Sailor Moon: Another Story (Part 2)
We continue the series looking at the 1995 Super Nintendo RPG Sailor Moon: Another Story. Catch up on Part 1 and join us as formerly-defeated monsters have come back to life! Also Ami went on a date and her friends totally stalked her. Because they cared so much about her, I’m sure.
Chapter 1: Her Destiny (continued)
Alternative Title: Ineffectual Baby Bomb
So! You might remember from the previous entry of Chapter 1 that monsters have been brought back to life, Urawa had been rescued from Youma aboard the Shinkansen bullet train in Tokyo station and Usagi had just been told to get her butt down to Juban Hospital by Haruka because something has been happening to Hotaru… and so far the game is hitting all my sweet spots (except for actually being a decent computer game).
Very excited at this point. Can’t wait to see the Outer Senshi in this game, and glad they’re brought in so early. Now if I could just find the hospital…
How did I end up here…?
Huh. You’d figure in such a labyrinth as the town of Juban in this game they would provide a map or directions, but this is a 1995 SNES game. We didn’t have waymarks or HUDs back in the day, kiddos. Mostly a guessing game. Which is fine until the 12th minute of running around aimlessly. I actually got lost here, the bus stops taking you around Tokyo don’t help either. Ended up just accidentally talking to some random policeman on the street…
WELL THAT WAS HANDY. Still, heading West brought me to a large building that looks exactly like a hospital but was, in fact, Juban Middle School. Excellent directions.
While Juban town itself feels active, there are characters on the streets, there are shoppers and kids in the stores, you can talk to them all and they feel like they’re populating the town, everywhere else feels completely dead and empty. The effect is unnerving… whole buildings are completely pointless except for the one room where things happen. It’s not entirely unwelcome, I like that they’ve tried to make buildings accurate in a sense, but with every room just being a clone of the last, I think it would have been OK to keep some of these doors locked.
And HEY WOAH Hotaru is, like, older!? As soon as you realise that Hotaru won’t be a little baby in this game, after the events of Sailor Moon S, you are all in. You get to play Sailor Saturn, the destructor? That’s SO COOL. And this makes sense, too! The power to alter fate is so open ended and all-powerful that ageing baby Hotaru back into Sailor Saturn’s age fits nicely. She’s obviously weakened too, and her personality is much more like Hotaru than the cold efficient Sailor Saturn, which is also a good choice for her character.
We get the first clear sign that the game is merging the canon of the anime with the canon of the manga. So far we’ve seen nothing that wasn’t in the anime, except that Mamoru’s design is a little more like his manga iteration. Here, unlike the anime, Hotaru appears to have been living with Haruka and Michiru as a baby before this, and she also mentions that she felt as though she was under the influence of the Tairon Crystal, an artefact that only exists in the manga. I like this a lot actually (no not the Tairon Crystal, that thing was pointless) – I like that the game is ignoring convention and picking the best parts of both the anime and the manga. In a sense, it’s got a stronger canon to it than ether of the other mediums.
A nurse comes in, and I love how Michiru immediately accuses her of being a monster because she didn’t read the do not disturb sign. Hey Michiru, I don’t know how the One Percenters get medical treatment, but a ward is not a hotel room. Nurses tend to be able to enter a room without being accused of demonship.
But she’s right naturally.
I was suuuuuper pumped to be able to use the Outer Senshi in a battle… but it turns out they’re really rather rubbish at this point. Usagi has been in, what, 2 battles so far, and she’s now level 6. These jokers are level 1 BUMS and can die in a couple of hits. Moon Healing Escalation takes care of that, of course.
After Nursey is dead (it’s Pharmocon, a Droid from Sailor Moon R), the Senshi discuss the possibility of an enemy altering fate as a mechanic. I thought it was pretty damn cool and fit the game perfectly, but Haruka has other ideas…
Speaking of which, we get the reveal of who it is exactly that is manipulating fate… we’ve seen glimpses of this in the pre-game opening of course. but my word Apsu is a creepy ass bad guy. The scenery, the sinister music, the aggressive looking henchmen she has, the shadow falling across her face, her polite, caring manner… all of it really makes Apsu a threatening enough antagonist to compete against any other in Sailor Moon lore. Not to mention that the group’s name (although we don’t find this out yet) is called “Hell Destiny.” THAT’S SO METAL.
