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RELEASE DATE (JP): September 22, 1995 GENRE: RPG
// review by SoyBomb

Oh, That Usagi-chan!

Alright, I'll level with you: I really don't know much about Sailor Moon. I know it's about a bunch of regular teenaged girls who somehow also boast the powers of the planets (poor Sailor Pluto) -- plus the Moon -- and that they need to protect the galaxy from evil forces. I also know that, when they must engage in battle, they wear figure skating outfits that do very little to intimidate anyone. Lastly, I know the cats talk. Maybe that's good, maybe that's not. I don't know. But that's not the point. In fact, I'm not sure what the point even was in the first place.

But I do know this: Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon: Another Story is pretty damn special. It's probably the only Sailor Moon RPG out there, aside from any I don't know about that aren't fan-made by pimple-teasers in their shag-carpeted basement. Initially, I was skeptical about any possibility about a game involving a bunch of teenaged girls to be anything other than a digital enactment of a shopping spree, but it's more than that. (Okay, maybe you have to buy things along the way, but that's only to keep you alive rather than content.) This game is instead filled with the quest to save the world from a potentially terrible fate. Apsu, a nasty sorceress, wants to change the past in order to develop a more favourable future. That's all well and good for Apsu, but for the rest of us, that could mean instant annihilation if the perils of time travel and historical manipulation have taught me anything. Yes, I'm an expert. This is, however, a mere extreme summary of the ever self-supplementing plot.

With a backstory so damn complicated it could burn a hole right through your favourite cortex, Sailor Moon and her fellow Senshi have as much trouble remembering their own chronicles as they do while defeating Apsu. Adding to the mental shame I experienced, they threw in terms like "Barazuishou", which means "thing we obviously had no idea how to name properly", and "Ginzuishou", "thing next to the thing we couldn't name properly", and they lost me completely. Of course, the game text is entirely in Japanese, so it's not as though I could understand much else. A fan-made English translation exists on the Internet, and that's probably the only way Sailor Senshi otaku outside of Japan will ever get to enjoy this game, because it's filled with more text than a bag of Dead Sea Scrolls. Being able to read the script may actually provide insight as to why the cats talk. Seriously, the cats talk. They shouldn't.

Sailor Moon: Always speaking from the heart.

This game has a battle system quite similar to other RPGs of its era, that of turn-based brawls. Aside from the standard kick, each individual character gets their own special powers, be they healing or offensive spells. Instead of using the legendary magic points, or "MP" for hipsters, everyone gets their own EP. What does EP stand for? Damned if I know, but it's probably something like "energy points" or "ethereal points" -- something crazy like that. And, as you might have guessed, the EP gets gobbled up the more you use your special attacks. You only get a maximum of 12 to use, but at least they are restored after every battle. As well, provided you have the right characters in your party, you can perform powerful link attacks with the aid of others to deal additional damage, which is always nice. The key to surviving this game, however, is to level-grind. Every time you get to a new scene, you'll get your skull busted in rather easily. With practice and repeated battling, you'll be busting heads and vanquishing the opposition with practically no effort thanks to your well-developed muscular girl fists. Once you're sufficiently leveled-up, the game becomes far more tolerable/enjoyable/continuable. Oddly enough, this is the only RPG I know of where walking forward into a wall and holding down the forward button equals actual steps; as soon as you step away, you'll be whisked into a random battle.

Be prepared to suffer bouts of loneliness from time to time. Much of the game is spent following several individual Sailor Senshi as they search in specific locales for Hi Stones, used to... uh... return the Positive Energy to the world and save their beloved Mamoru, a manfolk in the game (and the regular ego of Tuxedo Mask, the most handsome rose-finagler in the district). Yeah, something like that. Well, as heroes of the galaxy, it's automatically expected, nay, begged of you to seek out these stones. Sailor Mercury, for example, must visit the snowy peaks of Tibet to find a stone. It's a pretty pathetic vacation. Meanwhile, Sailor Jupiter gets to hunt down a stone in Canada where there are SO MANY FRIGGIN' TREES! Someone assumed that Canada is viciously overrun with those coniferous beasts that it's easy to get lost in all those pines. I have news for you: there aren't really that many. There are MORE. I'm wedged between two Douglas firs right now, and I'm itchy.

Sailor Moon: Always firing from the heart.

Another Story looks decent enough, and that's always a plus. It's not exactly the digital equivalent of a Monet, but at least there was some effort put forth. Well, at least for the environments and main characters; the enemy design is on the bland side, but considering they bear a strong resemblance to enemies in other Sailor Moon games... well, I guess that's telling of a force beyond merely the designers of this game alone. I'll tell you one thing I do like, though: that friggin' catchy music! I'm impressed at the wide range of music within this game, from dulcet tones in serious times to traditionally epic "superhero" themes when it's time to take action to the upbeat casuality of a humorous situation when a girl's crush is revealed to all her friends, plus every tune in between. This isn't Mozart, but it's a calming substitute. Man, I'm going to hire that composer to DJ my wedding. But that's not all you'll hear: there's voice acting! In a Super Famicom game! Whoa! Now before you get your bustier in a frenzy, note that it's primarily battle cries, and the girls all sound six years old, but I still like their addition. It's like they're right next to you, screaming about Moon Prism power! Word!

Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon: Another Story is a quaint li'l ol' RPG that sits well on a Japanese gamer's shelf. It may not be as widely regarded as anything Square was pumping out during the same period, but it could hold a candle to the Final Fantasy series at the time. It has an equally engaging battle system, a decent length, and a storyline whose complexity could hit Final Fantasy out of the ballpark and through a windshield in the parking lot. And please, don't feel emasculated just because you're playing as a bunch of teenaged girls. It's hardly shaming. They're likely stronger than you'll ever be. Eat more vegetables. Run a mile a day. And while you're at it, put down those Harry Potter books, you spoony bard! It's time for Another Story!

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