Moon Crystal (NES) Review

Many worthy games were canceled during the twilight years of the NES, mostly due to the Next Gen Fever spurred by the release of the Super Nintendo. This is all quite natural and understandable and the world probably isn’t too much worse off for it’s lack of Sunman or the California Raisins. But no new piece of hardware, no consumer purchasing trends, no poor sales in Japan can excuse the fact that Moon Crystal was never released in North America or Europe. It’s simply not right or just or okay by any measurable standard. Even though late-release NES games never sold well, developer Hector should have released Moon Crystal simply because it’s the humanitarian thing to do. Sure the company would have gone belly up, but really, how much worse off would the world be without the mahjong and horse breeding games that they went on to develop?

Luckily, today we live in some sort of low-budget sci-fi world where anything is possible other than flying cars and lightsabers. And alongside Internet browsers that automatically remember our long-forgotten WordPress passwords, one of the greatest technological marvels of today is the ability of certain tech-savy individuals to make reproduction carts of games that were never given proper releases. Thus it was that I was able to acquire a flesh and blood copy of Moon Crystal from GameReproductions.com, to play the way it was intended; on my NES. [Note that NESReproductions.com also offers this service].

Gameplay takes the best elements of Prince of Persia and Zelda 2’s sidescrolling, and combines them in such a way as to produce a unique, though not entirely unfamiliar experience. Add to that cutscenes worthy of Ninja Gaiden, and you have one of the very best games for the system.

From every conceivable standpoint, the game delivers. The graphics are about as good as the hardware is capable of. The music is classic and sets an appropriate tone. The controls, though taking a little while to adjust to, are tight and give the game a very unique “feel” (though it must be said that the ledge-hanging mechanic is just slightly off, causing you to sometimes appear hanging in mid-air). Level designs are varied, intuitive and surprisingly logical (rather than just waltzing in the front door of a castle, you climb some trees and enter through a second story balcony). The challenge level and difficulty curve is balanced perfectly so that advancement is hard-earned, but with persistence, the game can be beaten by players of any skill-level. Even the story is a stand-out, at least by NES standards.

Every element of the game, from the title screen to the climactic ending, is polished to the point where you can damn near see your own reflection. This is truly a triple A product, and it undoubtedly would be considered a classic if it had been released here. You’ve been deprived for long enough. Don’t miss your chance to play this gem.

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~ by Krooze L-Roy on October 14, 2008.

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