Moon has been one of my holy grail games for PS1, one which I desired to own and play, but was just a tad pricey for my liking. Thanks to a surprising, but welcome announcement that Moon is coming to Switch, I finally had my chance to tear this thing open and experience it for myself.
And boy, was it worth the wait. Not totally what I was expecting, but delightfully whimsical.
The games starts with a young boy in the dark playing an RPG game that parodies many RPGs of the NES/SNES era with the classic king asking a Hero to save the day by slaying an evil dragon, with a generic town full of generic peeps. There is humour right off the bat with a really long backstory that you don’t even get time to read, everyone’s portraits looking hard as fuck and sometimes not even matching the sprites, and silly battles. It is very straight forward and has the boy finally reaching the last boss before his mom tells him to go to sleep. At that time, he gets sucked into the TV and falls to a land very similar to the game he was playing, including a Hero on a quest to kill a dragon.
This is where the real game begins, where it deconstructs the opening game-within-a-game and the genre. The Moon’s light’s gone out and the land still needs to be saved – a dragon is being blamed. But it turns out the Hero is kind of a jackass, slaying monsters that didn’t do anything to anyone to grind XP, causing a ruckus in town, stealing peoples things, etc. You are tasked with going to the moon to save the day as well, but doing so by levelling up with Love, which you gather from helping people with various things, listening to people, and the main catch: saving the souls of the monsters killed by the Hero and bringing them back to life.
The entire game’s point is sympathy, empathy, and helping others. The NPCs are not just there for filler dialogue or directions, they have dreams and desires. The monsters are not just mindless beasts, they are animals with their own habits and personalities.
Assisting everyone requires patience and some riddling. There is a clock that goes go through morning, afternoon, evening, and night, and both the people and creatures adhere to schedules. Some monsters’ souls are easy to make appear and catch – they are hiding behind a billboard, or just dart across the screen. Others require some work – listening to a stereo for a long time until the music gets loud, waiting around for a black bird to appear in the sky, helping a ghost eat food, etc. A lot of the side content can be missed due to how specific some requirements are, but they all add a lot of fun to the game. However, you need to be careful – the main character only has a certain amount of time he can roam the world before he has to go to sleep and recharge. This time gets longer the higher your love level goes, with it eventually being enough to be out and about for multiple days at a time (making the “wait around” spirits/sidequests much easier).
The game is very wholesome and very quirky. Not only are all the characters and monsters kinda weird, the graphical representation of everything solidifies it. The human sprites are all exaggerated characters with twisty, spirally, etc bodies and some strange faces. The monsters all seem to be made of clay and have a bizarre, yet cute look about them. There are numerous anachronisms, if you can even call it that; besides the medieval castle there are TVs, robots, and other things about. I could see some people drawing comparisons between this game and the Earthbound/Mother series, as they are both unorthodox RPGs with a distinct aesthetic and quirky characters.
The makers of this came from Square, so it is obvious where they drew their inspiration from; it’s very much self-parody. It is also a very uplifting game; the focus being not on killing badguys, but helping others made me feel very good. With the time system and people following schedules, the sidequests also reminded me of Majora’s Mask, a game that would come out a few years later. In Majora’s Mask, as well, there was an uplifting feeling about helping out others. It’s also a great feeling catching the spirits of monsters, and even when you get money from doing it, it’s written in a way that the MC almost feels kinda bad about it (maybe that’s just me reading into it too much).
Lastly, totally dug how the sidequests for more love are not in your face, but just there if you want to do them, and kind of present themselves in a more natural way than “Hello, please bring me 8 apricots.” or “Sup, go to the ruins and kill the thing.”. Really fleshes the little world out.
Nine UFOs out 10.