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Monday, May 26, 2014

Review: Moon Chronicles Episode 1

This is just about as hardcore as I get.
I love my Circle Pad Pro. I think it's nice and snug, and being a peripheral hoarder since my Game Boy Color days, I couldn't possibly pass it up. I do believe that it has improved the gameplay experience I've had with both Resident Evil: Revelations and Kid Icarus: Uprising.

So naturally, when a game comes along with Circle Pad Pro support, I jump at the chance to play it. And Renegade Kid, one of my favorite standout eShop indies, has released a revamped version of their acclaimed DS FPS, Moon Chronicles.

Well, Episode 1, anyway.

PROS:

-Well-written dialogue and an intriguing plot make even Episode 1 a great way to draw the player in and keep them hungry for more.

-A satisfying amount of difficulty and new play mechanics, Episode 1 eases you into the type of gameplay you'll be encountering while also keeping you cautious of the world around you.

CONS:

-Aiming is a bit wonky because of the sensitivity of the crosshair.

-Only one chapter of the four included feels substantial and it ultimately feels incomplete.

THOUGHTS:

There's very little to say in regards to Moon Chronicles, because it is only one fourth of a game. What is there is very cool, but it's not satisfying enough at the initial price point, which seems quite high for episode one. I'll touch on a few of the actual game elements, but I'd like to discuss a bit more of the "season" release schedule of the title.

Not very many FPS go for story as a central point, but Moon Chronicles actually has a very intriguing premise, mostly told through brief cutscenes and in-game dialogue. A hatch is found on the Moon and a bunch of soldiers and scientists are sent to get to the bottom of it. Within the hatch, there's a number of data logs that hint at a far sinister and mysterious plot, and when things conveniently fit together its more than a bit suspicious. As for its core gameplay, Moon Chronicles does what it's supposed to do. At this point, enemy variety is low and AI is a bit unimpressive, but there's hope that the whole thing expands a bit more with each subsequent release. The second "chapter" of this Episode features a very hefty chunk of gameplay that can try you in comparison to the others, which are a bit disappointingly easy and short. It's odd that each Episode is marketed with four chapters, as it makes me worry that the whole thing will end up a bit formulaic and present the same sort of experience as this first Episode, which was fun and mysterious, but not very meaty. Unfortunately, subsequent episodes are supposed to feature even less content and playtime.

There are unlockable VR missions which truly test player skill, however. With the lower price point and playtime of future episodes, the real question is- why not simply release all of Moon Chronicles as a 15 dollar complete release? Creator Jools Whatsham cites a suspense-based, television-esque concept- but the future releases, even with cliffhangers, just feel like barely more content to keep the player invested, especially when the first Episode feels so small. Perhaps it is a method of funding continuous installments, hopping from one Episode to the next, but that would seem awfully shortsighted for a developer like Renegade Kid. I believe that this is simply a case of an independent developer wanting a continuous presence on the eShop, no matter what. Splitting this content means they can have more press releases and banners on the eShop, which is never a bad thing. Gating content also means those who purchased the first Episode will have a reminder to keep playing. That's not a bad idea, and by all respects, Moon was a complete Nintendo DS game. But maybe splitting up the content is best served for a more open-ended experience rather than a first-person shooter.

Final Verdict: While the gameplay is sound, the presentation crisp, and the controls fluid, there isn't enough in Episode 1 to feel like a solid purchase- perhaps with the additional Episodes down the road, but not yet. The episodic format has yet to sell me, but there is no denying Episode 1 lays the foundation for a great title.

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