Let me start this post with the following.
First of all, we were not given this game as a gift by any of the companies involved. I purchased this game on my own, for my own enjoyment as well as to review this for the readers of this blog, in what has become a very exciting time to be a Sailor Moon fan.
I love Sailor Moon. I love Naoko Takeuchi’s work. I love Sailor Moon: Another Story, and the puzzle games. I was excited at the prospect of a brand new video game, especially for the DS. At the very least, I wondered what the touch screen could bring to Sailor Moon. I had such high expectations for this game, given how good the dolls and other goods coming out of Italy looked.
And then came the first delay – this game was first promised to fans in late 2010, but was delayed until Spring 2011. We thought, that this might have been because of something in development not going well. Despite this, I kept my fingers crossed that this game was going to be good.
Then, I saw the screenshots and heard the first buzz about the game in press releases. I wasn’t impressed with the screenshots, and I thought the plot was a little cheesy. I didn’t really like the name either (Sailor Moon: The Moon Shines…seriously, was that the best that Backstage, Namco Bandai, and everyone else could come up with?) Alas, I saved face and maintained a positive attitude. Maybe I was worrying over nothing.
My expectations became lower for this game. But still, there was that tiny hope that this game was going to be better than what everything up to this point had suggested.
Let’s begin with shipping hassles, where this all began. Bol.it was the first online retailer (that shipped internationally) to list this game. I was impressed with their site, they even had a pulldown menu with all the United States and Canadian Provinces listed. The forms were a little clunky, but I managed to fit all the things required for a North American address in them. Then, when the confirmation came back to me, I noticed something a little strange. Somehow, my address carried the state/province abbreviation of “EE”. City was there just fine. I didn’t understand why. I contacted support about this a couple times, and never heard back. I had hoped that the correct code on my address would suffice to bring the game here.
Last Friday, when I learned my game was shipped, the receipt carried no tracking number, thereby killing my last shot at telling the courier that my address was incorrect. It was only this morning (Monday, March 21) that I finally got a response back from Bol.it saying that they realized it was a mistake, but they couldn’t change it. I was supposed to contact FedEx, and they had sent me my tracking number. But, to my surprise, it was already in town. I had gotten off just in time to make my way to the depot before it closed to pick it up.
I urge fans to be cautious if they use Bol.it. Yes it is pricey ($71), and you have to really fight with them to get your address corrected, but I was really impressed with the speed of the courier. Fans can save around ten dollars if they purchase the game from Amazon Italy.
Video Game Review:
Finally, it is time to get to what you all are waiting for. The game played just fine on my silver Nintendo DS Lite. Tomorrow, I will try it on a friend’s Japanese DSi. If fans have any requests for systems, let me know and I will try to find someone around me that has one to try. The companies responsible for this game are: Naoko Takeuchi/PNP, Toei Animation, Backstage, Namco Bandai Games Europe, and Open Sesame Inc.. Has anyone heard of that last company? I couldn’t find anything with respect to video games.
EDIT: Open Sesame Inc. found! Open Sesame Inc. has made games for Mister Donut, Pretty Cure, and Gundam before.
The game had no animated movie or sequence of any sort. This screenshot (right) shows the first thing you see after all the company marquees. At this point, my first instinct was to touch the screen with my stylus, but I guess that did nothing. I really did have to push start! In fact, this game has no touch screen capabilities whatsoever. It could easily be played on a GBA. After you selected Adventure Mode, you were lead through a conversation sequence between the Senshi and Luna amongst a sleeping Nina/Naru/Molly. This was not animated, and consisted of Senshi photos with speech bubbles. This next photo (left) shows this at the tail end, where they have all transformed instantly and Sailor Moon promises to punish the Demon in the name of the Moon.
