Friday, May 1, 2015

Moon Chronicles: Episode 1 (2014) - Nintendo 3DS

Said game case.
Back when the Nintendo DS was the hot handheld on the market I would often see a title at local
game stores called Moon. Every time I saw the game case I was intrigued by the title. I had heard of the developer, Renegade Kid, and their other popular first-person titles on the DS, the Dementium games, but for some unknown reason I just didn't buy it! I can't even say why, because I saw copies of Moon all the time, often read the back and thought, "This sounds like a fun game!" I would always place it back on the shelf, though.

Flash forward almost five years and Renegade Kid, now a force to be reckoned with on the Nintendo eShop with games like Mutant Mudds, Bomb Monkey, and Xeodrifter (see my review here!), made the decision to remaster their handheld space shooter as Moon Chronicles. Now running at a smooth 60 frames per second, with upgraded graphics and effects, the game would be released in episodic "seasons" on the Nintendo 3DS eShop.

Season 1 would be the original Moon game, broken into four episodes. Episode 1 was released May 15, 2014 and included the first episode and VR training missions. On February 5th, 2015 episodes 2, 3, and 4 were released simultaneously. As of writing this Season 2 has still not been announced, but Renegade Kid has said that the second season, an all-new story for the Moon series, will launch in 2015 and that a complete package of Episode 1 will also become available.

Moon Chronicles: Episode 1 begins as Major Kane, an elite US soldier, lands on the Moon. A mysterious hatch has recently been found on the surface of the planet and a team of Kane's contemporaries were sent in on a reconnaissance mission, but have gone missing under the surface. It's up to Kane and his special task force to find out what's going on down below.

The game plays and feels just like an old school PC shooter. The environment, music, and sound effects feel like they'd be right at home on a Windows 95 cd-rom. The walls even look slightly bitmapped!

The controls took a little getting used to. As I mentioned before, the game was originally released on the DS and used a control scheme similar to that of GoldenEye 007 on the Nintendo 64. The player used the d-pad to move in any direction, the face buttons to aim your weapon, and shooting was relegated to the shoulder buttons (no Z-button here). In Moon Chronicles on the 3DS that control scheme remains, but thanks to the Circle Pad Pro players can now use two analog sticks to control Kane, which works much better than the d-pad/face button combination.

I still had some trouble with getting used to the controls for the game, because I found the aiming a little stiff and my hand cramped from using the Circle Pad Pro, but after a while I got used to it and was doing just fine in the aiming and shooting department. Note: if you own the New Nintendo 3DS, Moon Chronicles is compatible with the control nub, which may or may not be preferable to the Circle Pad Pro attachment.

No need for an unlimited ammo code.
You start off the game with a rifle that has unlimited ammo. It's accuracy and power are very weak,
however. At first I wondered if I was even hitting the various enemies, which are mostly drone-like objects, but I quickly realized that when my reticle went red it meant I was making a hit.

Unlike most first-person shooters these days, you don't regain health by hiding! That was a nice surprise. I think that gimmick gets over-used and can take away from the excitement of the game. In Moon Chronicles you have to retrieve vials from downed enemies, which will give you health.

That's basically it for the gameplay! I don't want to go too in-depth with it and ruin any of the story-line, but I will say that later in Episode 1 I did find a new weapon, which actually uses ammo (also dropped from enemies), and I got to ride around in a cool vehicle!

My major complaint about Moon Chronicles: Episode 1 is the length. I finished it in two sittings of less than an hour each. That included some backtracking, looking for secrets, etc. I think if you were just sticking to the combat and kept a good pace you could probably finish the entire episode in under 40 minutes.

The price tag on Moon Chronicles is initially $8.99, which includes Episode 1 and unlockable VR missions. If you include the VR missions you are looking at some extended gameplay, which makes the $8.99 price tag a little more palatable. Episodes 2, 3, and 4 were all released individually for $4.50 or you can buy a season's pass and get all the episodes for $9, which makes the whole package of Moon Chronicles about 20 bucks. I would say that looking at the length of the mission in Episode 1 $9 seemed a little steep. I felt like I paid to play a demo of the game.

So, in conclusion, Moon Chronicles Episode 1 might be an easy choice for any fans of the original title on the DS or anyone that just really likes vintage PC shooters. The initial cost of the first episode seems a little steep, so you might want to decide if you think the whole package is something you're interested in before you take the leap and buy.

Reviews for Episodes 2, 3, and 4 to follow!

Hope you enjoyed,