Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest and The Mana series are games that spring to mind when Square-Enix are mentioned. There is one thing in common with those titles, the RPG element. They have the genre down to a tee and it is a rare and refreshing to see them attempt something that they are not accustomed too. Moon Diver is one of these games, even though it still has some of the Role Playing Game in it’s blood, it is a far cry from Final Fantasy.
Moon Diver is set in a post-apocalyptic world where Faust – a boy who uses the power of Mephistopheles to breath life into inanimate objects such as cars, trains and even entire cities to destroy humanity until no one is left. Now only creatures created by Faust walk the streets looking for the humans to finish off. Enter the Moondivers; an elite Ninja force whose orders are simple: Destroy Faust and reclaim the planet thus saving humanity.
As each level progresses, manga-styled cut scenes are used to tell the story. Each cutscene reveals more story and it becomes clear to what has happened and what is yet to unfold. This is a different take to the usual animated sequences that Square-Enix are known for. However, this does feel somewhat lack lustre and out of place compared with the in game visuals.
What follows is a two dimensional hack-and-slash game where players battle through hundreds of enemies. The controls are very simple: The left control stick moves the player, X to jump, Square to swing the Moon Diver’s weapon, R2 shoulder button rolls the character and the Circle button casts magic spells. The magic is available to help the Moon Diver in a number of ways; it can attack directly, help to restore the Ninja and even disable enemies for a quick regroup. With more than 50 spells, littered across the levels and need collecting, they allow for a quick, short-lived burst of power at needed moments.
In true Square style they couldn’t resist putting in a touch of the RPG. As enemies are defeated experience is gained and once the gold bar fills they level up. This has two effects for the Moon Diver; firstly a Character Point is awarded for each level raised which are spent on raising HP, MP and Power. Secondly, the number of combination hits a character can do will increase, however this will not happen at every level up.
Getting through the massive environments is relatively easy however the bosses at the end of the levels are frustratingly hard and usually result in death and the restart of the level. The constant restarts do get tiresome in single player mode however the multiplayer on the other hand is where Moon Diver really shines. Local Mode is up to four people in the same room playing the story mode. Online Mode is the same; however, there is the choice of dropping into and existing game. Even though the Moon Divers work together to progress through the level there is an element of competition as everyone battles for the experience by dispatching the most enemies.
Moon Diver is well designed game with a feel of old classic games such as Golden Axe and Streets of Rage. Playing the single player game does get repetitive. The multiplayer does add longevity to the game as it eases the boss battles and pushes the story forward rather than playing the same level over and over. Those expecting a fantastic story will be disappointed as it is little more than a link to the next level.