The Best FPS Available on the Nintendo DS
Renegade Kid first appeared as a developer for the Nintendo DS with Dementium: The Ward, a first person horror game that was all about the creepy atmosphere of the insane asylum where you were imprisoned. While the game featured a cool story and great graphics for a DS title, the combat itself was pretty boring, and switching between the flashlight and weapons grew tiresome. It was an ambitious first effort to be sure, but Renegade Kid's first attempt left a lot to be desired.
Renegade Kid obviously learned from their first title on the DS. Their sophomore title, Moon, addresses all of the problems that crippled Dementium, delivering an experience that shows a lot of polish and pushes the DS hardware to its limits. Moon not only looks incredible, but offers tight controls and an excellent story. All of these come together to create a compelling experience that any fans of the Action/Adventure genre are sure to enjoy.
The year is 2058. The United States has constructed bases on the moon to research a possible Mars launch and perform scientific experiments. However, during an excavation expedition, a mysterious hatch is uncovered beneath the surface of the moon. So, special forces are called in to investigate.
You play as Major Kane, the leader of the special task force called in. You and your crew begin to investigate the hatch, but it doesn't take long before things start to go wrong. Soon you are left stranded on the moon, without your crew or any means of getting home.
Moon is all about ambiance. The game is all about capturing the desolation of being stranded on the moon, and giving the player the feeling of being completely isolated. While the game is never "scary" and doesn't aim to be, there are moments where you get a little anxious and start to get a bad feeling in the pit of your stomach. This is thanks in part to the rich, cinematic story, but is mostly due to the stunning graphics.
There's no way around it: This game is gorgeous. Moon is easily the best looking DS game available, putting other games to shame. Environments are atmospheric and textures are surprisingly crisp. Enemy models truly shine; animations are fluid and the enemies futuristic and unique. There are even some lighting effects tossed into the mix, which is cool considering the obvious limitations of a DS game cartridge. Renegade Kid really went all out in terms of graphics, and the game shines as a result.
Moon truly is a gorgeous game, especially on the DS.
Even better than the in-game graphics are the beautiful cutscenes, placed pretty frequently throughout the game. When you first start up the Story Mode, you are introduced to the world of Moon through one of the most cinematic cutscenes I've seen in a handheld game. And the great thing about this game is that you get to experience these awesome cutscenes throughout the entire game, not just as the opening sequence.
The cutscenes in this game are gorgeous, as shown by this opening sequence.
Another aspect of the game that really impressed me was the audio. Moon features a pretty robust soundtrack; a spacey, futuristic blend of synthesizers and technological sounds. While that sounds like it would be pretty annoying, it's really simple and works well.
What I love about the music is that it is only present when it fits the mood. In fact, there isn't music through the majority of a level. This adds to the feeling of isolation; at times the only thing audible is the sound of your gun shots. It's almost unsettling at times, which is probably the intention in a game like this.
Cutscenes offer up full voice over work, which is cool considering the limitations of the DS hardware. Voices sound surprisingly crisp coming from the DS speakers, and the acting is believable, although a little bland.
Of course, the beautiful graphics and superb audio would be nothing if the game didn't play well. Luckily, Moon is an excellent example of a shooter done right on the DS.
Moon is not your standard Run'N'Gun style of shooter, like Doom or something similar. It is much more in the vein of the Metroid Prime series, where it's more about exploring new areas with a side of action. Be prepared to backtrack, because that's a staple of this game.
Controls are your standard fare for a DS shooter: you aim using the touch screen and move using the d-pad. Controls are smooth and aiming is quite responsive. It's one of the blessings of having the ability to use the touch screen; it's hard to create an inaccurate aiming system when you can aim using the stylus.
An FPS would be nothing without cool weapons, right? Luckily, Moon has some cool futuristic weapons to offer up. Your primary weapon is the Super Assault Rifle (or SAR), which has an unlimited amount of ammo but is the weakest weapon at your disposal. Throughout your expedition you stumble upon various other weapons, like the Muon Pistol, the Quanta Rifle, and the Oxid Cannon. Switching between weapons is a breeze; simply touch your current weapon on the touch screen and then slide the stylus to your desired weapon. It's a very slick interface that works very well.
One other weapon I've yet to mention is the Remote Access Droid, or RAD. This little rover is your right hand man, so to speak, and is an integral part of getting anywhere in the game. The RAD device is Major Kane's equivalent of Samus' morph ball; it's small size makes it able to fit through spaces too small for Major Kane, which are usually little portals that just happen to be the perfect size for this little device.
One unique thing about the RAD is that it has a weapon of its own, in the form of a stun gun. This weapon is what makes the RAD a necessity for accessing most areas of the game. Certain areas are blocked of my red energy gates, which Major Kane cannot get through. The RAD can disable these force fields by stunning the source of them, which is usually a floating red diamond nearby the gate.
However, this is not all that the stun gun can be used for. The RAD can also stun enemies, which is pretty necessary when you consider that it's the only form of defense the RAD has. So, sending the little energy ball of stun matter (or whatever it may be) their way will render them incapacitated for a brief period, so you can flee as necessary.
The greatness of playing as the RAD is that it's so easy to switch back and forth between Major Kane and the RAD. By changing back to any weapon in your arsenal, you are instantly controlling Major Kane once more. It doesn't matter how far away the RAD is; you can switch between each regardless of distance, as long as both are in the same area.
Once you've completed a level, you will need to find a way to get to the next level. This is where we get some cool vehicular combat/exploration missions. You get to drive the LOLA-RR10, a reconnaissance vehicle, between locations, which is a surprisingly fun distraction. You must avoid moon mines as you travel (why there are mines is beyond me) and also avoid the attacks from alien robots.
The controls for this are reminiscent of driving a Warthog in Halo; you use the touch screen to aim your turret, and the d-pad to drive. The controls are once again very tight and work well, although it's easy to get turned around without realizing it. Once you get the hang of it, though, you should be fine.
One thing I have yet to mention is the difficulty level of the game. Enemies die pretty fast, and for the most part the game is really easy. A few well placed shots with any of the weapons in the game will kill the enemies. And even though you might get hit quickly, enemies drop health quite frequently, so it's get refilled. You also get a full bar of health for saving the game, so the game is forgiving with health.
Bosses are pretty tough, although still a bit too easy for my taste. However, bosses in this game are a cool cinematic experience, looming overhead menacingly. Once again, the game is more about mood than action, so I think that is why the game is so easy. Still, it'd be nice to have a bigger challenge along the way.
One of my favorite things included in the game is the Quickplay Mode. This mode allows you to replay any Chapter that you have completed from the main game. So if you are in the mood to drive, just boot up the driving chapter and have at it. It's a really cool addition to this type of game, and one that I haven't seen in this genre.
Moon is one of those games where everything comes together and it just works. It's got all those little touches that show polish and a clear understanding of the intended result. From the gorgeous graphics and stunning cut scenes, to the ambient soundtrack and full voice overs, this game has a lot to offer. Combine that with top notch Action/Adventure gameplay and unique additions like the RAD and vehicular missions, and you have yourself one of the best total packages on the Nintendo DS, and without a doubt the best FPS. If you are at all a fan of the genre, do yourself a favor and pick this game up.
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