This blogpost goes in deep in some of moon's themes and its ending, so SPOILER ALERT.
I wanted to play moon desperately since I was about 16 or 17, back when I would try to play any cool looking retro jrpg I could find. Moon eluded me, like many others, because of the language barrier, and it's lack of a fan translation.
I was finally able to play moon about 6 years later, I am now 22 years old, and I moved from my country of birth, Venezuela, in 2018, looking to have a better and more outgoing future, since life in venezuela was lonely and dangerous for me, crippled by fear.
But now that you have a bit of my background let's talk why does it matter when refering to the videogame Moon, and why it is one of gaming's most important titles, and how it's influence is felt more than 23 years after its release.
Moon is a non-violent JRPG, not in the sense that you can choose not to hurt enemies, but as in that you literally are unable to do harm into its world. and Moon exists in 2, maybe 3 layers, the world of the ficticious videogame moon, that our protagonist is playing and gets sucked into. and the existense of the real life world outside that videogame.
Once our protagonist is told by its mother that it has gotten late, and to turn that console off, he suddenly falls into the world of the videogame he was playing, a caricature of every JRPG, a knight that must defeat a dragon and bring peace to the world (you quickly see the whole game in a very fast paced prologue, filled with tons of uncomprehensible exposition and other jrpg nonsense, with the the game's protagonist going area by area, grinding and becoming OP.)
But our protagonist doesn't arrive in that world as a the knight, he is a nobody, a ghost, not even an NPC, you are free from the shackles of the games programming, you can go everywhere and interact with everyone, things the rest of NPCs cant do due to their fixed weekly schedules. But the knight is still in this world, and he is still on his quest to slain the dragon, whatever it takes.
So how does the protagonist interact with this world? not with violence, but with a more grounded approach, meeting people, becoming their friends if possible, trying to help those in need, and enrichening his heart just like that.
You go to the bakery to buy the sweet grandma who housed you some fresh bread, you make dead flowers bloom by playing wonderful music, you become friends with the lonely music enthusiast, you help slain monsters find peace. you are a good samaritan and your heart grows bigger with every good deed.
It's a very slow videogame, there is no run button, you just stroll around a very well crafted and colorful world, trying to make sense of it and help out its denizens who are all in trouble, usually in some manner of fetch quest, trading sequence or puzzle. there are some very neat visual design sensibilities, every piece of the world is a pre-rendered 3D model, every person is a hand drawn 2D sprite, and every monster is made out of clay, with rudimentary claymation, its a very expressive world with a lot of visual identity and consistency.
The soundtrack is also rather fantastic, with a selection of tracks by contemporary japanese artists that you can play at any time with a walkman of sorts and make playlists.
for every person you help, and with every monster you revive, your heart grows bigger, functioning as a stamina system that lets you explore the world further, as the clock keeps ticking and the day go by, with many daily events.
Here is where the real spoilers begin.
And once that world has been explored, and people have been helped, and monsters have been rescued, you are given a very important task, to go in a rocket to the moon, and to open the door, to save all of the game's inhabitants from catastrophe.
And so, after finding every rocket part needed, and a long trip, you arrive at the moon, but it is too late, the protagonist cannot open the big door in the moon, this is the end of the journey, the knight is here too, loking for the final boss, killing everybody, including you, and itself, the game has crashed.
at this point of the game, you are given a choice, to continue, or not.
The correct answer is to not continue. continuing makes the protagonist get swallowed by the TV once again, never to return.
By refusing to keep playing, the child stands up, and leaves his room., with a cheerful ending where every character from the game is edited over real life photography.
and in this ending sequence you learn one more thing, Moon is a cancelled game.
there is a whole other lot about the moon withing moon videogame, the dragon that the knight has to kill never shows up, and inside the actual game data are several unused assets for another ending, one more gruesome, one you only get hints of in the final game.
so what happened in this ending? is the cut content just that? how come it didnt get added to the final game or its switch remaster?
because it wasn't the point of the game, and to "finish" moon, is to defeat it.
Moon is a game filled with love, love by its developers and its craft in their product, love of the characters, the love the player forms for its world, it is a lovely, lovely game.
And once its over, the game ask you of nothing but to go out, and to spread that love, only like that you are setting those characters free.
You can obsess over its unused content, you can try to dig every bit of content and do every fetch quest, make theories of what happened, but that will never be the point of moon, that moon was cancelled, that's why you can't open the door, nothing leads outside, there is no finale within the videogame, only outside.
what you are being asked to is to be a decent, sensible human being, to help your brother, to not turn a blind eye, the game commands you to stop playing and to live, to give purpose to its characters and its world.
As someone who feels like they only recently started living, and to lose that sought after privilege because of a pandemic, maybe you can understand how deeply that impacted me when I played it december last year.
and I find utterly fascinating, how undertale's developer Toby Fox fully understood moon's meaning without playing it. was it that reaching that conclusion is the most logical approach when engaging with these kinds of topics in a sensible way? or did toby spoil himself a bit on how the game ended? who knows.
And then, how moon manages to feel so fresh, how its writting is so timeless, very much in tune with current "meta narrative" trends, how its visual style feels perfectly "indie", how its slow and tedious gameplay and schedules mirror real life in a whimsical way while also feeling exactly like a 90s JRPG, and the way its mellow "boomer-esque" message feels all the more heartfelt, and maybe even prophetic, prediciting the current gamer trends and behaviours, perhaps by accident.
Moon is timeless and dated, its very hard to play and very cryptic, but also a tremendous joy for those who stick with it, Love de Lic disbanded but its members continued to make games filled with love on many different teams, leading to other japan exclusive games like giftpia and captain rainbow, and ones that released overseas like chibi robo, chulip and Tingle's rupeeland. their flavour is unmistakable, giving magic to mundane life and chores, and being all innocently self righteous on you with important life lessons.