Disclosure notice: In the time since the publication of this article, Nintendo Life staffer Kate Gray has contributed writing to Moonstone Island. She has had no involvement in our coverage since joining the project, and we won't be reviewing the game.
Moonstone Island is one of the games we're most excited about this year, and judging by the response from the other times we've covered it, we're not alone. The game, which combines Minish Cap aesthetics with a deckbuilding spin on a Pokémon-like battle system, plus farming, crafting, and alchemy, feels like it has something for everyone, and it helps that the art is gorgeous, too.
We spoke to the Moonstone Island developers, Supersoft Studios, following on from the announcement during the June 2022 Wholesome Direct that they'll be working with Raw Fury to publish the game. We've also got this lovely new trailer, which shows off some of the combat, fishing, foraging, house decorating, and farming that the game has to offer.
Read on to find out more about what Moonstone Island is all about...
Nintendo Life: How big is the world in Moonstone Island?
Sandy Spink, Lead Designer on Moonstone Island: The size of the world is something we’ve played around with a lot. If it’s too big it dilutes the game content and starts to feel shallow, but if it’s too small that sense of wonder goes away.
Our current system generates a unique world configuration for every new game
Our current system generates a unique world configuration for every new game with some constants such as the overall size of the world and the town of Moonstone island always being located at the center. Then we toss in over 100 random islands, skin them to fit the biome they’ve been placed in then populate them with loot, dungeons, temples, shrines, healing pools, and lots of other fun stuff.
At the beginning of the game, it can be hard to make a dent in the world map but once you’ve trained up your party and crafted some more efficient vehicles it becomes easier to get around and reach the outer edges.
What kind of music can we expect from the soundtrack?
My composer Omar Saab (@osaabmusic) has been working hard to create memorable melodies that resonate with the various environments, locations, and seasons of the game. He has been taking cues from game soundtracks that I love such as Ocarina of Time, Undertale, Fez, Secret of Mana, Mother 3, Chrono Trigger, Super Mario RPG, and Yoshi's Island. He’s also been pulling influence from non-video game media like Studio Ghibli (Hisaishi), Spaghetti westerns (Morricone), City Pop (Casiopea), and Yellow Magic Orchestra.
The game seems to let you have Pokémon-like companions who fight for you – can you tell us about some of them?
We call our Pokémon-like companions “Spirits“ and in the world of Moonstone Island, each spirit takes to a different animal or object in the same way a hermit crab takes to different shells. So a Fishbo is a walking fishbowl (with really cool shoes), a Lookachoo is a handkerchief and a Burgloon is a burglarizing raccoon. Each one of them belongs to a specific element, much like a Pokémon has a type, and each one has a unique ability that enhances the player’s exploration or battle abilities when the player has them in their party.
How many pixel artists are working on the game right now?
We rotate artists off and on as things are needed, most of whom I’ve found through Twitter. The main artists I work with are Cocefi (@chickysprout) for sprites, UI, and tilemaps, Thomas Fröse (@ThomasFroese) for character portraits, JMW (@jmw327) for key art, DeuTilt (@_DeuTilt) for creating and animating spirits, and Victor “Tic” Athayde (@ArtOfTic) for background art. They’re all incredible artists and I feel so lucky to get to work with them.
How do you get your colours to look so vibrant without being messy or overwhelming?
I turned to our wonderful lead pixel artist Cocefi for some insight here:
“Uhmm... color theory! And we made moodboards in the early stages to help guide our color choices and also to ensure every asset we made fits the chill/Ghibli vibe.“
Recent screenshots and videos of the game show off what looks like a new and rather gorgeous lighting system. Can you tell us about that?
I’ll once again lean on the wisdom of Cocefi here:
”We used a proprietary tech called 'slap-those-Photoshop-blending-layers-on' or STPBLO for short. It's top-secret so we can't reveal more.”
Your art has come a long way in a year! What would you say are the biggest changes you’ve made?
Hiring Cocefi! Right from the beginning, his art style was aligned with what I wanted so as soon as we started replacing the placeholder art with his work, the world really started to come to life.
