Almost as soon as Sailor Moon was released in Japan, it had a fully-charged marketing machine right behind it ready to put the story of these sailor-suited magical girls into every product imaginable. From finger puppets to puzzles, paper plates to board games, Sailor Moon probably had a product of some sort to meet the needs (and price points!) of most kids. It really shouldn’t come as any surprise that Sailor Moon would get a game, though it is interesting that its first game would be for the Game Boy. Programmed by Angel (a subsidiary of Bandai), the Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon was released for Game Boy on December 18, 1992.1 It’s probably safe to say that the release date one week before Christmas isn’t a coincidence.
Judging by the characters that appear in this game (Usagi, Luna, Ikuko, Ms. Haruna, Naru, Umino, Motoki, Ami, Rei, Tuxedo Mask, Jadeite, and Queen Beryl), it seems that development of this game either began during the latter half of the Jadeite arc, or in the middle of Nephrite’s arc. Jadeite’s last episode was on June 6th, 1992,2 so that would give the game a reasonable six months for development.
According to one of the developers, Jouji Yuno, this game was developed with girls in mind, but sold surprisingly well to boys as well. This would probably explain why the hard and easy modes in this game are known as the (somewhat questionable…) “Boy” or “Girl” mode respectively. This helped influence the developers to include more gender neutral aspects to future games and to put a stronger influence on gameplay rather than worry about appealing to a stereotypes of young girl gamers.
It’s hard to give a simple explanation about what this game is, since it doesn’t cleanly fit into any of the primary genres. That’s not to imply that this game has a significant amount of depth, but rather than it’s actually pretty simple. I want to say that it’s like a platforming game, but since there are no platforms to jump on and very little in the way of vertical movement, it would probably be better defined as an “adventure” or “action” game.
The game itself consists of four stages (and one mini game, which will be covered a little bit later), with each stage consisting of two sections: a story section where you explore and talk to other characters and a side-scroller section where you fight enemies, ultimately culminating in a battle against the stage boss. Stage four doesn’t have a story section and just continues straight through after the boss battle in stage three into the next side-scroller section.
Walking around and exploring is pretty fun since you can see a lot of memorable characters from the anime and move around at your own pace. The levels are surprisingly large and involve several screens, though since we’re talking about sparse Game Boy details here, it’s pretty easy to get lost and difficult to figure out where you’re supposed to go sometimes. Though many characters from the series make an appearance in the game, unfortunately none of them (except Luna) ever tell you anything necessary to the story, so prepare for a lot of backtracking when you’re playing this.
Each of the three stages are based (loosely) on an episode from the anime (to be discussed below). Once you finish each story section, you’ll get a short cut-scene, transform into Sailor Moon, and then be sent to what I assume is some alternate dimension, akin to episode 10 of the anime when Sailor Moon follows the buses into the worm-hole with bus-driver Jadeite.
The side-scroller sections of the game are pretty straight-forward. You walk to the right and jump over enemies or, if you’re feeling motivated, you can kick them to destroy them. With the exception of bosses, every enemy in the game is destroyed with one his and they will also be destroyed if you hit into them (though you’ll also lose health).
The enemies come in a variety of forms: birds, bats, flames, slime (?), skeletons, etc. None of them really fit into Sailor Moon, which is a bit disappointing. Each enemy basically starts on one side of the screen and moves to the other side with their own pattern, but ducking under, jumping over, or a kick is all the strategy you’ll need. Just keep walking right and you’ll eventually end up at the boss.
The boss fights offer a bit more of a challenge, though not much. All you need to do is dodge the one or two attacks the boss will throw at you, dodge (meaning either stand still or jump) when they fly across the screen, and kick them. Rinse and repeat.
After beating the boss, you’ll have another cut scene where Luna, Sailor Moon, and Tuxedo Mask will talk briefly before you move onto the next stage. The only exception to this is in stage two, where you fight against a boss and then against Jadeite, and stage four, where after fighting Jadeite you’ll fight with Queen Beryl immediately thereafter. In the event that you die during the side-scrolling or boss stage, you’ll lose a life and then resume back at the start of that section.
After you beat the game, you get a short cut scene followed by… well, as was common back in those days, the game simply resets and you start back at the title screen, to play the game all over again.
As mentioned earlier, there is one mini game in stage 1, where you can play as Sailor V and shoot at… a giant hamburger monster and trying to shoot out all of the patties before the time runs out. To be honest, I’d be happy if they had made a full game like this (akin to the Sailor V arcade game in the anime/manga) with multiple stages, but alas this is all we get.
