Today’s episode of Moon Diver is brought to you by the letter X.
Sometimes, the simplest things in life are bliss. In the context of gaming, beat-em-ups pretty much fulfill this concept. Nothing says fun more than going around and punching or kicking the living daylights out of enemies with a single button — it’s the mindless release that is appreciated. So when Square-Enix made an announcement of a side-scrolling beat-em-up called Moon Diver for Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network, this sparked a lot of interest among gamers. The acrobatics and visuals brought about intrigue leading up to its release, but does this ambitious title live up to its hype?
Both attacks and jumping are executed with the face buttons. When rushing to dash and slash at enemies, the controls are responsive and feel adequately mapped on the controller. However, moving doesn’t feel as solid since this is done through the analog stick only. At times, your character could end falling off a cliff or platform because of the way the stick makes them move. For a side-scroller, d-pad support would’ve been appropriate. Sadly, there is no option to customize the controls, which could have remedied this issue.
The real highlight of Moon Diver is the graphics. With nicely-detailed characters and stellar effects, the design has a rather spectacular appearance. The backgrounds do seem kind of gloomy with the environment appearing very dark. However, considering the smooth animations and nicely-drawn end-level bosses, Moon Diver offers a gorgeous visual presentation with an artistic and creative Japanese Anime style.
Every attack and magic ability executed produces a sound with sharp effects that brings pleasure to the ears. Listening to the music is enjoyable at first, but after a couple hours, it starts to lose its charm. Although the sound effects cannot completely compensate for these tracks, the audio does allow players to feel immersed, especially when engaging in battle with numerous enemies.
Moon Diver pits you in a post-apocalyptic world where a demon king, known as Faust, has dominated Earth. You control the surviving ninja warriors through 12 stages battling against enemies to reclaim the planet and its humanity.
There are four different characters to choose from, each with the same stats for HP, MP and Attack Power but with different rates of progress. For instance, Seyfert can gain HP and MP quicker than his fellow warriors. When you level up after defeating enemies, you also have a choice of using the earned skill points toward any of the stats you wish.
Throughout the stages there are small orange orbs that allow you to acquire special abilities, known as “Moonsault Combinations.” They can be used to restore health, fire off blades, or blind enemies, which is going to be a blessing considering there are waves of demons and robotic creatures out to get you.
Story mode can be played with up to four players simultaneously. Each stage starts off with various enemies that give you plenty of opportunities to level up with ease and ends with a boss that offers quite a challenge to defeat. You can climb walls as well as hang on platforms while moving along the stage. Some areas may prevent you from progressing further until every enemy on screen is eliminated.
With online capabilities, players can join in on the fun during the middle of the game. However, there are some minor setbacks. Since leveling up is achieved by defeating enemies, you may find co-op partners are greedy with the kills, which can slow your stat progress. Also, the game allows players to select the same characters, which can really be confusing if all four happen to end up in this situation as it becomes difficult to determine who you are during all this action. Ultimately, though, it all depends on who you run into.
With no checkpoints, Moon Diver can really try your patience when playing 30 minutes into a stage to reach the boss only to die and restart from the beginning. There are even objects later in the game, like the laser beam, that can kill you instantly.
Not only does the co-op play help alleviate some of these challenges, but it also adds enjoyment to the gameplay. When played alone, the game can feel like a repetitive button masher. Luckily, the ability to level up your stats and acquire special skills helps mask this shortcoming and instead serves as a replay incentive.
Moon Diver is a spectacular game that dazzles with its four-player co-op capability, stat management feature and stunning graphics. Now available for 1200 MS Points (US$15), this hack-and-slash title is definitely worth a look if you are looking to “dive” into a challenge.