Monday, March 21, 2011

Sailordees' Sailor Moon: La Luna Splende Review

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.


Shipping Hassles:


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.




Bottom Line:

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 4x5 squares (World of Flowers), 5x5 squares (World of Gems) or 6x6 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.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

:( that's so sad. still maybe they'll come out with a better ds game in the future.

Morgan said...

That's too bad. It would be kind of cheesey and cool to see the old Sailor Moon games that DiC made. I think they made a computer generated game. I kind of miss those days... ;p

_M

Senshi said...

Aww.. that sucks. I would be nice if they remade some of the old Gameboy games, like Sailor Moon: Another Story or something similar to it.

I'm still planning to get the game as part of my collection. Let's hope for a better game.

ochibawolf said...

Why even make a game if they are going to completely make it terrible?

ArgoCityCub said...

of course the game was going to suck. i mean after seeing the screen shots and then hearing what the storyline was,it just looked crappy.

You also have to understand that this game was made by people who in my opinion just wanted to make a game with no plot and that didn't make sense. In terms,they just wanted to cash in on Sailor Moon and screw the fans.

I just keep hoping that they release the orig game from the SNES and GB and then in time make more games like the SNES streets of rage versions of sailor moon S and Super S and possibly Sailor Stars.

I am sad that they took a good anime series and turn the first game into crap.

sailordees said...

A Short Update:

The game plays on a North American DSi. Will try to get a hold of the friend with a Japanese DSi tomorrow. I am pretty sure it should play on the original DS.

Also, I restarted as Sailor Venus and got a little farther, except now i am 4 segments in and facing a difficult puzzle involving moving a 3-rock tower across some low underwater platforms. Once your head goes below water, you died. 10 attempts later, I gave up. Will attempt again later...

sailordees said...

Beat that segment. This game is starting to make a little more sense, but I still think that this is not an easy game to play (especially for kids). Everyone involved could have done a better job!

And, my friend's Japanese DSi could play the game (and it was smoother than the North American DSi I tried it in, but maybe that's because the buttons were a little stiff). I'm pretty sure anyone in the world that wants to play this game can.

sailordees said...

Today's progress:

Beat first level, met Lord Kaspar/Kunzite/Malachite. Boss battle is really simple - he shoots either high, medium, or low, and if he shoots low you have to jump out of the way. if you get hit by his blasts, Milord/Tuxedo Kamen/Tuxedo Mask comes. But in the biggest epic fail ever, he shoots roses 3 times and misses every single time.
Also, each one of your senshi has to hit him just once. The winner's attack video is shown (again, transferred to the DS from the anime, really good quality). I understand that Sailor Moon is about unity and cooperation and teamwork, but this boss battle just made it seem like it was token. Also, it becomes very frustrating to have to play segments of the game over and over again for each character and have to solve the same annoying puzzles. It gets really tedious after a while :(.

Anonymous said...

Are you going to make a ROM file from it?

jj112 said...

Its seems to be the same as the Winx Club Games so Im not supprised.

sailordees said...

Winx Club Games? I'll have to look into those. Thanks!

Today's Progress:

Beat around half of the second level. Puzzles getting harder and harder for me to figure out, today a teenager helped me try to figure out some solutions. Even he said he couldn't figure out these puzzles if he was a kid. I wonder what the parents of the young kids in Italy are going through now? I can imagine the children going to their parents asking for help, and them being just as frustrated as i am.

sailordees said...

To the person who asked about a ROM, no, we will NOT be posting a ROM. Anyone in the world can play this game if they want, and they can purchase the game and support Sailor Moon, instead of resorting to piracy.

Today's Progress:

Beat the second level. This one must have taken me around 10-12 hours. Tuxedo Mask was once again proven to be useless in the boss battle, as he missed all 3 times. Also, picked the other mode in the game. There is some touch screen functionality, but this mode is useless. Going to update my review a little.

sailordees said...

Took a break that lasted longer than it should have last night to play and beat the game. Third level had some tricky puzzles, but I think the second level was the worst. At 3:04 AM, I had finished the game. Last battle featured Lord Kaspar/Kunzite/Malachite repeating his attacks from the previous battle, each senshi having to hit him only once. And once again, Milord/Tuxedo Kamen/Tuxedo Mask failed. I was disappointed in this battle, expecting something bigger since it was the end of the game. Where the heck was Regina Periglia/Queen Beryl? And there was barely any Artemis in this game.

I think this took somewhere from 25-30 hours from start to completion, and for a game that is this short, it should not have taken this long. I was stuck on one of Sailor Jupiter's puzzles for a good two and a half hours yesterday.
Those 3 heart-shaped crystals did not form anything in the end either.

The game is in Italian, but the credits are in English. Something tells me that this game was made the way it was for the easiness of adding in different languages. There's no language involved in the gameplay, so it really just involves changing text in these conversation "movies", menus, and the small screen showing the senshi's attack or transformation phrase.

Anonymous said...

Sorry the game was hard. Might they met come out with a better game next time. But If you like puzzle games try Bejeweled Twist for the DSi. That a fun game.

Fumu said...

They should just release Sailor Moon: Another Story for the DS or Wii, that game seems awesome!

I hope this game doesn't come to the US, it would give Sailor Moon bad image, they should just leave it to Bandai Japan for developing Sailor Moon games. ><