Monday 5 December 2022

Lunistice Review (Switch)

Every generation has that special moment in their life, a little slice of time that they fondly recall. For most, it probably coincides with their teenage years. For me, it was the mid-to-late nineties; Britpop, cult TV, leaving school for college and the arrival of 3D games. As is perhaps normal for people around my age, I still think the nineties was only about ten years ago, so it’s nice to play Lunistice, since it feels like a forgotten PS1 title.

Playing as Hana the Tanuki, the aim is to reach the end of each level while collecting origami cranes and avoiding (or taking out) enemies. The game is so focussed on gameplay that there’s very little in the way of cutscenes (a brief one at the beginning and another at the end). This pared-back design initially made me feel as if something was missing, but as I progressed through the levels I began to fall under its spell. This is a pure 3D platformer from the Crash Bandicoot/Sonic Adventure camp; full 3D movement but exploration is limited to the odd branching path here and there.

Adding to the nostalgia is the design; low poly models and textures nail the PS1/Saturn aesthetic. Were it not for the silky-smooth movement and long draw distances you could swear you were playing a port from the days of Nights into Dreams or Pandemonium, and an optional CRT filter adds to the nostalgia. The pace at which the game moves when grinding a rail evokes memories of Sonic’s glory days. This is all accompanied with suitably jaunty music throughout.

Platforming is the main pull of the game, with a series of small ledges, huge drops, rails to grind and a sense of inertia to contend with, the enemies are really a secondary through, another hindrance to trip you up. While Hana’s fast and floaty to control at first, trial and error helps the player get some idea of how to fine tune her jumps and nail the landing. The addition of an almost obligatory double jump (and even a triple jump with the use of a spin attack) helps negotiate the game’s trickier later levels.

The levels are well thought out, and feel fine tuned. The player is rarely able to cheat the game as distances have been planned with a very specific jump combo in mind (my fifty plus attempts on certain sections towards the end verifies this), but should Hana plummet into the abyss she’s whisked back to the last checkpoint, which is normally near enough to feel fair, but far enough apart to add a sense of dread at having to traverse a particularly painful section for the umpteenth time. There are enemies, too, although not wave upon wave. They tend to occupy platforms to need to lad on, or block your jump from one ledge to another. There aren’t any boss battles, so you just have a few basic types of foes to deal with. A little more variety in enemy design would have been nice, but being their presence is mainly to add a little life to levels it’s hardly a damning criticism of the game.

Lunistice is a pleasant surprise. I must admit I knew nothing of it until I started it up, and I’m glad I didn’t, as I had no expectations going into it. It’s a game I didn’t realise I wanted to play, and thanks to its tight design and limited number of levels, it probably took me a couple of hours to play through from beginning to end. I feel there’s some items I missed, so it’s likely I’ll replay it to see what else it has to offer, but it ultimately it gave me those same nostalgia vibes I get when I fire up the PlayStation Classic. Even though I’m in my forties, my waistline is larger and my hairline has vanished, I’m briefly transported back ten years (give or take) to the late nineties.


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