To the Moon (2011)
Updated: Jan 24, 2019
Developer: Freebird Games
Yes, I know I'm late to the party on this one. I've had To the Moon in my library for a long time, but hadn't made the time for it until recently. Since this is a game most people have heard of and/or played, I won't go too in depth.
To the Moon is a 2D RPG game about two scientists, Eva and Neil, who are part of Sigmund Corporation, a company that helps fulfill wishes of dying patients (meeting this wish only happens in the patient's head). You switch off between the two scientists and the patient throughout the story, which makes for a very interesting narrative. The strongest points in favor of this game are the music and the unique form of storytelling. As you're traveling back in time, you begin to get more and more invested - despite the fact that you already know the outcome of the life you're watching. It's an interesting paradox. The soundtrack, especially the theme by Laura Shigihara, is one of my favorites to listen to on repeat.
Unfortunately, I felt the characters were lacking. I understand that the relationship between the two scientists to each other and to the world around them is part of what shapes the story, but I was left a little disappointed with how unlikable they are. It was too many times that I had to shrug past some really unnecessarily aggressive and uncomfortable dialogue. The rest of the characters were better, but the love story was not one that I found myself strongly rooting for, as I would've expected to. Although this game is meant to follow a story, I would've liked different gameplay mechanics to come in to play more often (I did appreciate the small puzzles, though).
Nonetheless, this game succeeds telling a unique and beautiful story. It wasn't the emotional rollercoaster I was told to expect, but I was taken aback and moved by several moments near the end. The moments of loss and pain in this game do feel very real, especially because they catch you so off-guard. As much as the plot of the game is sci-fi, the memories you travel through are detailed and make real life references which are enhanced bit doing a little research, in my opinion.
I should note that having played this game after I played Rakuen, I am probably judging it a little more harshly. This game came way before its time and, I believe, established a lot of groundwork for Rakuen and story-centered RPGs similar to it.
EDIT (12/24/2018): My bad, up til recently I had not played through the Sigmund Minisodes that come after To the Moon. Playing the two of them, it took about another hour of gamplay, so in my opinion it does change the story a bit. It makes it more apparent to me that the story in To the Moon is important, but definitely not concluded. There's a bigger story playing out regarding Sigmund Corporation and the protagonist scientists. It adds a good bit of mystery and seems like the series may explore further the repercussions of this "grant a wish" technology. I didn't like the two protagonists initially, and still have my mixed feelings about them, but the minisodes helped shine a light on them a little more and even showed some character development. Don't make the mistake I did and make sure you do play the minisodes right after playing To the Moon, they're definitely some juicy story bits. I'll be playing the sequel to To the Moon, Finding Paradise, next to continue the overarching storyline, so stay tuned for that review.
To the Moon is available on PC and mobile.
Played on: PC (Steam)
Playtime: 3.5 hours
How I heard about this game: A friend gifted this game to me a while back, but I have heard a quite a bit