Moon Diver (ムーンダイバー), originally titled Necromachina for its English release, is a 2D side-scrolling game developed by feelplus and published by Square Enix for download on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. It was designed by Kouichi Yotsui as his third action platform title, with Moon Diver drawing heavily from both the original Strider and Osman in gameplay and design. Isuke has openly stated the game can be seen as "a sequel to the action games [he has] made in the past".
In February 2017, Moon Diver was included in the list of backwards compatible titles for the Xbox One.
Playable either alone or up to 4 players simultaneously, the player(s) can select one of five different "Moon Divers", each with their own stat specialities: Seyfert, Hitori, Tolby, Ourion and the DLC character Silence. Moon Diver consists of a total of 12 expansive stages, each made up of several sections crawling with enemies and hidden areas, as well as hidden spells to collect.
Moon Diver is set on the year of 2081 (33 years after Strider's setting in 2048), in a world that's suffering from severe overpopulation. One day, a mysterious youth naming himself Faust appeared, owner of the miraculous power to grant life to inanimate objects. Seeing humanity as a disgusting species and reaching the conclusion the Earth's creator God has left and humanity has no divine or higher purpose other than perpetuating its species, Faust rises an army of creatures and starts a crusade to eliminate the human race entirety, so he can repopulate the planet with the superior race he has created.
All efforts by the Human Resistance Army to stop or kill Faust have failed, and the army has all but lost the battle. When all seems lost, however, five young warriors suddenly appear and start a counterattack against Faust. Descending from an ancient extinct race referred to as "Spirits" or "Faeries" which once made a pact of mutual protection with the human race, the Moon Divers Seyfert, Hitori, Ourion and Tolby fight Faust's armies to honor their ancestor's pact and prevent humanity's total extinction.
Moon Diver is an action-centered 2D side-scrolling platformer, but unlike its predecessors it features light RPG elements as well. All five playable characters perform roughly the same, and controls very much like Hiryu and Kirin did: they can perform acrobatic jumps and move at any direction, stick to and climb any surface or obstacle they encounter and use either quick slash attacks or a charged slash reminiscent of Hiryu's old Cypher strike. The Moon Divers, however, have a few extra options for mid-air movement and offensive, including a double jump, the ability to perform an aerial slide kick and the ability to strike enemies while flipping on top of platforms.
Players can also perform "Chain Kills", a count that appears after a number of enemies are killed in quick succession. Every time this count reaches 50 the player's HP and MP is fully restored.
The player's HUD is located at the top of the screen, showing in order from top to botton:
- EXP (experience), an orange gauge which increases with defeated enemies.
- HP (life), a blue gauge which determines the character's health. When depleted in single player, the game's over and the player is returned to the stage select screen. In multiplayer, the character is instead captured in cursed chains of light and must be rescued by the other players by striking at them until they break. They have only 10 seconds to break the captured player free, and a game over is only achieved if there's no living player available to break the others free.
- MP (magic), a green gauge used for the MoonSault Combination spells.
- Score, showing the player's score during the current play.
Leveling and Spells
The characters have an experience gauge and they receive experience points by defeating enemies. Every time the character levels up their stats raise, their number of combo attacks increase and they receive 1 CP (Customise Point). The CP can later be used in the Character Development screen to raise the limit of the characters' three stats (HP, MP and POW). Each character has specific stat growths: Seyfert develops HP and MP well, Hitori excells at MP, all of Tolby's stats develop evenly, Ourion excells at Power and Silence is high-performance but develops slower.
Finally, scattered across stages are magic spells known as MoonSault Combinations (MC for short). Once found, they can be equipped to any character and used during gameplay. Each character can equip up to four different spells. There are several different kinds of MC to find, providing skills ranging from offensive spells (such as the ability to shoot projectiles at all directions or kill every enemy on screen) to defensive spells (such as becoming invisible to enemies or freezing all enemies on screen).
MoonSault Combinations can be performed alone, but in multiplayer one can request to perform a combined MC by holding down the button. A prompt will appear over the other characters, and when the button is pressed all characters will perform the specific MC together, with those who answered the call wasting no MP on the casting.
There are a total of 60 MoonSault Combinations to be found.
The game consists of a total of 12 stages, separated into three distinct acts. Act 1 is set on the ruins of the city of Barcelona, where the Moon Divers made their first move against Faust's army. The act ends with the activation of the Moon Driver, a massive laser cannon installed on the moon, in an attempt to kill Faust. The laser literally erases the American continent, leaving a smoking crater on its place, but Faust is unscathed. Act 2 follows the Moon Divers into the Atlantic ocean as they search the flying all-purpose battleship "Independence" in order to reach the Moon Driver and stop Faust's minions from taking it over. The final act takes place in the ruins of America and has the Moon Divers searching across the wasteland in order to find and put and end to Faust for good.
Each stage is comprised of several different areas, each denoted by an unique title. Certain stages have areas with a number of different exit points that lead to different places, and so multiple playthroughs are required to fully explore them. There are also hidden areas in secret places, often behind blockades of debris or walls which must be destroyed to proceed.
