Whether you love the Sailor Moon games developed by Angel or not, you have to be impressed by the developer’s ability to not only keep publishing games at a rather fast pace, but also the fact that they managed to innovate with each and every game, learning from the lessons of the older games and fixing problems for players. This time we’re taking a look at Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon R for the Nintendo Game Boy.
This game was released as the spiritual successor to the first Sailor Moon Game Boy game, though ends up being the fourth game to be released. One thing that seems a bit odd about this game, though, is that it was released on April 22, 19941 – which is after the Sailor Moon S anime had begun airing and well after the Death Busters arc began in Nakayoshi.
Making the story even more interesting is that it seems that the game was actually delayed due to their desire to follow more closely with the actual canon story line. To make matters even worse, during the development of the game, it appears that they had taken some information and character designs from Nakayoshi that were actually fan-made designs as a part of a contest, so they needed to redesign some character graphics at the last minute. Though it’s not clear by how much this may have delayed the game, it does help explain somewhat why it was so late to come out!
Greatly improving on the original Game Boy game, it seems that the developers went well out of their way to add a far more substantial story to this game (which we’ll discuss below).
During the story mode itself, each section is broken up into two parts: an adventure / story-telling segment where you go back and forth between locations and people and then the side-scrolling action segments where you fight various enemies. Though it’s pretty similar to the original game, there’s a lot more story being told in this game and they’ve cleaned up the gameplay. For example, they now added a mini map in the adventure segments so you can more easily keep track of where you’re going and where you’ve been, they’ve added a lot more characters to talk to (which you’ll need to in order to progress), and they also cleaned up the fighting a bit to make the bosses a little more dynamic in their attacks and the controls far less stiff.
One nice improvement is that right from the main start screen, you’re offered with four choices (left to right, top to bottom): Start Game, Action, Continue, and Minigames.
Start Game and Continue are pretty obvious, as they start a new (story mode) game and also allow you to use a password to continue from the beginning of stages two through five. Action mode lets you play through the game but skipping the adventure/story segments and going straight to the side-scrolling action scenes and fight the bosses. You can also choose which of the five Sailor Soldiers you want to play as, though unlike the Super Famicom games, there’s no difference between the characters except their sprites and attacks.
There are six different minigames available to play, though they’re also available during the story mode by talking to certain characters or entering specific locations, such as the Crown Game Center.
The Sailor V minigame is fun, but tough, little game where bats come at you from the right side of the screen and you need to either jump, duck, or stand still while you shoot. If a bat hits you, or the left edge of the screen, you lose one of your three lives. Kill 20 bats and you win… nothing! But you still won, which sounds for something. The Sailor Moon R billboard in the background is a nice touch.
The quiz game first asks you a multiple-choice question about a specific episode Sailor Moon R and then allows you to choose any block out of a 5×5 grid to uncover then asks you to identify who is in the picture. It’s pretty simple, but the questions get pretty in-depth and give you a run for your money!
A pretty standard concentration or memory-matching game.2 You’re allowed five misses.
High & Low
In a bizarre turn of events, the Sailor Moon game developers wanted to introduce children to gambling, though with no stakes. You’re shown a card and have to guess if the covered card is higher or lower. Best of five wins.
This game will show you one of several Sailor Moon-themed images, shuffles it up, then gives you 80 seconds to solve it. I can’t be the only person in this world who hates sliding puzzles,3 right? I’m terrible at this game!
Not really what I’d call a game, but basically you choose one of the four fortunes (which you can’t read) and then it’ll tell you what your luck is looking like today. Could be great, miserable, or somewhere in between!
Surprisingly, for a relatively simple game that can be beaten in maybe an hour or two and meant to be played on the go, this game is packed full of cut scenes and follows the story of the anime and manga pretty closely. Though they obviously take some creative liberties, it’s still pretty impressive that they got all the characters in that they did.
Each stage takes place at a different location and stars a different Sailor Soldier, so that keeps things fresh and interesting, even if it doesn’t impact the actual gameplay in the end. The writing is also pretty good and didn’t bother dumbing down the story too much, though they weren’t shy about spoiling the entire story. Probably not an issue when you consider when it was released, though.
Stage 1 – The Black Moon
The first place starts you off in front of your school and sends you hunting around for hints around Azabu-Juban. Unlike the other stages, they don’t really bother giving you any objectives, so you’re left to your own devices until you find out that Naru’s mother is “acting strange” (… again).
After playing a few minigames and going back and forth between some characters, the Black Moon appears and you’re sent off to the action stage. After fighting a few enemies and doing some light platforming, you run across Koan who challenges you to a battle. Once she’s defeated, Rubeus appears, taunts you, and then disappears. Once the stage finishes, Luna appears and gives you a password to Stage 2!