We also get the beginnings of the Opposito Senshi too. Apsu gives them a blast of power, claiming they’re now more powerful than the Sailor Senshi. I love their designs, they’re like the twisted goth versions of the Senshi we know and love. Sin takes centre stage, of course. Her catty grin and Harley Quinn fashion sense is really rather cool, and she stands out as a particular badass. We also meet her little brother Anshar… Since the Opposito Senshi are mirrors of the Senshi, this might be a weird freaky version of Shingo (HA!) but I’m more inclined to see him as a little evil Chibi-Usa, who has his own Luna-P friend, a stupid rat-ferret thing called Kishar.
We don’t get too much of the other Evil Senshi just yet, but suffice it to say that I actually find them all rather enjoyable, both in terms of their inception (they all have Babylonian/Mesopotamian inspirations) and their characters. We’ll get into that in the next chapter…
Outside the hospital, Usagi is ready to go back and check on things at home with Haruka and Michiru, but Hotaru asks to come along. Yaaay! The others are understandably hesitant, after all she just had seizures for a few hours as she grew up again. I like Haruka’s hesitancy here. We’ll see her being the rash aggressive girl she is, but she’s still a parental figure to Hotaru, and that’s really cool. We never see these two really interact in either the show or the manga in any meaningful way, so moments like these are to be treasured.
ENTER RANDOM BATTLES. Dear Lord. I was enjoying the game. But there are battles every few seconds, or so it seems. it throws off the pacing of the game, especially when you’re lost… which happens a lot in this game, believe me. The battle system still isn’t good, but playing as the Outer Senshi, hearing their awful voice clips screeching “WORUDOOO SHAKIN!” is very, very cool. Naturally the first thing I did was attempt to END THE WORLD with Sailor Saturn’s Death Reborn Revolution…
Yeeeah having Sailor Saturn start at level 1 is kinda a shame. Having her be all-powerful would be silly, of course, but she’s almost intentionally shit here. I’m hoping she gets a lot stronger soon, because at the moment she’s a bit of a liability. At least the battles are fairly quick and levelling is fast too. This isn’t too much of a grind game, although it’s imperative that you grind a bit in every new area to ensure you’re at a decent level to kill these guys.
Between battles, there’s a rather excellent menu to explore…
First is the obscure “MakeUpLink” screen (which some people never realised was in the game since it never tells you to push the start button). Here you randomly group together different combinations of Senshi to create new attacks. While I love these combinations, really opens up the creativity a bit, gives you a chance to experiment, it’s not a great system. For one, these attacks are all available immediately… provided you stumble across them. You might never get an attack if you don’t randomly mash buttons. Also, many aren’t particularly more powerful than solo attacks, so the increase in energy it takes to use them isn’t balanced… but some are so powerful they blast through enemies like butter.
…which is what I’ll be spamming, actually.
There’s also some fun stuff if you check the status of your party members. It’s rather fun, and perfect for obsessive fans like me who enjoy all the extra info on the Senshi. The blood type stuff is, of course, present. The “interests” section is quite perfunctory, but what you’d expect from the character’s we’ve come to know so well.
Some are a bit more weird…
Hotaru’s is listed as “lamps, reading“… yeah that’s pretty weird. Lamps? I’ve also never seen her read in either the anime or the manga to my knowledge. Well it can’t get weird than that, can it?
Cosmetics? COSMETICS? She’s a genius millionaire virtuoso violinist and they listed her hobby as cosmetics. Not, you know, violin!? Or swimming!? The two things we see her do most in the anime AND the manga!? Cosmetics!?
So anyway Shingo is being attacked by a goddamn monster. Ugh. Do I have to save him? Is there, like a Fallout Karma meter where I just let him get eaten?
