[Review] Moon Diver


2D! Always great news, always fun (might not be true for 100% off all cases. Please check table of contents and warnings before blindly making such wild statements).

Like what you saw? OK then, let’s carry on.

This is a very old school (a valid term, unlike how hardcore has been made the bastard child of “new gen” hype campaigns) game where your main goal is to start at one point and get to another. Sounds simple, right? Well, it starts out with seamless tutorials on your first level and just a couple of enemies, but things get hectic… and fast. Can you survive the onslaught all by yourself? Shouldn’t you ask for the help of others to reach your objective? You have the option of enjoying the game in single player, local multiplayer, or online multiplayer, and even have the advantage of starting a game with just yourself and have others drop in and out without a problem, just with the press of a button. Up to four players can be in action at the same time, and we’ll soon learn how useful that can be.

Before we continue, let’s see what Square Enix has to say for the game:

Features

• The Diver System allows players to jump in or out at any time, for a maximum of up to four players total. Guest players are awarded experience points for helping out.
• Combos increase in power and intensity according to the number of players. Collect new combo moves by picking them up on the map or fulfilling certain requirements.
• Adjust the difficulty level at any time with the Chaos Accelerator. Higher levels are rewarded with enhanced visuals and greater experience points. Players setthe challenge ratingas theysee fit.
• 12 stages to explore and master.
• Up to four player local and online co-op.
• Online multiplayer.

You have three special bars available to you that help keep track of three veeeery important elements: Hit Points (HP) that allow you to have a general idea about how many hits you can take before dissolving in a magic light; Magic Points (MP) that carry with them the responsibility of sacrificing themselves so you can use several abilities available in this noble quest; and Experience points(Exp), for your leveling pleasure (my, how RPG of you!).

Now, how do we start this? Look, what is that making it’s way towards you? An enemy… kill him. Quick, kill another one! Mmm, now another. And oooone more. Doing this continuously will increase your chain kill count. If you reach 50, you get a free full HP and MP recharge. There’s also a trophy if you manage to reach a 100 chain kill, so practice, practice, practice. You can even charge your main attack, which helps you get rid of more enemies at the same time, BUT it gives you less experience than if you had defeated them them with regular attacks. As for a tip on HOW to get your 100 kill-count trophy? Well, here you go!

[spoiler intro="Troooophy!"]

[/spoiler]

Now, let’s remember how EXP works in pretty much every game that has this element. You obtain EXP, you gain a level. Simple, right? Well, in Moon Diver, when you level up, a small explosion envelops your character, which ends up damaging and defeating the enemies that are nearby, while at the same time filling up your HP and MP gauges. Get 1 Customize Point (CP) for every level and use that to increase the HP, MP or Attack Power (POW) of your character. You can only do this after completing a level (or dying in the process), as the game will automatically prompt you to allocate said CP.

The game is separated into three acts, and each of them contains 4 levels for a total of 12 levels… but wait, there’s more! Most of the levels have several sections (each with it’s own distinctive name) and some feature branching paths that make you reach some, but skip others, thus increasing the replay value of the game, especially if you like trophies, since there’s a silver one you can get for visiting every single one of the areas. To add up on that, there are SECRET areas you reach by breaking some rubble on the ground, a big stone block that is trying to change your course or just by falling down at certain places.

You can equip 4 different abilities for your character between levels and these will make everything better, because abilities are meant to do JUST that. There’s a total of 60 in all, and you obtain them by collecting a yellow glowing item in each of the levels… which, in turn, encourages you to actually visit every single path in a level since going one way will prevent you from visiting the other. You only need 50 for the trophy to pop out (thaaaaaaaanks!), but finding all of them will give you more options for your MP sessions. Something you must consider when playing with others (remember, up to 4 players at the same time!) is that whoever picks up the MC is the only one that gets to keep it when all is said and done, which can be a bit of a pain when hunting for that special one that will greatly help you once you go back to single player hacking and slashing. Same goes for when you decide to level up another of the available characters (that we will describe a couple of lines below us) since they’ll start with a full clean slate, unless….