But a specific “big breakthrough” moment I remember came as I was replaying The Minish Cap. The Palace of Winds has this incredible background art of clouds and islands that are waaaaayyyyy down in the distance so you really get that feeling of being high above the planet. We applied this visual treatment to our game and it completely changed the look and feel of the game.
How do the farming, fighting, and crafting mechanics tie together?
The way I approached the farming mechanics was as if your farm is your Poké Mart, so each crop has a function. They can be used to restore stamina as you explore, craft items, brew potions, boost stats in battle, tame wild spirits, or simply sold for money.
Your farm is your Poké Mart, so each crop has a function
The fighting mechanics are the main way that the world pushes against the player. We calculate the wild spirit’s level based on how far you are from the center of the world, so the further you travel, the harder they fight. Our main story requires the player to be able to travel far and wide and the only way you’ll reach those outer edges is by having a tough team of spirits, and by crafting efficient modes of transportation, and effective supplies.
Crafting is not only used for travel but also lets the player build an effective farm and home for themself and their spirits. You can craft fences and enclose your base which keeps wild spirits from spawning inside. You can build a Spirit barn and different kinds of Spirit stalls allowing you to keep a large collection of Spirits happy and safe. You can unlock furniture and decorations to make your place uniquely yours. And of course, you can craft sprinklers because nobody wants to use that damn watering can.
Can you tell us about any of the dateable characters?
We’re currently working on the social mechanics and so some of our characters are still in flux but I can tell you that Ossono is a fun-loving tavern keeper, Clay is a hunky struggling artist, and Gaianna is a headstrong herbologist.
Can you tell us more about how the alchemy system works, and how it can help you in the rest of the game?
There are two branches of the Alchemy System, the Alchemy Lab, and the Alchemist’s Cauldron.
The Alchemy Station lets you combine any crops into a concoction. This concoction then contains the stats of the crops you combined. So you can create concoctions that are focused on a single function such as greatly restoring stamina or taming spirits, or you can brew a concoction that serves a combination of functions such as boosting both a Spirit's Speed and Power in a single action. You can also create debuff concoctions that can be used on wild Spirits in battle.
The Alchemist’s cauldron is less mathematical than the Alchemy Lab and instead allows you to brew magic potions based on recipes you find and unlock. These potions can be used to move faster, increase chances of finding rare loot, slow time, peer into “the space between“ and lots of other cool stuff that I would rather people discover by playing the game.
Finally, your spirits all have incredible pun names. What’s the best one so far?
Thank you to Sandy for chatting with us, and making
terrible excellent puns. We're very excited to find out more about Moonstone Island in the coming months!
The planned release date for Moonstone Island on Nintendo Switch is 2023, alongside a PC version. You can wishlist it on Steam, too!
buys second copies of Breath of the Wild and Pokémon Legends Arceus
Having drawn pixel art with vector style programs on and off for small projects over the years, I have A LOT of respect for the people who do that for a living. It takes a ton of patience!
This should interest Rune Factory fans.
Colours too vibrant for my liking but there can never be enough of these types of games so good going!
I am 100% getting this on my Steam Deck!
This game looks super cute! Consider me interested ...
Is the battle card base? Or do the moves just look like cards? Because if the battles are card based, I'm going to have to pass. Not a fan of card base games. Otherwise looks really great!
Dig the heck out of this. Looks supa dope.
Deck building means I am out. Looks cute though.
Wow amazing !
Damy one 4 me ^^
Yeah, this is one I'll definitely wishlist. It looks very interesting, combining several of my favourite types of games into one neat package!
It looked interesting, but I'm put off when game levels are randomly generated. I don't have a good experience with that kind of game, and it seems lazy, especially when thinking about the effort put into the world in BotW and other games more closely related to Moonstone Island.
If I wanted to revisit a game - Terranigma or Secret of Mana, for example - it'd partly be the familiarity of the world that would take me back. It would be weird for things to be in a different place. And advertising a random world seems a cheap way to make a game seem replayable.
I think you could take a given screen shot of this and fool someone into thinking it's either Stardew or og Zelda. It seems like a fun mash up, but the visual similarities look like borderline rip-off tbh.
It's a shame it's not Physical - maybe Super Rare Games could pickup this up for physical buyers.
Limited Run better jump on this
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