Moon Chronicles Episode 1 Review: That’s No Moon
Released in 2009 on DS, the original Moon pushed the limits of the DS’s limited hardware. Now Renegade Kid has re-released the DS classic on the 3DS eShop with improved graphics and controls as Moon Chronicles. A large part of the reason why Moon was so unique in 2009 was because of the system it was on and how impressive it was for working around the DS’s paltry horsepower. Now that the 3DS has raised the bar in terms of handheld visuals, did the core Moon experience age well?
Moon Chronicles puts players in the shoes of Major Kane, an astronaut for the US investigating a network of underground passages found on the moon. Of course things go terrible for Kane immediately and most of his crew is slaughtered by mysterious creatures.
What Moon did well in 2009 was setting a good atmosphere and making the player feel truly isolated and it has aged well. Moon Chronicles has the same lonely feeling that the original had, enhanced by the leap in visuals. While some of the plot and dialogue is a little cheesy and cliche, Moon Chronicles successfully makes the player feel alone. This builds a sense of adventure as you delve deeper through alien catacombs, giving players an idea of what a Metroid Prime game would be like on 3DS.
Controls are spot on and Renegade Kid has provided a wealth of options. Stylus aiming works just as well as it did on DS and the Circle Pad Pro makes aiming even easier. The dual circle pad set up adds to the feeling of playing a console quality title on a handheld and controls significantly better than aiming with the face buttons.
The biggest difference between Moon and Moon Chronicles is the drastic leap in graphics. The art style really comes alive with the 3DS’s increase in horsepower. Everything looks much sharper and more detailed than on DS. Its easily in the top ten list of best looking 3DS games even if it doesn’t stand out as a technical marvel like the DS original. Some areas tend to blend in together too much and navigation can get a little confusing from time to time but overall environment repetition isn’t a huge issue.
One item that stands out like a sore thumb is the cut scenes. While they are higher resolution than the DS version, they are blurry and grainy. This is an odd problem to have since the game’s non-cutscene graphics are so nice. Its jarring to go from stellar 3DS visuals one moment to a grainy, head scratching cutscene. In addition to this, Moon Chronicles has superb audio but could have used more voice acting instead of the text based conversations characters have outside of cutscenes.
Sadly Moon Chronicles only lasts roughly an hour and there isn’t much left to do after completing it. You can replay it on different difficulties but even that will only extend your playtime by an hour or so. This is due to the episodic nature of Moon Chronicles. Future episodes will be priced at $1.99, making it easier to swallow the presumably short nature of each episode. The DS original was roughly 5-6 hours so at most fans should expect 90 minutes or so from episodes in the future.
As for the first episode of Moon Chronicles, it ends just as it feels like its finally getting started. That’s not entirely a bad thing since it leaves players wanting more. As Obi-Wan Kenobi said, “That’s no Moon”. Moon Chronicles Episode 1 isn’t the same experience as the DS Moon because of how fragmented it is due to being episodic. It excels in everything it tries to accomplish but the credits screen hits you so unexpectedly as if you blinked and missed a game winning play. As I mentioned above, the short length of each episode will be easier to cope with with future episodes even if its a bit of a shock initially.
Moon Chronicles may be as technically impressive as it was back in 2009 but its still a very good game that fills a void that no one other than Renegade Kid has the guts to tackle. Whenever the 3DS’s successor comes out we’ll likely be able to count the number of FPS games it received on one hand and with any luck all of those will from Renegade Kid. Moon Chronicles Episode 1 may be a short experience but is one that fans of exploration heavy, isolation driven adventures will want to play.
Moon Chronicles is the start of something good for the 3DS. It's a Metroid Prime-like adventure that excels in exploration in an isolated, atmospheric world. Review copy provided by Renegade Kid.