When I first played Dementium and Moon on the Nintendo DS, I was completely enamored with Renegade Kid’s vision for first-person games on the platform. Instead of opting for the ever-popular run and gun or cover shooter, the team opted for things like melee combat, Metroid-style corridor exploration, and puzzle solving. Moon in particular struck me in that it evoked the atmosphere of a horror game while clearly being something else. Today, Renegade Kid is relaunching the game as Moon Chronicles on the 3DS eShop in an episodic format, remastered in 3D with updated visuals.
For the uninitiated, Moon delves into the discovery of a mysterious hatch on our very own moon. The player is charged with tracking down missing team members and investigating the system of tunnels underneath the surface. What’s striking here is the pervasive eeriness — though many of the tunnels look similar, players will have to constantly hold their breath as they turn corners. The ‘obstacles’ in the game are well placed, and the suspense is accented by a bizarre, droning soundtrack. Just as the character doesn’t know what lurks beyond the next door, neither do the players.
Though the game can become a bit repetitive at times, it’s the suspense that will keep players hooked in for the long hall. And that’s why it makes great sense for Moon Chronicles to be an episodic release – players will want to come back for the next part in the series to find out what exactly is happening on our beloved moon. The first big chunk of the game costs $8.99, with a price tag of $1.99 for each additional episode. The whole thing will run you $15, half of Moon’s original MSRP.
The release of Moon Chronicles marks the first release of a first-person shooter on the Nintendo 3DS. Controls have always been the biggest question mark with regards to the genre on this particular family of systems. The original version of the game was played using the stylus for aiming, which was fairly accurate. But for a lot of people, this configuration lacked comfort and stability when holding the system. This was especially true for lefties like me, who had to either aim with their non-writing hand or flip the controls so that they’d be backwards from pretty much every game ever. These options still exist in Chronicles, with the addition of Circle Pad Pro support. That’s right – you can play this game using dual analog! Before jumping to conclusions, it’s still not a perfectly ideal setup. This input is considerably less accurate than using the stylus, simply by nature. And it’s also partially hampered by the device itself, coupled with a jumpy aiming dead zone. I’ll just put it simply; sometimes it takes me a second too long to line up my shot.
Now, for veterans of the original outing, I’m afraid to say that the updated visuals are really the only draw for you here. The good news is that, for the most part, the game doesn’t disappoint in this regard. The increased resolution does away with many of the jaggies that plagued the original game, as you can see in the comparison below. Texture quality has been improved, though some can still be rather blurry close up. Other things, like gun models, have been redesigned and look better than ever. The game also reportedly runs at 60FPS – it’s definitely smooth to my eye. The only drawback is the cutscenes, which don’t appear to have undergone much treatment. The transition from gameplay to cutscene is rather jarring at times thanks to how different they look.
Finally, there’s the 3D effect. I’ve made it rather clear in the past that I’ve moved on from the 3D gimmick. Only games like Kirby: Triple Deluxe and Super Mario 3D Land can get me to flick that slider on. That said, it’s a worthwhile option here — it’s a lot of fun to see the gun solidly in the foreground, with the rest of the scene set farther into the screen. It’s just a small thing, but it makes a difference. And yes, that 60FPS is maintained with the 3D on.
Moon Chronicles is a creepy game. And it has its hooks well-positioned to lock you down and reel you in. While there’s still not a great way to play the game, it’s worth the effort it takes. I’d imagine that fans will make up the bulk of the repeat buyers. If the improved performance and visuals aren’t enough to bring you back, consider this; the second season of the game, which will feature all-new content, could potentially hang in the balance. And you know Renegade Kid will be watching the numbers here, especially in the wake of their failed Kickstarter for Dementium‘s spiritual sequel, Cult County. Support a great developer. Moon is still a good game, and is worth replaying after all these years in its dolled-up form.