Reviewed: June 16, 2011
Released: May 4, 2011
Wow – who saw this one coming? |
With an unassuming name like Moon Diver I was half expecting my latest review op to be either a collection of twitch-based Japanese mini-games or one of those odd Japanese dating games we keep hearing about. Either way I knew it was going to be Japanese – but I was not expecting one of the coolest side-scrolling beat-em-up shooters I have had the pleasure (and frustration) to experience since, well, Strider 2.
It makes sense though, since Moon Diver comes from the hands of Koichi Yotsui, the very person who brought us Strider all those years ago. But to say that I made the immediate connection between the two titles would be a lie –my initial thoughts were that Moon Diver played like a hybrid of the classic Castlevania games combined with the look and feel of the cult favorite shooter Einhander. Regardless of the countless comparisons I could make, Moon Diver is one badass game.
As with any anime-flavored title there is a convoluted story. This time around, we learn about a group of secret specially trained ninja – the Moon Divers – who have been called upon to battle against the mechanical devastation that is being unleashed upon their planet under the powers of an evil young man named Faust. Faust is determined to end humanity with his mechanical minions, and it is up to the Moon Divers to put an end to the destruction.
There are four Moon Divers from which the gamer can choose – each with unique special weapons and attack methods as well as unique weaknesses. Don’t fret – characters can be leveled-up throughout the game using collected items and experience points collected along the way. Moon Diver is definitely a button-masher of historical proportions – with tens of enemies swarming from all directions at any given time, there are often instances where the only defense is to blindly mash and hope for the best. Still, even in the thick of the chaos the gameplay retains a certain sense of control that makes the fighting feel less futile than it really could be.
The characters can jump and cling to overhead surfaces – which comes in handy for getting a breather and letting the gamer access out of the way and hidden places. There are times where the character must climb to reach the next level, but the puzzles are seldom too difficult to figure out quickly. The enemies on the other hand – well, they are amazingly difficult. In fact, if Ninja Gaiden were a cake, Moon Diver would be the perfect frosting to put on top. We’re talking old-school Contra hard here, folks – and the game only get more difficult as you make your way through the various gameplay levels. Given the fact that the game is so old school that “Game Over” actually means, well…”Game Over” – gamers will need to really think about their strategy before winding back up at the menu screen.
Thankfully, the developers set the game up for 4-player co-op either locally or through Xbox Live which makes the action a little more manageable – especially since gamers do not injure each other’s’ characters during the frenzied mashing. In fact – intelligent gamers will quickly find way to combine or chain their characters’ attacks to achieve the greatest destruction.
Visually – the game is a real treat for the eyes; the overall look is what we reviewers like to affectionately call 2.5D – in which the 3D shaded characters and items exist all on a single 2D plain, with excellent space-themed scenes superimposed behind the action. All in all, Moon Diver sets an excellent visual theme that gives everything a sense of polish. On the audio end, Moon Diver features an excellent soundtrack that really helps reinforce with the space-age atmosphere the game is trying to achieve – including changing intensity with the onscreen action. Blending techno and hard-rock, the music is a real treat.
For gamers looking for an old-school experience on their newfangled Xbox 360 they really won’t go wrong with Moon Diver, especially if they were fans of the previous Strider games. Like a space-age Castlevania, Moon Diver will kick most any gamers ass – but in an old-school way that feels so good.