By Josh Speer / February 16th, 2015
|Title||Moon Chronicles Season 1|
|Release Date||May 15, 2014|
|Genre||FPS, Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi|
|Age Rating||T for Teen – Drug Use, Violence|
Back in 2009, I was one of the lucky few to discover the Renegade Kid space first-person shooter called Moon. Though the team was already on my radar for the terrifying, yet compelling Dementium: The Ward, there were sufficient issues with that first game that kept me from enjoying it as much as I would like. That said, I went into Moon full of hope and was rewarded with a creepy, atmospheric FPS that fixed most, if not all, of the problems of Dementium, while throwing the player into a dramatic new story. Thus, it was with great excitement that I discovered Moon was getting re-released on the 3DS five years later, with polished graphics in an episodic format. While I was initially apprehensive about having to buy the game all over again, the prospect of more episodes to come was more than enough to hook me. So, the question remains — was Moon Chronicles worth the price of admission, or should it have stayed a niche DS classic?
Since Episode 1 was released a while back and already reviewed on the site, this review only covers Episodes 2, 3 and 4 of Moon Chronicles. That said, Episode 1 was perhaps the smallest part of the game, and it only gets more progressively challenging from there. Luckily, the controls in the game are very intuitive and responsive, making great use of the control stick to navigate around and stylus to aim your gun, which is fired with the L button. I never had any trouble with the controls and found this made the game more accessible to play for long stretches of time.
All episodes of the game have you controlling Major Kane as he investigates a hatch on the surface of the Moon, into which his teammates have been dragged by unknown forces. The atmosphere is part of what I like most about the game. There is a pervasive sense of dread and mystery that saturates every inch of the facility you discover, and the more Major Kane discovers, the more terrifying things become. While most plot points are detailed via com discussions that take place on the bottom screen, I felt the game told enough to keep me intrigued while not giving too much away.
To complement the dark plot, the game features lots of tight FPS action. Though I am far from an expert in the genre, I had no difficulty strafing enemy shots and contending with robotic sentries. There is a decent variety of enemy types, though, early on, you’ll be facing lots and lots of aerial drones. Luckily, the farther you go, the more types of enemies that show up. My only minor complaint when it comes to enemies is how easy it can occasionally be to dupe the simplistic AI. More than once, I could foil a foe by firing on them from a corner while they tried in vain to fire back at the wrong angle. This is evened out by large rooms full of foes, and they are less than forgiving when they have you in their sights. The AI might be simplistic, but it will hound you into a corner and destroy you if given half a chance.
Another point where Moon Chronicles shines is during the challenging and varied boss and mid boss battles. Ranging from cybernetic scorpions to mutli-armed robotic goliaths to shielded, laser spewing cores, there is no lack of variety. Many bosses are quite challenging, employing nasty gimmicks to make them more difficult, such as force fields or regeneration. It is worth noting that a few bosses are reused a couple times, but the layout of their rooms and their gimmicks change, so even they don’t feel too samey. Overall, though, I was quite pleased with the bosses found throughout.
But it wouldn’t be a good game if it was all running and gunning with a clumsy interface. Luckily, the game makes use of data terminals where you can download map data for the alien facility you are exploring. I really appreciated the map, as I generally get horribly lost in most FPS games. Case in point, when I used to play GoldenEye 007, I would always get trapped by my friends as I made my way through corridors, trying in vain to track them down. Such was never a problem in Moon Chronicles, as paths you have explored are marked in red, while helpful areas like Save Rooms are also demarcated. This became especially important late game, as I was flooded with enemies and needed to recoup and heal between bouts of destruction.
While there is plenty of running and gunning in Moon Chronicles, that’s not all there is to the gameplay. One of my favorite segments is where you control the Remote Access Device, or “RAD,” and pilot it where Major Kane cannot tread. The little droid cannot destroy anything, but is armed with a taser pulse which can temporarily freeze foes and trigger force field switches so the Major can proceed. I felt the RAD really expanded my gameplay experience, and I found myself looking forward to sections which required it.
Another section I was less fond of are those where you drive around the LOLA, which I call a space tank. This automobile is armed with a powerful laser and, better yet, recovers health over time. So, why was I frustrated by these sections? Primarily because of the controls. It was far too easy to get stuck in corners while exploring the surface of the Moon, and quite a challenge to back up. Furthermore, the LOLA sections have no handy maps to guide you, so I often spent time aimlessly wandering until I lucked into the right path. It is also worth mentioning that if your LOLA or RAD is destroyed, it’s Game Over, and you have to start over from your last save. This isn’t a huge deal, as there are only a handful of LOLA sections as opposed to the multitude of RAD areas, but it still was a bit frustrating.
One area that Moon Chronicles was vastly improved over the original game was the graphics. They are much sharper, more detailed and colorful than the DS original. Which isn’t to say the original Moon had poor graphics, just that they look much nicer on the 3DS. One area the graphics seemingly stayed the same, interestingly enough, were the cutscenes. These look very fuzzy and less impressive, but, luckily, none overstay their welcome. The audio, however, is much the same. Most of the game has the same low level, ambient tunes that pervade the metal corridors. The music never felt overwhelming, but always served to keep me motivated to go further. There isn’t quite as much variety as I would like in terms of the enemies, but the sound effects do indicate whether the enemy is static or aware of Kane’s presence. Some have an irritating alarm that sounds when he is in their sights, and that sound means it’s time to start blasting, lest you get reduced to cinders.
Though the game is pretty linear, I was well pleased with the amount of content in Moon Chronicles. Though it’s not perfect, it does most everything right. It took me approximately 11 hours to beat the game on Normal, and that was without playing all the Virtual Missions unlocked in the game, which serve mostly to offer some replay value. The experience was just as tight now as six years ago, but with an extra dollop of polish. Plus, it cost less, as the entire season is less than $20. Serving as the first true FPS experience on the 3DS, Moon Chronicles will hopefully usher in more Episodes in the future. I can only hope so, as Season 1 ends on a cliffhanger. Seeing as how I’ve been waiting for resolution to that cliffhanger for several years, I can only hope others enjoy Moon Chronicles and give Renegade Kid the attention they deserve.
Review Copy purchased by Author
3DSepisodicFPSMoon ChroniclesRenegade KidSeason 1