Adaptation may be one of the toughest jobs anyone can undertake and, more often than note, falters in the shadow of its inspiration. In the two years and change I’ve been over this website, I have seen many aspiring writers and artists try to adapt their favorite anime, manga, novel, etc. with varied success. However, those that do succeed not only elevate themselves but the piece of fiction that inspired them in the first place. So, while it is a gamble it is a worthwhile one.
The Buried Moon is a loose adaptation of a popular English fairy tale, which is also titled The Buried Moon. The fairy tale is straightforward with the Moon, being curious about tales of danger when she didn’t shine at night, travels into the swamp lands and is captured by the ‘evil things’ she had been warned about. After a time, a man and woman who remembered the Moon spirit found and freed her.
Straightforward indeed. So, how does the game fair against the original tale? Only a proper review will answer that question!
The Buried Moon follows Rattia Brown: an anthropomortized female rat. She is a new recruit into the ‘Edge Guard’ and is sent on her first assignment to a village called Star Veil to begin her career. Unfortunately the supernatural take that moment to attack the village. This turn has a lot promise and, to be fair, in the beginning it sets up that promise pretty well. The atmosphere is dark and gives the feeling of a coming threat, the characters are presented as mostly likable and the first ten minutes gives a strong hint of things to come. However, AFTER the ten minute mark, it all falls apart.
Trying to pin the tail (no pun intended) on one particular item would be a disservices to you guys because it isn’t just one thing. So I will try to touch on as many of the game’s issues as I can without beating this particular horse dead.
In my opinion, the biggest issue of The Buried Moon is the fact that there is no real threat to compliment the atmosphere. It keeps telling you about how evil the monsters released at night are and how they will destroy you, your Mom and even your Mom’s puppy. However, the only on-screen kill is a chipmunk. The village is evacuated the minute the evil things appear and with only Rattia, her superior Major Terra and Teto to serve as potential victims, the suspense and tension the game starts with and tries to maintain throughout the game collapses in on itself.
And I’m not talking about any extra work here. I’m talking, at most, an added paragraph spread throughout the game with moments like Terra pulling Rattia aside and telling her, ‘We’ve got a telegraph from the Capitol. They’re getting reports of those…things…in other villages as well. Some villages…have’t responded yet to their calls.’ Boom. Tension maintained. But that doesn’t happen and instead we get a montage of our heroes marching out into the woods and running back to the village whenever the fecal matter inches too closes to the orbital rotation device. Thrilling.
Helping to deflate the plot is the most annoying character in the game…and no I’m not talking about Teto the Owl. I’m talking about Chi: the demigoddess who can beat the Evil Things by literally flicking her wrists. Outside of being powerful enough to do ALL of the fighting herself, Chi is also the one that moves the plot forward and actually DOES stuff to combat the encroaching evil. And to be honest, I would probably have a better outlook on her if I haven’t spent the last four months reviewing RWBY. But since I had that experience, for me Chi’s all of the terrible genki girl tropes that powered Ruby, Nora and Penny rolled into one big, aggravating ball of GET OFF MY SCREEN ALREADY.
But even with those biases aside, with Chi in the spotlight Rattia really has nothing to do. She freaks out, gets scared and from time to time blushes when Chi flirts with her. This isn’t completely bad per se since this is supposed to be a ‘horror’ game and you don’t get a lot of character development in the horror genre. However, if you’re not going to give the protagonist a defined character then they, at the very least, needs to be an active part of the plot. And with our genki girl running around, there’s really nothing for her, or the audience, to latch onto contextually. And without any real suspense to substitute for context…you know where this train is going don’t you?
To be honest, however, I cannot say that this is terrible. There are moments as the game rolls on where, upon making certain choices, you see the potential of the first ten minutes of the game are realized. One that really stood out was the midway scene with Major Terra that was actually a pretty cool moment for the character and added some much needed weight to the narrative. And there’s a little twist to the ending that was actually pretty clever and could have been saved the entire game if better executed. But those moments are just that: moments.
PRESENTATION & GAMEPLAY
One of the best things The Buried Moon has going for it is its presentation. The characters are all excellent designed and the Evil Things are well animated. The backgrounds set a mysterious yet somber mood, which theoretically aids the suspenseful atmosphere but, considering the previous part of the review, it just looks very pretty. I also liked the fact that when you exited the game, a different taunting message would pop up like ‘Are You Scared?’ or ‘Running Away?’ It was a fun touch.
Now before I get into Gameplay, I must warn you that I cannot discuss it without spoiling certain parts of the game. So if you haven’t played the game and you are interested in doing so, I’m going to give you the opportunity to skip right to the end now and avoids said spoilers, although trust me when I say that you’re not going to be missing anything so…count of three?
Okay good, so game play wise it is pretty standard for two-thirds of the game. The third act introduces a Point and Click element similar to the Telltale Walking Dead game. This is done so that you can collect the items need to free the Moon Goddess from her entrapment. These items are similar to the one in the fairy tale and, honestly, of everything the game had to offer this had the most potential. This is something that could have been integrated early with Rattia learning more about the moon and picking up odd things here and there only to learn as time went on that was the key to freeing the Moon and ending the terror.
Which means, of course, that is the last thing that happens. It is tacked on in the third act and, on top of being completely out of place; it lists the items you need to find. So, not only is it unnecessary; it’s easy to boot. This is what I meant by ‘wasted potential’ as an entire engine was built that could have been used to give a great mystery experience to the suspense story and it just feels like empty calories.
The other element I mentioned was the ending. Along the way, if you pick certain choice either Teto the Owl or Major Terra could end up dead. Because of the structure of the choices, in your first play through Teto definitely gets offed and Rattia feels personally responsible and upon freeing the Moon Goddess, asks her to evoke the almighty powers of Deus Ex Machina and allow her to go back and time and redo the experience so that she can save whoever’s deceased.
And like everything I’ve talked, here we also have wasted potential. Leaning on the fourth wall like this could’ve been used to deepen the characters and make multiple playthrough a very satisfying experience for the player. Instead, it too feels tacked with only a handful of option given with the sole purpose of saving whoever bit the bullet during your first playthrough…which means it’s only an option if you care about saving either Teto or Major Terra. Guess which side of the line I fell on?
Ultimately, while there weren’t major crash issues, gameplay falls in with the rest of The Buried Moon: wasted potential.
The Buried Moon is free to play and combined, you’ll knock this one out within an hour. For anyone looking for a momentary distraction with a little supernatural story, this could be for you. Even then though, after one playthrough you should be good.
Wasted Potential. Wasted Potential. Wasted Potential. In rereading this review, I find it interesting that I kept coming back to that. It is clear that a lot of thought went into the game and its overall tone and you can’t walk away without feeling that Metal Orphans and Co. really wanted to deliver a genuinely dark, suspenseful experience.
But, the truth is that the story is a mess that is in desperate need for guidance on narrative and theme. The characters are cardboard at best with our main protagonist bearing all of the constitution of a wet tree branch and our ACTUAL protagonist being awesome for the sake of being awesome…which isn’t awesome. The ideas for the Point and Click segments and the Ending twist were good in theory but terribly executed. In the end, while I didn’t hate it and don’t feel it deserves a bad rating; all it offers is a tiny peak at what could’ve been and little else.