Sailor Moon Another Story (美少女戦士セーラームーン ANOTHER STORY), released 9/22/1995, developed and published by Angel
I was (am?) a big fan of Sailor Moon. It was the first anime I really got into, back in the mid-90s when the dub was airing on American TV. I’m not sure why I liked it so much; part of it was the online community (in newsgroups and mailing lists) and part of it me wanting to see a cartoon with a developing storyline. I eventually acquired the whole series on VHS tapes (fansubs) and have watched all 200 episodes several times. I no longer own the VHS tapes though.
This means that while I’ve played many games so far based on existing anime, manga, etc, this is the first one that is based on a show I was really into. Probably the one before this that I knew the most about was Ranma 1/2, and that was a pretty crappy game overall. This game, on the other hand, is pretty well done in terms of adapting the original property and making something that will interest fans of the game. It would have been easy to just cram a retelling of the show or lazy product, but the story goes above and beyond that. It involves entirely new villains that do not seem out of place, and examines areas of the original story that were hardly touched on (particularly the future Silver Millennium and the past Moon Kingdom).
The game was developed while the manga was still running. When the development started, the third storyline (S) hadn’t started; when the game was released, the fourth storyline (SuperS) was currently running in both anime and manga form. Because of this, the developers were working off information from Naoko Takeuchi about how the story would develop. The story takes place after the third storyline (S), and mostly seems to follow the manga, although some anime-only things are included (most of the random encounter monsters are from the anime), and there are even references to the R and S movies. I think if you are a fan of Sailor Moon there is a lot to like about the story. If you are not, I think the story may be less interesting/effective.
There is a translation patch which was released a long time ago, but someone updated it with some various fixes and a “no-grind” patch that reduces the random encounter rate and doubles the xp/gold from each encounter.
All ten of the Sailor Senshi introduced so far are in the game, along with all the powers from both the anime and manga. They also have voice clips for all the attacks as well as their transformation lines.
The graphics on the whole are pretty good. I appreciate the face images in the dialogue (why don’t more games do this!) Since they had a large collection of enemies to draw on from the anime, there aren’t a bunch of palette swap monsters and the in-battle graphics are decent as well.
One of the challenges often faced by developers of games like this is being faithful to the original ideas while still creating RPG-like gameplay. In the manga and anime, they typically only fight one monster at a time, and a single attack by Sailor Moon is the only thing that can kill it (usually one other senshi will use an attack to weaken or stun it). This is a similar problem that was faced by the Fist of the North Star RPG creators — in that anime, the whole point is that people like Kenshiro can only be fairly matched against a small number of others who are trained like them. Kenshiro can take out a normal thug without even breaking a sweat.
So you basically have three choices, I think, in adapting something like this:
- Try to create a completely new battle system that allows for more faithfulness to the source. I think Dragon Ball is the main example I can think of of a game that did this; it’s not a common technique probably because it’s not easy to do and takes more time.
- Put some explanation in the story for why the characters cannot fight as well as they can in the original source. Slayers did this by having the “memory loss Lina” that couldn’t use most of her spells. This is not an attractive option because it may annoy players who want to play the original characters as they were in the source.
- Just use a normal RPG system, and hope that the players will be happy enough to play their favorite characters that they’ll overlook how nonsensical it is (or they will understand that there was no way to adapt the original ideas into a satisfying RPG).
The third option is what most of the series take, and it’s what Sailor Moon Another Story does as well. Here, any move can beat the enemies, and Sailor Moon’s own moves are just damage-dealing moves like any other that she might have to use 2 or 3 times and not even kill the enemy. I think it works, though. An interesting choice they made was to completely restore EP after every battle so that you can make heavy use of the special moves rather than just basic attacks.
The other aspects to the battle system are Link Techs, where two (or three) senshi combine their powers, and Formation Techs (which I never used). There are four formations that increase or decrease the attack/defense of senshi in particular spots — for instance, the “Cluster” formation quadruples the attack of the center senshi but lowers the defense/attack quite a bit of everyone else.
Because of the setting, there are no weapons and armor to equip, just accessories (which are mostly rings, earrings, bracelets, etc).
The game is divided into four chapters. The story beings in the Silver Millennium in the future, where a comet is coming and there is a strange epidemic. Back in the present, old enemies are appearing again in Tokyo.
Fan favorite Hotaru changes from a baby back into Sailor Saturn again. She really shouldn’t have a move that just damages random enemies since she’s supposed to destroy planets, but we’ll allow it.
