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   Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon: Another Story - Reader Retroview  

Naoko Takeuchi’s Magnum Opus in its Greatest Game Form
by JuMeSyn

BATTLE SYSTEM
INTERACTION
ORIGINALITY
STORY
MUSIC & SOUND
VISUALS
CHALLENGE
Painful
COMPLETION TIME
~40 hours
OVERALL

3.5/5

Rating definitions 

   Ah, the anime-inspired RPG subgenre so beloved in Japan. Where the English-speaking world makes quick platform games for most of its licensed games, Japan makes quick RPGs (in addition to fighting games, which both markets deluge the stores with). Quality in these cases is quite variable, but few of the anime-inspired RPGs are pleasant to play. Sailor Moon: Another Story is an exception to the rule of licensed games stinking, however. It may not be anything exceptional but as a licensed game it manages to be enjoyable to anyone familiar with the subject matter while not offending any who are not.

   For the uninitiated, a quick course on Sailor Moon is necessary. The show aired for a total of 200 episodes in Japan, and starred Tsukino Usagi as Sailor Moon, endowed with mystical powers to defend against various threats to the Earth. As Usagi is a notorious crybaby and lax about devoting herself to anything more complicated than sleeping late and eating sweets, she was granted Luna, her feline compatriot, to goad her into actually using her mystical powers rather than running away. She also gained allies: Ami, Rei, Makoto, and Minako, respectively Sailors Mercury, Mars, Jupiter and Venus. In the second season of the show a new menace arose, and Usagi met her daughter from the future, also possessed of transformative celestial powers – Chibiusa, who transforms into Sailor Chibi Moon. And in the third season more sometime-allies arrived; Haruka, Michiru, Setsuna, and Hotaru, respectively Sailors Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, and Saturn. There is also Tuxedo Mask, the stylishly-attired form of Usagi’s boyfriend Mamoru. He always leaves the ending of enemies to Sailor Moon however….

As everyone knows, the wilds of Canada harbor nasty things like this. As everyone knows, the wilds of Canada harbor nasty things like this.

   Without going into too much further depth, this is a sufficient background to start with Sailor Moon: Another Story. Its story takes place between Sailor Moon S (the third season) and Sailor Moon Super S (the fourth season). Enemies from the past seasons are revived by a mysterious shaman known as Apsu, who has also corralled her own warriors to serve as the Opposite Sailors. Plenty of smaller things get in the way before the Sailors are able to direct their attention towards Apsu, not least the matter of actually finding out about their opponent (not a problem for the player thanks to the omniscient plot points). The story will mean a great deal more to someone who has followed the manga/show in order to gain an appreciation for the characters onscreen, because in the grand tradition of licensed games the characters are themselves without a need for development. The game-only characters receive a fair amount of development, however. To anyone without some Japanese knowledge (not a great deal, there is very little kanji in this game) the intricacies of the plot will be hard to decipher.

   Interaction is pretty darn easy, actually. While items are all displayed in Japanese, there are usually enough of them to make trial-and-error a feasible method of finding out what will happen. Equipping is very simple, because the Sailors have three accessories to equip – nothing else. Battle menus are given little visual aids to help the player figure out what to do also.

   Battles take place in a semi-standard format. There are up to 5 Sailors per random battle, combat is turn-based, experience and money are left after combat (money in this case being yen). Sailor Moon: Another Story makes some interesting adjustments to the standard formulae however. Outside of battle the player can choose between several different formations for the Sailors to use during battle – each formation places some characters in amazingly strong defensive posture and some in a good position to strike down enemies promptly. The techniques used by every Sailor (aside from basic attacking) are derived from the manga and anime, with the Sailors being able to link their techniques together also for more powerful strikes. The Sailors themselves are not all the same; some (Jupiter, Uranus) are offensively very strong but need to watch their defense, some (Mercury, Neptune) have strong defense and linked techniques but will be hard-pressed to do serious damage by themselves, some others (Moon, Saturn) don’t really fit into any category. Techniques themselves follow a different rule than most RPGs; every Sailor starts with 12 EP for every battle that is replenished between battles. This makes plowing through the boring random fights very simple but bosses will require copious item usage, because 12 EP (especially when Sailors are using linked techniques) vanishes quickly. Aside from these quirks the battles should be quickly familiar to anyone who has played a turn-based RPG before.

Never fear, Sailor Mars is the life of any party!  If one doesn't exist, she'll MAKE one happen! Never fear, Sailor Mars is the life of any party! If one doesn't exist, she'll MAKE one happen!

   Visually the game looks pretty good, but not outstanding. Enemies fall prey to the old Final Fantasy syndrome of never moving, and especially considering the paltry number of random opponents this is unfortunate; bosses are varied though, and pack punishing attacks. The Sailors look good, move fluidly, and their various attacks look as they should to one familiar with the source material. Music is pretty good, with a few tunes standing out as being particularly good, although the sound effects are lackluster at best. Voice acting is present in the Sailors announcing all of their special attacks in battle, which is a nice treat for a fan of the seiyuu (to the one person who liked the English dub – familiarization with the original and much better voices is recommended).

   There is not much incentive for replay on this title; but having ANY with a licensed game is something of a novelty anyway. There is one side quest in the entire game, which plunges the Sailors into two difficult battles for a very useful accessory. There are two different endings, although saving just before the final battle is sufficient to achieve both.

   Completing Sailor Moon: Another Story may not take a total of 40 hours, but time must be allowed for wandering about – though the game is rather linear there are points at which figuring out what the player needs to do and circumventing the language barrier are required. And time for fighting random adversaries is vital, because while the first half of the game is not too difficult later bosses become brutal. Attempting to fight when too weak will result in death. There are no shortcuts, although the more hardcore players may want to try.

   Sailor Moon: Another Story should probably be rated a bit less for anyone who has no familiarity with the subject matter, although it isn’t below average. To a Sailor Moon diehard, the game will be most welcome in a sea of beat-em-ups and fighting games that represent the other Japanese game manifestations of the characters. While the original game is in Japanese, there exists a quite good ROM translation of the game, with the caveat that Japanese honorifics are kept in the dialogue (but would someone with no interest in Japanese titles even look at this game?) Playing the cartridge itself is perfectly possible in the original language, just not as enjoyable when the details of character interactions are not understood. Although there is apparently a French version of the game in cartridge form, should any French speakers wish to take it for a test….

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