[spoiler intro="Leveling up, EdEN style!"]
If you’ve got a character that is, say, level 50 (as was my case when I got to level 12), and an extra controller, you can use controller #1 to pick up your level 50 character with 4 Two-Player MC (Stealth, Attack Wave, Healing and Enemy Freezing are good options) so you can select every level up to level 12 and then use controller #2 to pick up your next character to level up to 50. Play level 1 again so you can get the hang of “controlling” two characters at the same time since #1 is for using MC and moving every now and then so the screen doesn’t anchor itself, and #2 is for gaining all the experience needed to bump up that single digit number next to their name. Best level to obtain a lot of experience would be 6 or 9, but that’s just how it’s worked for me.

So, any other suggestions?
[/spoiler]

But you have to be careful when looking for extra areas, because if you go too low, you’ll eventually reach a layer of purple haze that will continuously damage until you reach a bitter end… so you should be extra careful. See kids, don’t do drugs, like, ever! And as if that wasn’t enough, some levels feature extra hazards you need to watch out for, such as sporadic explosions, huge walls of fire, lasers, gun turrets, etc. Luckily, you can at least get rid of most of them by destroying the source, but they do contribute and help you die easily.

There’s also blue and green glowing items you can obtain by defeating enemies or simply by running into them on your adventure, and oh what a great help they are. Blue ones recover your HP and green ones recover your MP, and having a full bar of each will ease things for you since enemies are plentiful and require different strategies, so you can maximize your killing spree.

Before you set out on your adventure, you must choose your character… and you must choose wisely. They all share the same move set and potential for wielding all MC powers, BUT they develop differently on each level up and for each CP you add to one of their attributes. They’re also a different color, and that helps to quickly locate your character during MP sessions. Here’s the list so you can start to make up your mind about your first run:

Seyfert (Red): HP and MP will develop well (This is who I used to play the whole game). POW is something you’ll need to pour CP on to make up for the slow Attack Power development.

Hitori (Blue): MP will develop particularly well. This is what we could call a “magically heavy” character in a regular RPG. Low HP and POW but a great way to make the most of the MC you find… and you better find some FAST!

Tolby (Yellow): All stats will develop equally. Your balanced “Ryu” character. Great for beginners but won’t really excel on any particular path.

Ourion (Green): POW will develop particularly well. Your tank type. Develop HP to round up his usefulness and rely on using MC with others during MP sessions to compensate for his low MP.

There’s a lot of enemies on screen at once.. and they all look the same most of the time, having just variations in color for a bit… until you reach your first boss fight. Really good art style choices for the bosses, and you must look away for a second and get back on the action, since discovering their attack and movement pattern is something that will separate you from the piles of dust, stone, and metal all around (as old school based 2D games are required to do so).

The game’ story is told with static 2D artwork and written words… and I honestly couldn’t make much sense out of it. Maybe it was just me, but apparently humanity is doomed, Moon Divers are the only thing that exists with a chance of survival, and the Moon itself plays some part in the big plan of what we can consider to be the bad guy of this adventure. If anyone has other theories, let me know.

I must take a break to make a small comment: Moon Diver has really good music that complements the experience and gets you into the action (remember how you read reviews because you want to see what other people think about a game you might want to get? Well, this is MY opinion so your mileage may vary). Pump it up to the max! You’re on fire!

Getting back on track, I must now tell you that in this game, you’ll die… a LOT. Why is that? Well, for me the levels have this “MP heavy feel” most of the time and when you die in single player you go back to the character screen so you can use any CP you might have earned, choose any new MC you might have run into and start again aaaaaaall the way back at the beginning of the level. But on MP, things change drastically. Other players can rescue you (or you can in turn rescue them) if your HP goes down to 0 by breaking your chain, chain, chaaaaaaaaains… thus reviving the character in the process.

If this doesn’t happen you’ll eventually be given the opportunity to hit X and join the game in progress and continue to contribute towards completing the adventure. It’s at this point that you feel that you’re being punished for playing Moon Diver all by yourself, since if you die, it’s game over and you have to restart the whole level. It IS great that you get to keep any MC, levels, and experience gained before going kaput, since it would have been too cruel to have to restart the level AND have the last 10-30 minutes be a complete waste. Took me about 2 hours to go past level 8 but once you do, you get a such a great rush…

At several points in each stage the screen will stop moving and purple bars will appear to the left and right sides. What is this all about? Well, it means that you must first defeat all the enemies that will drop/run/fly in and try to destroy you before you’re allowed to move on. It is here that the MC you picked up for your character will play a crucial role in your chances of survival. Stealth and Regeneration are your best friends, since the first one makes it so enemies can’t see you and therefore don’t attack you and Regeneration helps you recover part of your HP bar. And there are up to 4 versions of each MC, which increases the desired effect but also costs more MP… BUT more people can join in and use it for free!

