With 8 and 16 bit throwbacks being well and truly beaten into the ground at this point, it’s nice to see that the 32 bit era is becoming all the more common. As someone who has much fondness for the Sega Saturn era, seeing titles that harken back to those early days of 3D make me feel particularly nostalgic.
The Switch has seen a number of titles that use this aesthetic, but the most prominant ones are probably the Toree games that offer a bite-sized experience for less than the price of a coffee. As such, I was expecting Lunistice to be along those lines and just be a quick throwaway title for a short thrill.
I was very much mistaken.
Many thanks to the publisher for the review code.
DREAMING OF TANUKI
Much like the early platformers of yesteryear, Lunistice is extremely light on story. Taking control of Hana the Tanuki, you navigate through her dreamscapes as you try and work your way to the moon for some reason. It’s a pretty basic setup with zero development, but the setup at least allows the game to work towards a suitably epic finale amongst the stars. One notable thing that stands out is the lack of any major antagonist to beat, despite the inclusion of some rather generic bloblike foes that torment you throughout your journey.
There are seven dreamscapes to work your way through in total, all of which are presented in an absolutely stunning 32 bit visual style. There’s so much detail here that is makes Hana’s ethereal world feel alive; compared to other 32 bit throwbacks, a lot of time was taken here to ensure that it retains that retro authenticity whilst also including lots of intricate details. Even all the platforming elements for each stage remain believable, with the aquatic theme park containing water slides, balloons, water bubbles, and so on that really feel like they belong in that world.
As for the platforming, it’s as simple as they come: Hana has access to an attack and a double jump… and that’s about it. Such a limited moveset only helps accentuate just how excellent and varied the level design here is, since every single dreamscape has its own platforming gimmicks to help it stand out from the rest. The first world is as basic as they come, but after that every level starts throwing in harder and harder challenges to test your ability. It’s a good thing then that the controls are tight, and platforming obstacles seem perfectly placed to line up with your moveset. Having two acts for each world is also a great choice, as typically the first act will introduce you to the newest gimmicks before really challenging you in the second part.
Whilst the goal of each act is simply to reach the goal area, there’s so much more to do in them than race to the end. Every stage contains hundreds of paper cranes to collect, as well as four letters that spell out the protagonist’s name. There’s not much reason for you to do so outside of increasing your stage ranking and getting everything, but it also encourages the slower gamers to explore further and take on some harder platforming challenges. Those who prefer to speedrun such titles can do so, and the stages have been designed so well that everything feels smooth to just blast through. Regardless of your platstyle, the game contains a decent amount of content to keep you going for hours.
Whilst game length will vary based on your playstyle, Lumistice proceeds at a fairly brisk pace before reaching the ending. But that’s not necessarily where the game has to end. Upon beating the game, you will unlock two new characters to play as, complete with their own unique playstyles, to give you an extra incentive to blast through it all again. They all control really well, and it’s nice to see that the game adds some other touches to make these guest characters feel right at home.
After only expecting a cheap bite-sized 3D platformer, I was surprised to find out that Lunistice is one of the best 3D platformers I’ve played this year. Whether you’re a fast platformer or an explorative one, there’s plenty of content here for everyone. Don’t sleep on this little gem!