Moon Diver is the latest from the development studio feelplus, and was headed up and directed by Koichi Yotsui, the lead planner behind the original Strider. Some say this is the spiritual successor to Strider, as it takes on the side-scrolling hack ‘n slash genre. The game is $15, and is currently only available for PlayStation Network, but will soon be out for Xbox Live Arcade for 1200 Microsoft Points.
Right off the bat you’ll notice how great the characters look in Moon Diver. They have a kind of round cell-shading to them, and though they are polygons, they have a very sprite look and animation to them. It definitely looks great, but its a not a great contrast to the very mediocre back drops that the game takes place in. Sure you’ll see you oceans and boats, but there is mostly blocky art of a destroyed landscape. The game overall looks great, but focusing on the background definitely shows some of its weaker aspects.
The one huge gripe I have with Moon Diver’s presentation is its story. If you can find a story in this game, then clearly you either saw something I didn’t, or played an entirely different game. Apparently the game takes place centuries after the 22nd Century, and the human race is on its last legs. Now you are taking control of the four “Moon Divers” on an operation to stop Faust, the man who tried to destroy all of mankind. None of it makes sense in the context of the game, and the scenes between levels are maybe twenty seconds of still images. If you were looking for story, it ain’t here.
Now if you love very fast paced action, you’ve come to the right place, because Moon Diver has a ton of it. The game really pulls off a nice feel mostly because of its incredibly smooth frame rate. When you’re playing with three other people and there are also over forty enemies on screen, you’ll really appreciate how greatly the frame rate holds up. One thing I hated was the extremely intrusive HUD at the top of the screen. Unlike most HUDs you see in recent games, this one does not become transparent when you character is behind it, so if there is any action at all going on in the top quarter of the screen, you’re probably missing it.
On top of that, the game allows you to choose from four different characters, but everyone can choose the same character if they like, meaning everyone playing could be the same man because they think he looks cool. Not only from this should you learn your friends are probably bad people, but you’ll also have a terrible time picking out which one of the characters is actually you. This happens a lot online, so just be ready for it.
Moon Diver looks great overall, don’t get me wrong, but there was a lot of little mistakes that are very hard to get past. At least we can be thankful for an action game that actually has a decent frame rate, and modern developers should take note of that.
The game breaks down into three aspects of gameplay. The first is the straight action gameplay. You run, you slash with square, you jump, then double jump, and stick to ceilings and walls. That is pretty much it. This is a simple, but very satisfying game style. You can run through enemies hacking an slashing, then jump up a wall, then charge your sword and do massive damage. It is pretty basic, but that is when the second part of the gameplay comes in.
You have special abilities that you pick up and collect as you play the game. These are called: MoonSault Combinations, or MCs. Each character starts with a different one, and each has four slots to fill in with four different MCs. Now some MCs are attacks, others are buffs or healing, and the final category are debuffs for enemies. There are 60 to find, but some are just varying in “level” of ones you already have. When you get a different level of an MC, it is mostly one you can use in conjunction with you team mates. This way, you and an ally both use the MC, and if you weren’t the one casting it, you don’t lose any MP. Of course, even with the varying MCs, the gameplay can still get repetitive, but that is really what you asking for when it comes to a side scrolling hack ‘n slash.
The third and final aspect of the gameplay is the simple leveling system. You hit things, you get experience. You kill things, you get more experience. Every time you get a level up, you get a point which you can then put in either Power, HP, or MP. This is really basic stuff, but sometimes when you get a level up you’ll get another hit to your combo. Definitely an innovative system here, but hey, it does make the game more interesting.
If you can get past the repetitive gameplay and enemy types, I think there is a pretty fun and entertaining game underneath.
Really, the only thing I can say about Moon Diver’s sound is how completely invisible it is. With almost zero story, there is zero voice acting, and so nothing of interest to note on that front. As far as music goes, you have some simple fast paced tunes, but again, nothing that is anything even noticeable.
The game is a pretty short length. There are 12 levels, each of which will take you up to a half-hour to complete, so you’re looking at around three to four hours, expect from a downloadable. There are also the collectibles and secret rooms scattered throughout all the levels.
The real star of the show here is the online though. At any time, you can jump into an online game, or start a game and have people jump into yours. Its very smooth and seamless, and the connection also holds up very well. On top of that, the frame rate holds strong online, making an extremely awesome online experience. You are looking at no voice chat so far as I can tell though, so there may be some frustration with your usual online imbeciles.
6 – Although Moon Diver has a silky-smooth frame rate and pretty sweet character design, it doesn’t make it past is huge faults in presentation.
- -6 – My God is the story terrible in this game. Terrible.
- -5 – Between the intrusive HUD and the same-characters running around online, prepare for a lot of confusion.
- -3 – I really wish there was more effort put into the environments, because they just are not pretty
15 – With overall fun, yet repetitive gameplay, Moon Diver really caters to a specific audience.
- -5 – You’re looking at shallow, repetitive gameplay with not-so-varied enemy types.
11 – There are some nice background tunes, but nothing even impressive.
- -9 – So little to speak of from this game.
16 – The online really shines in this game, which is great. Now if only they had voice chat
- -2 – No Voice Chat!!!
- -2 – There are a bunch of problems with everybody being the same character online.
I had a lot of fun with Moon Diver, regardless of its various faults. I think the game definitely caters to one audience, and that would be the audience that loves side scrolling hack ‘n slashes. If you aren’t down for a lot of repetition and mindless action, then maybe this isn’t the game for you.