I’ll admit it — I’m an enormous anime fan. While I’m not ready to sell all my belongings just so I can afford the limited edition, hand-painted statue of Rei Ayanami, anime does take up quite the chunk of my time. My gateway drug, if you will, into the world of Japanese animation was the quintessential magical girl show: Bishojo Senshi Sailor Moon, known simply to American audiences as Sailor Moon.
Growing up in the States harbored little chances for me to find Sailor Moon merchandise, let alone games. When I heard that there was actually a full-fledged RPG based on my favorite series at the time, I could have died right then and there.
As far as RPGs go, this is a fairly standard one. You’re charged with stepping into the boots of Tsukino Usagi, also known as Sailor Moon. Something strange is happening around the neighborhood where Usagi has grown up — enemies in disguise as fellow Sailor Scouts are appearing all around. Old adversaries that have long since been defeated are making appearances, but why and to what end? What does all of this mean? The game is meant to take place right between Sailor Moon S and Sailor Moon SuperS, so while there is not a story that includes canon, you can rest assured it’s as gripping (I suppose you could say that) as average episodes of Sailor Moon.
The sprites are gorgeous, and faithful to the Sailor Moon name. Environments are vibrant and interesting — you can finally walk around the town you’ve seen so much in the anime and manga instead of wondering what the actual layout is like. Don’t get too excited yet, because the amount of exploring you can do is quite limited. You can only visit the occasional unoccupied house, hospitals, Usagi’s home, and various locations around town before you must set out to tackle the underlying cause of all of the chaos.
When it comes time to fight, there won’t be anything new to see. What’s available is an extremely polished (for an anime game) rendition of the average turn-based battle system we’ve grown to love (or hate) over the years. Your soldier will attack, defend, use an item, use magic (or a Tech), or try to run away turn after turn. Nothing too spectacular, but it works well. Each soldier was fully voiced with their original actress, calling out attack names and transformation spells, which was quite impressive for the time. Attack sequences are cute, weaving together practicality with the bells and whistles of the sugary sweet anime confection. Battles move along at a nice pace, and the only time they really get in the way of having fun is when you must stop every five minutes for a random encounter. I’m sure everyone is familiar with all that frivolity.
For die-hard Sailor Moon fans it was a way to satiate the hunger until the long-awaited next season of Sailor Moon, and for RPG fans it’s very much catered to followers of the anime. While you can play it with much ease without having seen the anime, it’s very hard to understand what’s going on with all the intricate relationships, especially with relationships between those who are not so clear (i.e. Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune). This would make a great transition to the Game Boy Advance or DS today, and I have a feeling eager young shoujo anime fans would eat it up.