Moon Diver takes me back. Back to a time of three-button controllers, and 8-meg cartridges. It so reminds me of those old 16 bit games, and how freaking hard they were. A side-scroller, Moon Diver pays homage to classics like Shinobi and even more like Strider. In fact, this game is a creation of Koichi Yotsui, one of the creators of the original Strider.
The first thing you notice when you fire up this game is how much it looks and sounds like a super-charged 16 bit title. Despite being a descendant of a game released on the Genesis, Moon Diver more resembles a game one would play on the SNES. Vibrant colors, sharp anime style and midi-heavy rock really thrust you into the 16 bit era game play. For the most part, I really like the art style here. Backgrounds are detailed, with burning skyscrapers and collapsing tunnels for you to traverse. They look decent, without being too distracting. Each of the four main characters (I won’t even try to remember their names) are slightly different in look, but play pretty much the same. The weapons and colors are all different (red, blue, green, yellow), but from a distance only the armor color really sets them apart. My personal favorite is the green hammer-wielding guy. The color green is one of my favorites, and I guess I have a thing for giant hammers. Weird. Enemies are well-designed, but a lot of them are re-used throughout the game, just with a different palette. An ode to the old days of side-scrollers and brawlers, for sure.
Game play, for the most part, is pretty solid. The attacks and platforming play fairly tight, with just enough forgiveness in some spots. Fear not, sadistic gamers, this game has tight controls but it is still HARD! Three difficulties are available, but the gap between easy and normal is too great. You find yourself slicing and dicing your way through ‘easy’, but the same stage in hard would send you back to the start of the level. Yep, in an homage to the classic action-platformers, this game has no continue points within the level. Better memorize those enemy patterns.
There are 4 characters to put through their paces in this kill-fest. Each one has their own look and weapon, as well as magic attack. You start out with one magic attack power and can find others along your journey. What that journey is…I’m not too sure. What resembles a story in this game just loses too much in translation. Or maybe there isn’t really a story. Seems to be something about the world pretty much ending. Some jerk with pointy hair wants to cleanse the earth of humans by making our machines kill us. Or something like that. So anyway, the gamer basically controls one of 4 ninjas created to save the Earth. That’s your reason for killing everything in sight. Whatever.
Multiplayer is present in this game, just don’t expect a large community to play with. I’ve only ever seen one or two sessions whenever I’ve launched the multiplayer mode. When you do find a game, the action does flow pretty smoothly. It gets a tad confusing with three other players on-screen, but it certainly is playable. Unless you sit a few inches away from your TV, telling who’s-who can be a real challenge. For the most part I try to follow my PSN tag on the screen, since it directly points to your character the whole time.
I didn’t notice any slowdown while playing online, even with a total of 4 gamers online at once. I had a good time for the most part, and you can even play online from any point in your campaign. Nice addition. When games let you go seamlessly from offline to online, it really adds to the fun factor. In my opinion Moon Diver is a TOUGH game, and being able to grab three friends (or random strangers) to help out is a huge bonus. Nice one, Square Enix!
Moon Diver is a solid game; nothing more, nothing less. If you grew-up enjoying series like Strider, Shinobi, and Ninja Gaiden, you’ll find a lot to like. It’s got a kickin’ 90s-era midi-rock soundtrack, competent visuals and good challenge. For gamers who depend on regenerating health bars, plenty of power-ups and multiple lives, they should probably look elsewhere. The price point here is good, and the multiplayer is strangely addictive. I found the single player experience a bit too sadistic, but having other gamers take the brunt of the damage went a long way to improving my time with it. Definitely check out Moon Diver if you want a trip back to the “good old days” of gaming. The days of rocking the old 3-button Genesis pad, or powering-up that shiny new Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Just be prepared to die…a lot.
Things we liked: Classic gameplay. Decent music and graphics. Online and offline co-op multiplayer. CHALLENGE!!!
Things we disliked: Nonsensical story. Small multiplayer community. CHALLENGE!!!
Target Audience: Gamers who want a CHALLENGE!!! Strider fans.
(Moon Diver – Developer: Feel Plus. Publisher: Square Enix. Available for PlayStation 3 via PlayStation Network and Xbox 360 via Xbox Live Arcade – PlayStation version reviewed. A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. Unfamiliar with CFD!’s review system? Read our newly revised explanation here.)