Ever since Zelda went all open-world on us, there’s been an ever-present craving for the older style of adventure games. Sure, we did get a remaster of Link’s Awakening years ago, but recent comments by Nintendo seem to make us think that the older style may very well not be coming back any time soon.
So that leaves us with the indie scene to help scratch that itch, and Saga of the Moon Priestess is the latest one to do so. With its budget price-tag, hopefully it can provide us with enough quality to help satisfy that need.
Many thanks to the publishers for the review code.
THE SAGA BEGINS
Rather than starting off as the titular priestess, the game instead puts you into the shoes of the illustrious prince of Lunaria. The castle grounds are all too quiet, and he suspects that something is afoot – which is all but confirmed as he starts to see all the ransacked furniture. Things go from bad to worse after a mysterious assailant appears and kidnaps him.
So it falls down to Sarissa, a young hero, who must pack her trusty spear and set off to save the prince. With a weapon in hand and her ability to communicate with the Goddess of the Moon, hopefully she will be able to muster the strength to find and take down this attacker.
This simple story offers a pleasing setup for the story, despite its lack of any real development. The central town is full of some interesting NPCs to converse with, although most only offer a single line of dialogue. It provides enough depth to the world to make it endearing, but it would have been nice if it was expanded a little more.
With its large and colourful sprites, Saga of the Moon Priestess is certainly pleasant to look at, and the quadrangular environments should be very familiar to retro adventure fans. It certainly stands on a fine line between homage and ripping off as you first start, as the grass, trees, and even some of the enemies all seem a little bit too on-the-nose initially. But as you start to enter the main hub area, you can start to see how the game tries to do implement some of its own aesthetic choices.
That thought is pretty much mirrored throughout the rest of the game too, as many of the game’s elements feel incredibly familiar, yet with enough variations to make it stand out on its own. The game’s five dungeons contain a variety of generic themes, with only one feeling vastly different from the norm, and both the designs and puzzle types also offer a degree of familiarity too – albeit with small, but unique, twists. Bombs can be used to activate buttons, the hook-shot acts more like a teleporter as it switches your character with the hooked object, and so on. Whilst these differences are only small in the grand scheme of things, they’re certainly enough to help justify its existence.
And the reason for that is that the game is actually quite a lot of fun. It doesn’t feel weighed down by its influences since it uses them competently enough to keep you entertained. Combat can be punishing at times due to how much damage is dealt by enemies, but encounters always seem fair enough that it’s never impossible to avoid damage. Most boss encounters, which are one of the highlights in the game due to their fantastic sprite-work and interesting attack patterns, are also feasible to beat on your first try and I found that when I did die it was due to my own carelessness.
Taking short of four hours to beat, Saga of the Moon Princess isn’t the longest game on offer. In addition to the main dungeons there are also some side quests you can seek out that can reward you with additional items or flavour text regarding the world, but none of it is really necessary unless you want to expand your playtime by an extra half hour or so. Perhaps the best optional extra is a side-dungeon located in the main town that you can get further through as you gain more items, but everything else is much of a muchness.
But that’s absolutely fine too, with the game selling for less than €6, there’s certainly more than enough meat on its bones to justify a purchase – and with the great entertainment provided by what’s there, you can’t go far wrong.
Saga of the Moon Princess doesn’t really offer anything that you haven’t seen before, but it really doesn’t have to either. It provides a super cheap retro-style adventure that’s a lot of fun to play. If you’re a fan of old-school adventure games, then I’d certainly highly recommend checking this one out.