Stage 2 – The Crimson Rubeus
The second stage finds us in control of ChibiUsa outside the Tsukino household and off to go find Ami, since she’s apparently going… to have a sleepover… at Ami’s house… to study? I’m not sure how I feel about this plot point, but hey, we’ll go with it. Once you find Ami, you take control of her and lead ChibiUsa back to your condo where a short cut-scene takes place before heading to Rei’s shrine the next day. After some more events take place, you’re off to the construction site to go save ChibiUsa!
Once again, you’re greeted with an action scene, but this time you’re playing as Sailor Mercury. Gameplay-wise, there’s no difference, but it’s refreshing to see something different. The gameplay also is more vertical here with more platforms and elevators, so it keeps things interesting. Once you reach the end of the stage, you fight against Rubeus. Fight, win, Esmeraude appears, mocks you, gone. Next!
Stage 3 – The Green Esmeraude
This stage finds the Sailor Soldiers using the Sailor Teleport to travel all the way to the future and puts you in Crystal Tokyo. Left in charge of Sailor Mars, it turns out the during the teleport all of the Sailor Soldiers ended up in different parts of the Crystal Palace.
After wandering around for a bit and getting all of the Sailor Soldiers together, you wind up talking to King Endymion and learn more about what had happened and who the Black Moon Clan are. Finally you learn about Sailor Pluto, which is when Esmeraude shows up and challenges you.
This action stage goes back to the standard left to right, but they added some more moving platforms in to make things interesting. Once you get to the end of the stage, you fight against Esmeraude who, when defeated, gives way to Wiseman who taunts you, blah blah, done.
Stage 4 – The Blue Saphir
No offense to anyone intended, but this is an awful adaptation of Sailor Jupiter’s signature attack pose. Anyway, the fourth stage finds you on the planet Nemesis. All of the Sailor Soldiers have been split up again, but this time they’re searching for Mamoru and ChibiUsa, who seem to be lost.
After wandering around for a bit, and running across some Black Moon droids who are incredibly willing to challenge you to an intense battle through quizzes and assorted minigames (???), you ultimately find Tuxedo Mask’s… mask, proving that he’s been taken here.
The action stage once again adds in a little more platforming and gets a little more intense, but it’s still not all that much of a challenge. Even if you fall off a cliff, you’ll still just be taken back to the cliff that you had fallen off of. At the end of the stage you’ll face off against Saphir, who is actually somewhat challenging since he can’t be hurt when in the air. Once you defeat him, you’re taunted once again by Prince Demande and you’re off to the last stage!
Stage 5 – Prince Demande
Finally, we’re at the end of the game! The fifth and final stage takes us to Wiseman’s palace. Most of what you’re doing is just going back and forth between characters and places to make sure you talk to everyone before finally confronting Prince Demande. As usual, he’ll take you off to an action stage where you have to run through the usual assortment of enemies and light platforming before you finally battle against the Evil Prince himself.
Once you finish the battle, you’ll then transport back to the adventure/story mode screen where you need to head over to the one remaining door that had previously been locked. When you get there, you’re greeted to an incredibly long cut-scene that basically summarizes the entire ending of the Sailor Moon R anime through a lot of text boxes.
Black Lady appears, she gets the future silver crystal, possessed Mamoru gives her the past silver crystal, Sailor Pluto freezes time, Wiseman’s true form is revealed, Neo Queen Serenity appears, and all is well. I was hoping for there to be one final battle epic against Wiseman after this, but after all of the text, the game just… ends. The story ends with Neo Queen Serenity giving you the Spiral Heart Moon Rod and wondering aloud if you’ll need to use it soon. “The End” comes up on screen, and then you’re back at the title screen!
So, what do I think of this game? To be honest, I’m a bit torn on this game. While I like what they did with the story and really enjoy that they took the time to add in so many memorable locations and characters, I find myself wishing that they went a bit more in their own direction. The story, though re-written a bit, basically follows the anime scene-for-scene from Stage 3 and beyond.
That’s not always a bad thing, but when you already know what the story is about (which I’m sure 98% of the audience to this site already does), you find yourself tempted to just skip the text boxes to continue with the game. It would have been a little nicer if they expanded upon the adventure segments to involve more item fetching and actually maybe put some puzzle solving in, but for a Game Boy game, there are obviously limits.
Other than those slight issues, I really do like the game, and I’m especially glad that they added in the action mode to allow you to just play the platforming and fighting sections. The minigame selection would also be nice for kids back in the day if you only had a few minutes to play a game.
Would I recommend it? Now that’s hard to say. I really enjoy walking around the map and talking to all the characters, but so far there’s no English translation of the game. If you can’t read Japanese, you may not get as much enjoyment out of the game. But if you can look past that, definitely give it a shot!
Once again, Angel pulled off a pretty impressive Sailor Moon game, and it really shows that they’ve made a strong attempt to build off of their past developing experiences. If you’re interested, check it out!