The first chapter just hints at what’s going on, with a new enemy revealing herself as “Sin”, and various dreams and prophecies. The inner senshi are all captured by Sin, and during the rescue you get various glimpses of their dream “perfect lives” that they’ve abandoned to be warriors (this was in the R Movie also I think). Sin also has 5 underlings headed by Apsu. Their goal is to get the Ginzuishou (silver crystal) from Sailor Moon. The senshi succeed in fighting them off but Mamoru (Tuxedo Kamen) is injured, a common situation for him.
In Chapter 2, the Inner senshi have to go around to different places by themselves to recover four gems based on the four generals of the first series. The game draws from the manga in making the four generals servants of Endymion (Mamoru’s past life); this was never stated in the anime. Each of the four stories involves one of the enemy underlings, and develops their backstories and why they joined Sin. They were all dissatisfied with life in the Silver Millennium in some way.
One big complaint about the game that I think is accurate is that there’s too much grinding; whenever you reach a new area the enemies outclass you by quite a bit and you have to do some levelling. It doesn’t take that long but it’s a bit annoying. The boss of Mercury’s segment here is particularly difficult (the no-grind patch hacked something here to make it a bit easier).
Now that we have the four gems, we still need the Rose Crystal, which is chapter 3 — the Outer senshi and Moon are going after the Rose Crystal while the Inners are gone. Saturn’s Death Reborn Revolution is really good so I usually put her in the middle of the Cluster formation.
This chapter also starts the relationship between Chibi-Usa and an enemy Anshar, a kid with a pet. This seems at least a bit similar to the Chibi-Usa/Helios story from the 4th season, making me wonder if they based this on future ideas for the story.
This chapter has you fighting all the Death Busters, Mistress 9, and Professor Tomoe again from S, followed by Queen Beryl from the original season. I have mixed feelings about the reappearance of all the old enemies from the previous seasons — I feel like they did it just to appeal to fans rather than because it fit organically into the story. They never really fully explain why some of the people came back. I suppose it’s a small complaint but it may lessen the appeal of the game to people who are not fans of Sailor Moon. In any case we fail to gain the Rose Crystal from Anshar, ending chapter 3.
In chapter 4 we find out the enemies are messing around in the past, threatening to change the timeline. So we use the Time Corridor (getting Sailor Pluto on the team) to go back. This is a nice chance to see Beryl and the Generals before they turned to the evil side, and also see original Queen Serenity. We also have to fight the villains from the second season (R) again.
We finally see here more motivation of the enemies — Sin, the leader, is going to die soon. Apsu, the sister of Anshar, was pissed off when the Dark Moon killed her parents, and wondered why the sailor senshi were just protecting Neo Queen Serenity rather than helping her parents.
However, we do manage to recover the Rose Crystal and heal Mamoru. Now it’s time for the final chapter.
At this point you have enough money to have 99 colognes (full MP restore for everyone). With this, you can have Pluto use Time Stop every round, which even freezes bosses (including the final boss). So all you have to do is have three characters use strong attacks (I did a triple tech with Mars-Jupiter-Uranus), then a 4th character use a cologne, and Pluto Time stop every round. If you do this, as long as you are at a high enough level to do reasonable damage and you can make it through the first round of combat without anyone getting confused/entranced/etc, you win every boss fight.
Here we do the final battles against the various underlings who then see the error of their ways. But Sin and Apsu still remain — first we have to defeat Apsu, and then a combination of Apsu and Sin. I thought the final section was a bit less satisfying than the others in terms of the motivation and background of the enemies, but it’s still a decent conclusion to the storyline.
Overall I did enjoy this game quite a bit despite the flaws in the system. Certainly a good part of this was my like for Sailor Moon in general, but I think it shows that this was a good adaptation of the source material, and it gives you a nice chance to see things that were never really touched on much in the original series. It also creates some interesting villains that would fit in the source manga/anime as well as fleshing out the main characters a bit.
I do wonder how people unfamiliar with Sailor Moon would like this game — I have a feeling not all that much since the game system is not necessarily the best in the world, and there is quite a bit of grinding involved. It does make me wonder if I would have had a better opinion of some of the other IP-based games I’ve played in the past if I had played those series.
Actually the next game is also a shojo manga (Magic Knight Rayearth). But first there will be two posts about SRPGs I only played the first few stages of.