So that’s Shingo’s contribution to the game. Thank god, I hate this dweeb. Sailor Moon has a pretty funny moment where she forgets to pretend as though she doesn’t know Shingo and just happened to break into his house and room by accident. Here’s a thought: if Sailor Moon had to save Shingo, how many other people in Tokyo are being attacked in their homes without our knowledge? Something to mull over…
The party return to Hikawa Shrine to find that the Inner Senshi have all gone off to… uh… loiter, I guess. We get our first meeting with Artemis in the game thus far, who tells us he’s been trying to use Crystal Tokyo’s computer systems to determine who the new enemy is. First I’m astonished that he’s able to use technology from the 30th Century. Then again, I seem to recall their computers have large plasticy gems instead of keyboards…
He says something that really is rather chilling.
I really like this. Crystal Tokyo, the events of Sailor Moon R, has always represented a kind of ultimate finality to the cannon, as though that’s what everything has been leading up to. Here, the enemy is so far beyond even Neo Queen Serenity’s knowledge. It’s a strange unknowable enemy that threatens even the infinitely powerful Crystal Tokyo. Sends shivers up my spine at the concept of it. And it feels eerie too, this is good stuff, especially when he tries to display a hologram of prime suspect Sin…
…and the hologram begins talking back! Sin’s image appears to threaten the Senshi, luring them to Juban School with the unconscious forms of the Inner Senshi and Chibi-Usa.
I might find this annoying since we never see how they got captured and because it’s a fairly hack device to get the other Senshi outside, but I don’t mind it. The Inner Senshi get a lot more to do later on, and this is a good way to ramp up the threat in the concluding part of Chapter 1. We also realise that there’s no way that Sailor Moon isn’t going to try and rescue these girls. It’s in her nature. And we as the player are totally on her side, we believe we can just bust on in and destroy.
I like that the decision to walk into the trap isn’t unanimous. Neptune warns against such an obvious plan, but Uranus has a fantastic reply. She’s normally level-headed so I found this rather funny.
That’s rather optimistic, Uranus, but it fits rather well with her. As a final note in the coffin, Saturn simply states “I’m going after Chibi-Usa”, and Neptune grudgingly replies “…not my loss.” I like that she’s reluctant, I like that they use Sailor Moon’s anxiety over her friends, Uranus’ confidence, Neptunes cautiousness and unwillingness to put oneself into danger needlessly, and Saturn’s blithe loyalty to her one friend.
In a few simple lines they’ve shown that they know these characters perfectly, and I really feel invested in this plot. Ace job.
The big finale to this chapter (it really is short, isn’t it?) takes place at Juban Middle School. It’s fun to be at the scene of so many moments in Sailor Moon, principally season 1… or at least it would have been, but we’re never here for a slice-of-life, we only ever see it now, empty and repetitive, as the Senshi go from room to room trying to find the Inner Senshi. I really like the scenes when they actually find the Senshi, but they give us 4 easy battles here (by this time I’m spamming the combo attack of Uranus and Moon’s called “Spiral Shaking” that just wipes everything out quick) and a pointless jog around an empty school.
But as I say, the scenes are awesome, as the Daimohns are all trying to break into the dreams of the Inner Senshi. For each we get a little vignette of what their dreams are, and you know what? They’re kinda all sad. They have this shared wish for normality and romance. It’s a great look into these girls’ psyches.
Ami dreams (obviously) of becoming a doctor, a paediatrician by the looks of it. What’s more interesting is that she also dreams of going home to a husband, who is presumably stay-at-home and raising the kids. She’s a power mum.
Rei has by far my favourite dream. This is really surprising, she’d having a dream about Mamoru! They’re dating… this is very unexpected. Obviously calling back to their adolescent relationship back in season 1, Another Story suggests that Rei has been jealous of Usagi ever since. Well Usagi did kind of steal Mamoru… See, this is why I love this game. They’re using the pre-existing material to extrapolate and take characters in interesting ways. They play this off as a joke, Rei mumbling Mamoru’s name as she wakes up and Sailor Moon getting pissed off about it, but it’s also rather thoughtful.
Makoto’s is actually rather depressing… She dreams of a senpai who casually and uncaringly responds to her asking him out. This faceless male is such a dick to her, but this is her romantic fantasy? She must have super low self-esteem… which, again, does fit into her character somewhat, her fear of not being feminine enough. Kind of an uncomfortable moment though.
