Renegade Kid's episodic Moon Chronicles - an updated port of the Nintendo DS title Moon - has now delivered Episodes 2-4 as downloadable content, allowing players to finally finish the entire game. As a first-person shooter, Moon Chronicles stands out on the eShop and is a welcome change from the vast collection of puzzlers and platformers; while its' old-school mechanics and progression make the game feel like a relic of PC gaming's past, and while it can't stand up to today's sophisticated shooters, fans of classics like Wolfenstein 3D will find a lot to love.
When last we saw Major Kane [corrected, we originally called him Commander Kane], he had begun to unravel a deep conspiracy hidden deep within Earth's moon. While trying to be relatively spoiler-free, we'll say he escaped doom, made use of the futuristic moon rover Lola and then continued his journey. Now, Kane must try to find lost comrades, discover the shocking truth behind the lies told to him and stop an unknown force.
The story sounds compelling - and it is interesting, in a very predictable way - but most of it is told through dialogue boxes on the touch screen. We'd have loved to see some more detailed cutscenes and character development, especially in an episodic adventure, but Moon Chronicles is more focused on its gameplay; thankfully this is typically solid.
Episodes 2-4 follow the formula introduced in Episode 1, which we enjoyed. Playing as Commander Kane, players will travel and fight through corridor-filled stages in order to shut down alien machines, get to power sources and complete other simple objectives. Along the way there are secret paths, items to increase health and ammo, new weapons to find and more; each stage culminates in a boss fight, which is pattern-based and will be familiar to anyone who's played a Metroid game. The Remote Access droid, meanwhile, also plays a large part in each stage, using it to access small areas that Major Kane can't reach. Overall, the traversal through corridors and hidden rooms will remind older players of classic PC shooters from the '90s.
Renegade Kid made a wise decision in releasing Episodes 2-4 at once. While each episode offers 75-90 minutes of gameplay, the structure feels a bit out of place for a first-person shooter/exploration game. There is no gripping narrative to keep players on the edge of their seats, each stage looks relatively similar to the last, and there are no choices or decisions to affect future episodes, like in many of Telltale Games' recent releases. Instead, the episode breaks feel like unnecessary interruptions. It should also be mentioned that players must update the game in the eShop before attempting to download the rest of the episodes; thankfully purchasing the rest of the episodes is intuitive and clear, which is more than we can say for a lot of DLC released on Nintendo systems.
There are a wealth of control options in Moon Chronicles, from the default Circle Pad / stylus combination to compatibility with the Circle Pad Pro. Moving with the Circle Pad and looking around with the stylus isn't ideal for those whose hands cramp easily, but the controls are responsive and only take a few moments to get used to. Shooting is done with the left shoulder button, and the guns encountered in the game shoot and feel distinct from each other. Renegade Kid has also updated the experience to work with the New 3DS, which should eliminate hand cramping further.
At a smooth 60 frames per second - even with the 3D effect turned on - Moon Chronicles is no technical slouch. Unfortunately the visuals are a bit drab, with repetitive tilesets and enemies that all look the same. The pre-boss fight cutscenes are generic and lack variety: Kane enters a room, a giant monster jumps out and that's it. Also disappointing is the audio, with forgettable and generic music, and some may also grow tired of Kane's grunts as he takes damage.
Moon Chronicles isn't a revolutionary game, but its old-school design doesn't detract from the fun. Renegade Kid should be applauded for continuing to deliver solid experiences on the eShop, and anyone looking for a challenging, action-packed experience should find a place for Moon Chronicles in their library.