Moon Diver Review (XBLA)
Moon Diver was developed by feelplus and published by Square Enix. It was released on May 4th for 1200 MSP.
In the late 80’s there was a little game known as Strider, the development of which was lead by Koichi Yotsui. Yotsui draws back on that experience to direct Moon Diver, a side-scrolling platformer with enough style, action and frustration to blow up a planet. Ironically, that’s essentially the story to Moon Diver — Earth’s days are numbered and the Moon Divers have to come reclaim it from evil mechanical beings.
Players choose from multiple divers, each with different stat growth patterns. As they progress through the story mode characters gain stat points and MCs, or Moonsault Combinations, which manifest themselves as a variety spells and skills. Four players can jump in together offline or online, but only one player per box can join in the online experience.
Here’s what we liked:
The first act – The game starts off strong with fun combat experiences and basic bosses to initiate players. Combat is fun and fast and the platforming is basic but facilitates the pace and action style. There’s a decent variety of enemies to take down to lay the roadwork for enemies to come. Players should finish the first act with a clear understanding of the game and a earn a few Moonsault Combinations to use as well.
Coop-ability – Moon Diver excels as a cooperative game. While the game may be quicker solo, it’s a lot more fun and manageable with friends. For instance, if a player dies their fellows can break them free from the chains of death and bring them back — if that player isn’t revived they can jump back in after a 10 second wait period. Along with that, the stat coverage can be a lot more varied, so having a player with a lot of MP for spells and a player with a lot of POW to take care of the bosses can make short work of some of the more difficult areas.
Frantic action – With a flurry of enemies coming from every direction, projectiles to dodge and platforms to constantly watch out for Moon Diver‘ll have your eyes twitching this way and that. When equipped with a good variety of MCs to use the chaos can still be manageable, and while the game can frequently get frustrating, eventually a solution can be found and thankful sighs expressed.
Here’s what we didn’t like:
Frustrating scenarios – Moon Diver is perforated with bits of annoyances across the board. The game is shared screen instead of split screen, but the camera doesn’t spread out enough so the player in front can cause the players in back to constantly fall off the screen. Several projectile firing enemies fire off screen before being encountered. Some enemies and bosses are very peculiar and difficult to deal with. For example, one enemy blocks all attacks and is only vulnerable after one or two specific attack patterns. Finally, online play doesn’t prohibit the use of duplicate characters; the only indicator beyond color and character is a small icon with P1, P2 etc. While it’s nice Moon Diver allows for multiples of one character, a simple color swap would’ve removed the confusion completely.
Harsh gimmicks – Thankfully the game’s two greatest annoyances have significant audio cues accompanying their existence; without them, Moon Diver would be unplayable. The game will throw either infinite-length lasers that oscillate and deal massive damage, a device which aims explosions with a two-second count down directly at your character from a major distance, or both. They’re not fun at all. Clearly the attempt was to keep gameplay moving fast, and that effect is achieved, but the punishment for failing to keep up is far too severe. On the other hand, many of the game’s frustrations can be solved by simply freezing them (a specific MC), rendering the enemies useless and the game fun-less.
Unskippable cutscenes – While a minor issue, the majority of the MCs result in a game pausing animation screen announcing the move and its effect which if used in excess slow the game down. It’d be nice to just be able to turn off the animations and perhaps have the effect description displayed shortly, or some sort of icon if the MC boosts stats. Instead, for instance if a player constantly has to use the healing and freezing MC, players are stuck watching it over and over. Along with that, when playing online the intro cutscenes aren’t skip-able, and considering how often players will wipe those scenes will get old quick.
Gratuitous repetition – Platformers and action games in general tend to feature a lot of trial, error, and death. Moon Diver is no different, but it doesn’t feature one essential feature that games have employed for ages: checkpoints. Ultimately levels boil down to a final boss fight; don’t lose those boss fights. If all players are terminated at any point during gameplay, the level ends and is restarted entirely. If the game weren’t full of so many frustrating scenarios or the levels were shorter this wouldn’t be as much of an issue. Along with that, all the MCs must be found hidden somewhere in each level. Once again this normally wouldn’t be an issue, however Moon Diver only lets one person get an MC per playthrough. This means if a team of four players plan to each get the MC, that’s four playthroughs before getting to the unlockable.
Moon Diver quickly turns from a game easily recommendable to anybody with a couch or friends (both, if socially advanced) into an increasingly frustrating experience as players progress. Tackling the levels with a buddy focused on MP while another player focuses on POW makes the game much more playable, although the loss of pace will be mourned. However even that experience may get too frustrating, in fact most sit downs won’t last an hour considering other games in the marketplace that provide a better experience. Unfortunately Moon Diver is just too bogged down with frustration to deal with to recommend beyond those with an abundance of patience and time, or perhaps supreme platforming skills.
Score: Skip It!