momo-i does not appear as a song you can use in live shows in any iM@S game. The closest you get is on the Famison 8BIT albums- Volume 1 has GO MY WAY!! ("Wonder Momo" Famison 8BIT MIX), a mash-up of the famous iM@S song GO MY WAY!! and songs from Wonder Momo, sung by Yayoi Takatsuki and Ami & Mami Futami. It's a good one too, but it's not in any of the games, sorry!
There is also an apparent in-universe tie-in with Wonder Momo that I went almost nuts trying to find a source for as the fan-wiki, helpful as it is compared to most, had the wrong source listed. The image above, sourced from this Japanese blog and confirmed by my own searching to be real (had to locate some photos to confirm it, yarr), is a page taken from THE iDOLM@STER PLATINUM ALBUM (ISBN-13 978-4757725003), a mook for the very first arcade game in the series, which profiles the mysterious and unseen president of 765 Production of the First Vision era of iM@S, Junichirou Takagi. The blurb at the bottom censors out various parts with blank circles and is probably meant to be a bit of a joke- I can only rely on machine translation but it seems he starts explaining the meaning behind the name 765 Production before it's cut off (it's the goroawase numbers for Namco)- but critically, one of the censored words is Wonder Momo, with the rest of the sentence outright saying he was her producer in the early days of 765 Pro. It's a cute little nod to Namco's first idol game, but it seems this is the only time this fact has ever been mentioned
Here's a strange one, with a screenshot from Siliconera. Queen's Gate: Spiral Chaos is a PSP strategy RPG based on the gamebook-based tabletop game Queen's Gate (which is itself a supplement set to Queen's Blade set of gamebooks) with the twist being that it brings together ladies licensed from manga, anime, video games and Hobby Japan's published works so they can all duke it out. Momo herself isn't actually in the real-life gamebooks and is exclusive to this game, although whether she was added specifically to replace Kasumi from Dead or Alive (who didn't make it to the game) as is often stated on the internet is something I cannot corroborate. In any case, Wonder Momo here is illustrated by Akio Watanabe / Poyoyon♥Rock of Popotan and Nurse Witch Komugi fame and voiced by Haruko Momoi (yes, good) and, well, her art here is really cute (she's got a fang now, that adds extra cute points) but it's also way, way more provocative than Momo is usually presented, with a lot of panty-flashing, jiggling and destroyed-clothes animations which at least fits in with the rest of Queen's Gate but even I, a creature of culture (I own multiple Oneechanbara games, please step on my face) find it a bit weird to see Momo in something like this. You can get the gist of it with this video of all her attacks and this animated cutscene with a prominent pantyshot close-up. Momo's an idol, show her some respect!
There's almost certainly way more mobage collabs that include Wonder Momo but here's the one I'm going with to represent the genre as a whole, simply because it's one I happen to know off-hand (a friend emailed me about it once and I was absolutely delighted, needless to say)- Station Memorial or Station Memo, a mobage that uses the GPS on your phone to give you cute girls based on the real-life train stations you visit in Japan. So basically, Pokémon Go! but with cute train girls. Yes, it rules. A collaboration event, Video Game Legends!, held from September 17th 2015 to October 15th 2015, had Namco-related skins available for some characters, including a Momo costume for Aozu Shira, a Wonder Momo costume for Chiho Teiyoshi (not pictured, sadly) and an Amazona costume for Chico Sakusabe.
Finally, Pac-Man 99, a Switch-exclusive Arika game that turns the classic maze-em-up into a battle royale, has a downloadable Wonder Momo skin complete with music.
Some other games I'm aware of having Wonder Momo references but have absolutely no chance of getting screenshots of in a timely manner or can't be screenshotted include Namco Super Wars on the WonderSwan (Momo is a playable unit but it's another bloody strategy RPG), Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean on the GameCube (Momo appears as a card / Magnus, the only card game I will play is Card Fighters' Clash), Dig Dug Islands for browsers (Momo appears as a skin, this game is hella delisted now), Pro Baseball Famista 2011 (a 3DS baseball game with Namco cameos including Momo and a car from Ridge Racer as selectable characters... But they don't have unique models and I couldn't find her in-game) and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U / 3DS / Ultimate (the transformation music plays in Namco Arcade '80s Retro Medley 2 but Momo herself isn't in Pac-Man's Namco Roulette taunt). There's probably more. So many more. Maybe another time, eh?
These ace fighters will be admired until the switch is turned off!
PLEASE PLAY WONDER MOMO!