The first level you play is “Mondo dei fiori”, or world of flowers. Enemies in this level consist of only ladybugs, turtles, and flying flowers. What those have to do with the Sailor Moon universe, is beyond me.Each level, is a maze with 20 segments that you have to navigate through from portal to portal.You have to collect 10 crystals, to beat the level. The nature of these puzzles are very limited, as your character is only able to jump and attack, and the down button allows you to go below certain dashed rock tile (this does not include small holes among the shrub tile). How do you solve these puzzles? By using floating platforms and moving rocks. I got through about half of the segments in the first maze as Sailor Moon. You cannot switch characters without getting your crystal count reset, and some crystals and treasure boxes are only available to get playing as certain characters. You also don’t have any lives – you can die but you start the segment you died in over again.A game over, is not possible. I became quickly annoyed with this game after around 90 minutes of play. I did not beat the first level since I ran into a couple dead ends (I restarted the game about 4-5 times). Gameplay itself was a little clunky since it was sometimes hard to maneuver jumps/attacks (and you cannot do the two at the same time). The one positive side to this game was the fact that they had transferred video sequences of the henshin – and these came through quite nicely on the DS!
The music on the start screen featured a melodic interpolation of the Sailor Moon theme, but everything else in the game was very generic, circus-sounding music. I had to slide my volume to mute because I couldn’t take it anymore. The graphics were good outside gameplay, but during the levels themselves, my worst fears were realized. The Senshi really did look as cheap as some of the fans had speculated.
I was disappointed, and would give this game a 2/10. I don’t see myself being that enthused about the game that I want to play it every day until I finish it. This is more of a game I would play when I am bored and have lots of hours to kill. I think that many of you will also be disappointed if/when you play this game. I don’t think that this game is a good match for young kids because some of these rock-blocking puzzles are a little tough (especially when the manual or on screen instructions don’t tell you much about what they are supposed to do). Fans, please be cautious when you purchase this game – or perhaps wait 6-10 months from now when the game’s price drops. At the end of the day, this is just one of those products that goes with the weird ones of the past that were too strange to understand (such as Irwin’s Moon Cycle). I am still a fan of Sailor Moon despite this, and I really hope that if there are future video game possibilities, that they are a lot better than this.
A Short Update – More Details:
I have now beaten two out of the three levels – “World of Flowers” and “World of Gems” with 100% completion (so I am fully 66% finished). This is how the game works – in “Adventure” mode, each level is a maze. The top screen displays a grid of either 4×5 squares (World of Flowers), 5×5 squares (World of Gems) or 6×6 squares (World of Enchanted Palace “Mondo del Palazzo Fatato”). Each one of these squares connects to its neighbors differently, and there is one end square with a mirror. You need to use all 5 characters to beat the level and you must collect 10 crystals and several treasure chests per level. However, your character must find this end square and walk through the mirror for their crystals and chests to save. Some of these puzzles are very challenging – I can’t imagine anyone having an easy time playing this game, no matter what the age is. I have found one puzzle that is impossible to solve (and thankfully there is a second way out of the square), simply because of the timing. The bombs in the second level detonate too fast to travel over a long distance, and the character does not move fast enough. The boss battles with Lord Kaspar/Kunzite/Malachite are on the other hand too easy. If your character dies in the boss battle, they are allowed to return after you watch Milord/Tuxedo Kamen/Tuxedo Mask throw his roses 3 times. He has failed to hit Lord Kaspar in each of the battles I have played. I think, his presence in the game is the biggest epic fail. In the anime, at least his roses were able to stun the enemy or at least be more productive! Whichever senshi you finish the maze with, is the senshi that deals the final blow to Lord Kaspar, and after the battle ends you see video of their attack from the first season (however, so far Sailor Moon has only thrown her tiara). The 10 crystals form segments of a larger heart crystal – Level 1′s is blue, 2′s is yellow, and 3′s is red. These 3 heart crystals probably form something together (maybe the Silver Crystal?) to awaken Nina, but I have to put this game away for a few days (I won’t know how it ends for a while). The treasure chests, correspond to various items you use in “Images” mode. These items are unlocked backgrounds, characters, or decorations used to make images of the Senshi. You can build up to 3 at once, but this is useless because the user is unable to print them. This mode uses the stylus to move and choose aspects of the images. For those of you who are wondering, the enemies in the second level are teddy bears, evil spinning hearts, and butterflies. The third’s are tin soldiers, these zombie fish skeletons that jump up and down from the water, and bats.
I will be writing a strategy guide for this, but only after I have beaten the game. This is because I would like to have the beaten grids and the pathways available when I write this, as well as a better sense of where this game is going.