Moon Diver Review
It's good to know that certain games still cater to the old school crowd. Super Meat Boy did it. Donkey Kong Country Returns did it. And most recently, Hard Corps: Up Rising did it. You can now add Moon Diver to that list of highly challenging games. Developed by feelplus and directed by Koichi Yotsui, this spiritual Strider quasi-successor delivers a massive dose of retro challenge but mixes in enough modern elements to make it a worthwhile game. Though it has a few glaring flaws, it's hard not to be captivated by the experience.
The narrative in Moon Diver isn't all that deep or important. You play as a group of characters who have decided to fight back against an evil army that has wiped out countless victims. The storytelling in the game is completely bare bones, and if you really want to know what this game's plot and characters are all about, you're better off checking the official website.
That kind of background research is pointless once you actually start playing Moon Driver. The definition of a mindless hack-and-slash game, Moon Diver poses a basic concept: repetitive yet completely addictive gameplay. You go from level to level, battling seemingly endless hordes of enemies and taking on bosses. Later levels require some careful platforming, but even when you get to those parts of the game, the bulk of what you do revolves largely around mashing away at the attack button.
A myriad of magic attacks can be used to take out enemies, to restore health, or in tandem with other players to hurt the opposition. These magic attacks become very helpful the further you get into Moon Driver, and collecting special orbs unlocks even more abilities for you to use during battle. Believe me, you'll be using them a lot.
What makes Moon Diver so addictive is the satisfying degree of its repetitive gameplay. So many enemies fill up the screen that you feel compelled to destroy them all. To add to the enjoyment, taking out enemies grants you experience points that can increase your characters' health, magic, and attack power. This could have easily been a throwaway feature, but leveling up your characters is essential to victory. You may be able to breeze right through the first few stages, but as you progress further into the game, increasing your stats is absolutely necessary, and failure to do so will result in frustration and death.
You can join up with other players locally or online if you'd rather have a helping hand (or three) to aid you. Due to the steep difficulty of the game and high mortality rate later on, it often seems as though Moon Diver is meant to be played alongside others. This is a shame, as players who would rather take on Moon Diver on their own will be forced to do ridiculous amounts of level grinding. If you do want to get together with a buddy or group of friends, there's plenty of arcade enjoyment to be had.
Visually, Moon Diver is a sight to behold. Environments are polished and feature rich detail. Enemies animate smoothly, and you can literally tell when the life has been sucked out of them. Unfortunately, there isn't much variety when it comes to character design, and the game could have benefited from some really bizarre enemies. The HUD isn't all that great, either, featuring small icons that can be a nuisance.
The sound design in Moon Diver is also impressive. The game's musical score consists of basic themes that aren't distracting but provide a little background ambiance as you slice characters in half. And speaking of slicing, the sound effects in the game are clean and crisp--a real treat for the ears. As simple as swinging a blade and impaling a foe may be, the quality of the sound makes the constant hacking noises very enjoyable.
Like Strider before it, Moon Diver is a repetitive button masher that will enthrall you regardless of its shortcomings. The game is definitely most enjoyable when played with others, but even lone players are bound to have a good time with this hack-and-slash title. Though the core gameplay is outdated, stat management and four-player co-op make it relevant in this modern era of gaming. If you enjoy tough action games or have a fondness for Strider, Moon Diver is sure to please and frustrate you in equal doses.