It’s not much, but I suppose if you were a kid and only had a few minutes to play a game in the car on the way to school, this a short little mini game in the first stage was probably appreciated.
Overall, the game can probably be played in less than an hour, and most of that time is spent moving around between screens trying to find out where to go next. For a story-driven Game Boy game, though, that’s not bad!
As mentioned earlier, each of the first three stages are loosely based on an episode of the anime. The following is a brief summary.
The first stage is based on episode one of the anime and starts with Usagi waking up and her mother reminding her that Naru’s mom is having a sale at her jewelry story today. Usagi leaves the house and from here you’re left to explore the streets of Azabu-Juban.
After checking out the jewelry store you run into Luna on your way home and she tells you that she has a bad feeling about the jewelry shop. Back to the jewelry shop you go, where you discover that Naru’s mom is not Naru’s mom, but actually Morga. Luna tells you to turn into Sailor Moon and you go after Morga into the aforementioned “other dimension.” After fighting through the fodder and beating Morga, you get a few more screens of story before Tuxedo Mask shows up, apparently for the first time. Obviously, continuity with the anime wasn’t much of a concern here.
The second stage starts with Usagi getting scolded by Ms. Haruna for being late to class, but despite the fact that the stage takes place at school, it actually is based on episode three of the anime. As you walk around the school, Luna tells you that she gets an odd feeling about the broadcasting room (for the school broadcasting club, which is generally charged with making announcements over the PA system).
After you run into the broadcasting club room, you run into a strange woman who tells you that you have no business being there, so you head to the music room where you run into Luna. Transform into Sailor Moon, teleport, find youma, fight boss, cut-scene. After the battle with the boss, you’ll have a brief cut-scene before you battle against Jadeite for another boss battle.
As an aside, it’s a bit odd that they went so far as to put Ami in the school (despite that episode three is prior to her debut), though she only says that she’ll tutor you in math after school. Oh well, it’s a nice cameo!
The third stage is based on the story of episode four of the anime and starts with Naru and Usagi hunting for the gym that Ms. Haruna has recently started using, since both girls are looking to slim up. After you go to the reception desk and talk to a hilariously drawn Jadeite-in-a-track-suit, Naru goes off to take advantage of a trial membership.
As Usagi walks around, she runs across Rei, which clearly throws continuity to the wind again. She tells you that she has a bad feeling about the place. The more you explore, you find that the other patrons seem to be oddly exhausted (which probably isn’t too suspicious at a gym, but let’s not worry about that). You eventually run into Luna who tells you that you need to check out the back room. There you find that Ms. Haruna is in a capsule and getting her energy sapped away. Transform into Sailor Moon, teleport, fight Jadeite, cut-scene.
As mentioned earlier, the fourth stage is more of the side-scrolling from before, with a few cut-scenes mixed in for good measure. When you start off, you’re on your own on a screen you can’t leave, until you press the down button, cry, and one of the walls shatters and Luna comes out. I’m not sure how you were supposed to figure this out, but that’s neither here nor there.
You move through the stage, stop again where you can’t proceed, need to cry, talk to Luna, then move on. Rinse and repeat. Eventually you come across Jadeite and battle against him (with a new and improved moveset and attack style!), there’s a short cut-scene, and then you battle against Queen Beryl. Since this is obviously before Beryl had ever attacked or done anything other than freeze Jadeite at this point in the anime, the developers were clearly at a loss, which is why all of her attacking takes place through a… squid. An evil squid.
After you defeat her, you’re met with one final cut-scene before being given a “The End” screen. If you press anything on that screen, the game will just reset back to the title.
For such a simple game on such a simple system, I have to say that I’m really impressed with what they were able to do with this game. More than anything else, I think they did a great job with the license and were able to squeeze in a lot of characters in (including both “overworld” sprites and story screen images), even maintaining their anime appearances. No small effort on the Game Boy!
Now, if the game weren’t a Sailor Moon licensed game, would I still find it fun? No, probably not. The story sections don’t tell a sufficient story to get into it and the side-scrolling levels are too simple and repetitive to really be a challenge or provide much enjoyment.
Taken for what it is, though, I think it is a fun and quirky addition to the Sailor Moon universe. If you have a chance, check it out and play a bit of it. At the very least, track down Motoki in the first stage and give the Sailor V game a shot. It’s kinda fun!
And with that, I will leave you with a thumbs-up from Tuxedo Mask. Not sure why, but this seems to have been the pose they decided to give him in all of his story scenes…