Connections to Strider
Moon Diver features a number of similar ideas and gameplay elements displayed in both Strider and Osman, and its extended backstory features several subtle and indirect connections to the backstory of Strider.
The only remains of the extended backstory in-game are found on the stage area titles, which reference several of the concepts mentioned there. According to Ando, he considered that adding more skits than needed in an action game would be stressful for players, but was aware players also expected a story/world view from a Square Enix game. The stage area titles were included as a middle ground, allowing players to use their own ideas to fill in the blanks.
- As stated above, all five playable characters control very similar to Hiryu and share most of his skills, such as the Slide kick and weapon swings creating a slash reminiscent of the Cypher' arc of plasma.
- Story-wise, Silence is the one who closely resembles Hiryu, as both are ninja-like agents with a serious and cold personality performing secret missions for an organization. Furthering this link, Silence's weapon Shusui is a "Plasma Light Sword" which uses plasma energy to generate an edge able to cut through any material, making it a dead-ringer to Hiryu's iconic Cypher, also called a "Light Sword".
- Silence's weapon being named Shusui appears to be a nod to the scenario draft Isuke wrote for Strider, where Hiryu's mother is named Shusui and she's implied to be the first Strider to wield/master the Cypher.
- Hitori's name is explicity noted to be a compound of two Japanese words with an animal-themed meaning ("Hi" and "Tori", "Fire Bird"), a similar arrangement to Hiryu's name ("Hi" and "Ryu", "Flying Dragon"). Hitori's bio describes her savage ancestors in a way very similar to how the Tungus from ancient times are described in Isuke's scenario draft, possibly implying Hitori is of Tungus descendance like Hiryu.
- Hitori's weapon Saitou was also forged in the year 2048, the same year Strider takes place.
- The two games' antagonists, Faust and Grandmaster Meio, share some similarities:
- Faust's desire to exterminate humanity off Earth and replace it with the race of creatures he has given form is similar to Grandmaster Meio's plan of exterminating humanity and repopulating Earth with a new human race created through his life-summoning powers. The main difference is that Faust does this out of disgust for humanity's hubris, whereas Meio does it entirely to satisfy his own ambitions of godhood.
- Both character possess similar powers over the creation of life, with Meio able to summon life at will and Faust being able to grant life to inanimate objects as well as create entirely new life out of inorganic material. Isuke has implied the two characters are actually using the same power.
- One line in the cutscene for stage 10 reads "The earth has no master, nor a creator to worship". In the Japanese script, "creator" is instead "slave driver", making this line a reference to the two previous antagonists in Isuke's action games, Grandmaster Meio and Slaver.
- Isuke described Faust in one interview as being "a child born from evil", coming from an "evil man" and an "evil woman" who "lived once". Given the above reference, he's likely implying both Grandmaster Meio and Slaver with those words, as they were the previous two final bosses in Moon Diver's predecessors and hence, the evil man and woman who "lived once".
- The game's backstory features several references to the Mosqueman Research Staff and some of its creations:
- The weapons manufacturer Siberian Arsenal (featured in Moon Diver's backstory) is stated to have been formed by a research staff that was banished to Siberia after incurring in their boss' rage, a "man whose name must not be spoken". This is a nod to the Mosqueman Research Staff's backstory where they were banished to Siberia after enraging Grandmaster Meio (whose name is forbidden to be spoken by his subordinates).
- Siberian Arsenal's only named researcher, Dr. Krasnyj, is stated to have worked on a "medium-size robot able to freely walk across the irregular-shaped cathedrals" and a "giant robot gorilla using a hydraulics system which operated like an animal". These are description originally used for the Mosqueman robot and Mecha Pon.
- One of the machine enemies, the "Reflect Laser", uses the same basic principle and attack behavior as the mid-boss Novo from Strider.
- Another machine enemy, the "Shivursky 2063", shares the same attack pattern as the Shadow Tag Bullets Soldier from Strider, and the weapon's backstory features a number of allusions implying the two weapons are related.
- Stage 7 is set in the All-Purpose Battleship "Independence", a flying aircraft capable of moving through any surface (air, underground, sea or space) thanks to its Recoiless Centrifugal Drive. The battleship is a clear homage to the Flying Battleship Balrog.
- According to the battleship Independence's backstory, Dr. Krasnyj was asked to develop a "Gravity Control Unit" to install in Independence and allow it to fly, after the scientist mocked the centrifugal drive. Krasnyj, however, strongly denied that such a machine can be built and was very adamant on beginning its construction. He eventually reveals to Silence the unit has been "lost forever with the fall of the capital on the third moon". This backstory is referencing the Anti-Gravity Device and the events of the final stage in Strider.
- Stage 12-1 is titled "Da Ludel Tactique!", a mistranslation of the Japanese title "Da Rudel Taktik!", a reference to the name of the three-man Teki formation featured in the final stage of Osman.
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