This is called a MoonSault Combination and it can be activated with other players to unleash a powerful ability/attack that doesn’t deplete the MP of those that help the player that is using it. Once someone holds down the circle button, the others can join in and share the effect. How many can join in? Depends on the level of the MC, which is represented by a solid square below the MC image. A single square is only for single player, 2 squares is for couples, 3 squares is for threesomes, and 4 squares is the key to swingers-land.

It will take you 10 to 20 minutes to complete a level, which makes single or MP runs be fast and fun. Well, except for level 12, which is the last one and can take you up to an hour and a half if you don’t plan things just right. Oh and it’s plain out murder in single player unless you’re at 70+ AND have the appropriate MC… AND have allocated CP in the best way possible. Enjoy!

New DLC has just been made available for Moon Diver, and for only $0.99 you can play as a new character and get access to a new mode called Score Attack (I’ll give you three guesses so you can figure out what that one is all about). More DLC is set to follow, one for the same price that will feature two more Score Attack stages, and one for free that will give us a new Chain Kill mode… and you really can’t complain about free!

Moon Diver is a very fun game that gets even better when played with others, either locally or with the magic of the internet, and all that the 1s and 0s give to us in this day and age. The price is right for what is available on the main download, and the price for the DLC is something that won’t break any wallets. Get used to the single player experience for a while and then open yourself up to the wonders of having four people co-op in the same room, just like we used to do it back in the day… OK, OK, you can do play online with others. You and your fancy new ways!

Review

ProsCons
2D, what a marvelous idea!
Branching paths increases the content without feeling wrong
MP Heavy focus can make single player runs a bit frustrating
Rating
84%

Published by Square-Enix
Developed by Feel+

Cost – $14.99

Available on PSN

Disclaimer

- Total amount of time played: 20 hours.
- This review is based on a retail copy of the PS3 version of Moon Diver provided by Feel+.


Written by: EdEN - PR / Contributing Editor


  1. #1 by Baba0Booey on April 20th, 2011 [ 5938 Points ]

    Great review Eden,

    I tried watching the video but shut it off shortly after starting it. this game just isnt for me I guess, Ive never been a huge fan of those japanese games.

  2. #2 by premiersoupir on April 20th, 2011 [ 17020 Points ]

    Wow, a really thoughtful review with a charming, jocular tone! The leveling system sounds interesting, and I appreciate your game play tips scattered throughout the review. I’m definitely going to check out the demo now. Thanks, @EdEN!

  3. #3 by Kane112 on April 20th, 2011 [ 32937 Points ]

    great review enjoyed the demo may pick it up when it goes on sale

  4. #4 by hobbes on April 20th, 2011 [ 28876 Points ]

    i’m happy i picked this up, but single player is a bit frustrating, requires some grinding IMO.. you guys needing a review of dungeon hunter? I’m not the best writer, but i could contribute some.

  5. #5 by EdEN on April 20th, 2011 [ 131363 Points ]

    @hobbes: Send a PM to Tosh. Not sure if Luke or Oly are working on one.

    As I mentioned in the review, single player is a bit harder than MP so I do feel as if they punished us for not opening up to having others contribute hehehe.

  6. #6 by Oly on April 21st, 2011 [ 131640 Points ]

    Great review Eden!! Keep it up!

  7. #7 by EdEN on April 22nd, 2011 [ 131363 Points ]

    @Oly: Thanks! So, have you tried the game yet? No PSN means no online co-op for a while but the single player is fun.

  8. #8 by Luke on April 23rd, 2011 [ 27382 Points ]

    The mutli is terrible! Just everyone on top of each other!

  9. #9 by Pedro on April 24th, 2011 [ 39949 Points ]

    Another great review Eden! I gotta say, i love your reviews!

    They go further then a simple analysis of the game, you add so much to it!

    Every time I feel like I know the game!

  10. #10 by EdEN on April 24th, 2011 [ 131363 Points ]

    @Pedro: Thanks, I’m glad you like them! I’ll probably have a chance to do one more review and after that I’ve got to send my PS3 to Sony because it stopped reading Bluray discs (games and movies) and since we have a month olf baby in the house now not being able to watch a movie (or part of it) to relax is a huge letdown.


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