Make it a (Virtual) Reality: Moon Chronicles

Next week sees the launch of the New Nintendo 3DS, a updated version of the popular handheld system that packs in new control options, upgraded 3D capabilities and improved processing. With it comes something of a revival in content for the platform, with a large number of titles planned for release over the next few months. However just ahead of the system’s launch comes the remainder of Moon Chronicles, an episodic first-person shooter (FPS) series that remakes the original Moon on DS from Renegade Kid. It may seem strange to pick a handheld title for VRFocus’ ‘Make it a (Virtual) Reality’ series, but take one look at Moon Chronicles and it’s clear to see that the title is ripe for a VR adaption.

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The original Moon is set in 2058 in which the USA is building on Earth’s natural-satellite. When workers discover a mysterious hatch leading down into the Moon’s surface Major Kane and a special task force are sent down to investigate. It’s not long before Kane is fighting for his life against alien forces in a journey that takes him across the Moon’s surface. But while Moon Chronicles’ action helped it to become one of the best FPS titles on the original DS, it’s the title’s brilliant atmosphere that makes a VR adaption so tantalising.

When it comes to setting mood, Moon gets close to Nintendo’s own Metroid Prime series in terms of atmospheric FPS titles. Players tour dim, gritty hallways with the dull hums of machinery looming in the background. The labyrinthine Moon bases are a joy to get lost in as players explore strange architecture and learn more about their enemies. Then, just as this moody in-door environment is established, it’s switched out for perfectly realised sequences on the Moon’s surface in which silence takes hold. The monotonous greys that stretch out as far as the eye can see may not be the most immediately appealing environment for a VR adaption, but would no doubt set a sense of immersion that other titles dream of establishing.

Moon also sets a deliberate pace. Its gunplay doesn’t chase after the twitch-based action of the Call of Duty series but instead opts for a meatier, more plodding set of mechanics. This is the kind of action that current VR head-mounted displays (HMD) need; not focused on thrilling the player with explosions and fast-paced sequences but encouraging them to dig in and take part in intense shootouts. While VR will one day be capable of much faster titles, for now it’s these types of experiences that will truly prove what the technology can do.

With that in mind, it also feels like Gear VR might be the ideal HMD for Moon Chronicles to arrive on over an Oculus Rift edition on PC. The portable and episodic nature of Moon Chronicles seems to go hand-in-hand with the smartphone-based, untethered HMD. It is of course a longshot that it would happen at all, but if Moon Chronicles were to make the jump to VR, Samsung’s device might be the place to do it.

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