Minako’s is the saddest though… she dreams of a simple life without the Senshi, talking about boys and admiring Sailor Moon from afar… it’s clear that she is the one with the most hangups about being a Sailor Senshi through this short sequence, and again in a few lines it reinforces an aspect of her character that gets lost a lot. Definitely inspired by one of the best episodes of Sailor Moon S.
The showdown with the Opposito Senshi at the top is kind of a let-down actually. After the crappy 4 monsters in the school to free the Inner Senshi, there’s no boss battle. This is all done through dialogue and kind of clunky sprite positioning. I like that the Senshi are all yelling at Sailor Moon not to hand over the Ginzuishou (Silver Crystal) to the enemy, but she says nothing and genuinely seems tempted to hand it over to save Chibi-Usa’s life. I even like Tuxedo Kamen’s appearance. He finally bothered to leave his apartment it seems.
…although he’s about to spend a lot more time there, to be honest…
The Opposito Senshi decide to attack Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Kamen with their hallucination powers, and there’s a short and sweet scene of a shared delusion for the two of them in wedded bliss. Mamoru is getting ready for work while… Usagi is a housewife… hrmm… yeah I think “Queen of the Entire Fucking Solar System” is a better job description. I did like Mamoru giving the old 50s “Honey I’m leaving for work” smooch.
After Chibi-Usa wakes up and gets them out of the illusion, Tuxedo Kamen takes a big hit from the Opposito Senshi. It’s kind of the only thing he’s good for. He’s an excellent tank. Not too worried about that, but what I did get anxious about was Sailor Saturn, who rushes over to Tuxedo Kamen exposing her back. Not the brightest of Senshi, is our Saturn? She’s also struck with some kind of dark light, and as the enemy escapes, the team are two people down…
NOOO NOT MY SATUUURN!
Back at Mamoru’s place, everyone is feeling rather powerless. For obvious reasons too, Haruka and Michiru couldn’t protect the King, the Inner Senshi all got their asses kicked. Help comes in teh form of a deus ex machina of course… the stones of the Great Four in Mamoru’s apartment shimmer, and we get a scene of the ghostly Kunzite, Zoicite, Nephrite and Jadeite asking the Senshi for help. This is awesoooooome! For once, this is dragging in a lot more manga content, with the subjugation of the Great Four by Queen Beryl.
So the Great Four warn that Mamoru’s body has been attacked with darkness, and that to save him they must fuse the Great Four’s stones, the “Shitennou no Ishi“. Bear with me here, it takes a bit of explaining. So when the four were taken over by Beryl, their stones become complete darkness (“kage” as the translators thankfully added in), but to save Mamoru they must join their kage stones with the light versions of them, the hi stones. It’s all reflecting that opening sequence, the combination of light and dark, good and evil, rather than pure good or pure evil.
Kind of interesting, we’ll have to see where this goes.
The plan is to gather the hi versions of kunzite, zoicite, nephrite and jadeite with the “Barazuishou“, the Rose Crystal, the thing that represents Mamoru’s power. This was written before Sailor Moon Super S, so there’s no Golden Crystal or Pegasus here, so this is all an invention of the game writers. I really like all this! Gives Mamoru some lore, brings in elements from the first season, brings in backstory that we didn’t get in the original anime, and makes it all feel mysterious and eerie by having this told from the dead.
The plan’s easy right? Where can we find these light stones again?
Jadeite = Nepal
Zoicite = Switzerland
Nephrite = Canada
Kunzite = Turkey
Wow. And they don’t even know where the Barazuishou is, that’s a job for Uranus and Neptune! So the Inner Senshi are jet-setting across the world! This is very strange and unexpected. There’s been very little of the outside world in Sailor Moon, it’s so Japan focussed. The game makers must really have wanted to extend this world beyond the confines of their content. I think this works really well. We’ll get to spend time with each of the Inner Senshi, see them go solo, really spend time with them in a way we’ve never seen before. Plus, this makes the Senshi seem so much more… international. Like agents. It’s very cool.
Nothing can screw this up now!
Sailor Mercury embarks on a solo quest in Chapter 2 as we visit Switzerland! Which turns out to be entirely a homogenised ice cave. The true enemy? Dirty old men.