Imagine if you somehow found yourself as an NPC in the world of your favorite classic RPG adventure. Not as a monster-slayer, item-maker, or advice-giver, mind you… just as an average Joe Schmoe who’s trying to live their life as the chosen hero goes off to fight the forces of evil. Now, imagine if, upon materializing in this world, you learned that the story the game told you wasn’t entirely accurate to that world’s reality–and that the “hero” was a bumbling psychopath who can’t carry a two-sided conversation, raids townspeople’s drawers and cabinets looking for loot, and cuts down any animal he comes across in a crazed craving for EXP. What would your life in this world be like? Could you do anything to help make the world better?
This is the idea behind Moon, an “anti-RPG” originally released in Japan on the PlayStation in 1997 that has garnered much acclaim since. Though it was only available in Japanese for quite some time, Moon’s cult-classic status among gamers and developers has given it a powerful reputation, bolstered by Toby Fox of Undertale fame citing it as one of that game’s influences. With an English version finally available after almost a quarter-century, does Moon live up to the expectations? Yes, indeed–though its age certainly shows in many places.
Moon begins with a youngster playing an RPG called Moon World, which looks like a standard 16- or 32-bit JRPG. A chosen hero is going on an epic journey to recover the light of the moon from a wicked dragon, collecting gear, gaining levels, and slaying monsters while earning the adoration of the townsfolk. As the child’s mother tells them to turn off the console and go to bed, the youth suddenly finds themselves in the actual Moon World, which looks quite different from the game they were playing. A mysterious being appears and tells you that the only way to exist within the world is to find and collect love from its populace. And thus, your journey of discovering ways to appreciate the world and do random acts of kindness begins.