Saga of the Moon Priestess – Review
Follow Genre: RPG
Developer: Pixel Trash
Publisher: EastAsiaSoft
Platform: Switch, PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
Tested on: Switch

Saga of the Moon Priestess – Review

Site Score
5.8
Good: Mechanics feel instantly familiar
Bad: Lack of polish makes combat unenjoyable, especially early on
User Score
2.0
(2 votes)
Click to vote
VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 2.0/10 (2 votes cast)

Let’s start our review of Saga of the Moon Priestess by addressing the obvious elephant in the room: this game is a shameless ripoff of The Legend of Zelda, in particular  Link’s Awakening. With that out of the way, we’ll try to avoid too many outright comparisons between Nintendo’s beloved masterpiece and Pixel Trash’s… ahem… “homage”, as the newer title simply can’t live up to its illustrious predecessor. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Moon Priestess is doomed to be a bad game, just that it can’t clear the admittedly very high bar it set for itself. Is there enough here so that Moon Priestess can stand on its own two legs though?

Story

For better or worse, Moon Priestess’ narrative plays out as a gender-swapped version of the damsel-in-distress trope. Things kick off with the big bad kidnapping the prince of the realm. At the behest of the Moon Goddess, it is up to Sarissa, an orphan girl, to go on a quest to rescue him. The game doesn’t put any effort into establishing any kind of relationship between the prince and Sarissa, nor is the Moon Goddess’ motivation ever explained. The narrative isn’t fleshed out any further beyond its initial premise, and the NPCs that inhabit the land’s only village don’t really contribute anything to the story apart from flat jokes. We should also note that there are quite a few typos in the dialogue.

Graphics

From the instantly recognizable colour palette and environmental details to the sprite designs, Moon Priestess’ visuals are the most blatant reason as to why the game would draw comparisons to the Zelda series. Granted, the game does nail this aesthetic for the most part, with the notable exception of character portraits, which are rendered in much greater detail, resembling 16 bit visuals instead of the 8 bit sprite work used everywhere else in the game. We should note that these portraits feel somewhat out of place, as they put a bit too much emphasis on, well, fan service. Given publisher EastAsiaSoft’s track record, we shouldn’t be surprised about this though. A final note on the visuals is that the font choice isn’t the best, and dialogue can be hard to read as a result.

Sound

There is no voice acting, the sound effects are okay and the music is fine but forgettable. We’d be happy if that was all we had to say about Moon Priestess’ soundscape, but we ran into a very weird glitch where there were two instances of the background music playing simultaneously and out of sync. When we went into the game’s settings to mute this, only one instance was muted and the second one kept playing. It was a minor annoyance that resolved itself after rebooting the game but it is still worth noting.

Gameplay

Every aspect of Moon Priestess’ gameplay feels like a less polished version of Link’s Awakening. As such, the formula feels very familiar: you move from screen to screen on a top-down map, enter puzzle-filled dungeons to battle bosses, and obtain new gear that lets you reach new areas in the overworld. We’d go as far as to say that Moon Priestess banks on you already being familiar with certain mechanics from having played old-school Zelda games, because the game doesn’t waste any time actually explaining how everything works. Fortunately, those mechanics do function identically here as they do elsewhere: you can break pots and cut grass to find hearts and ̶r̶u̶p̶e̶e̶s̶ beads, and use bombs to break open suspicious cracks in walls. Your bow lets you hit switches and buttons from a distance and your gloves allow you to lift up and throw rocks.

The few areas where Moon Priestess deviates from its inspiration are noticeably worse. Hit boxes are ever so slightly off, and although Sarissa is able to move freely, her attacks are limited to the four directional buttons, meaning hitting enemies isn’t always as accurate as it should be. She’s also a rather sluggish combattant, only able to hit enemies by thrusting her spear forward rather than swinging a sword around her or blocking attacks with a shield. This caught us off guard early on: many enemies are a lot faster than our protagonist. As Sarissa gains additional permanent heart upgrades and builds up ranged attacks, having to swallow hits becomes less of an issue. Early on, however, Sarissa’s lack of momentum feels like an unfair punishment to the player. The first boss battle is against a pair of swift beetles and our heroine must lift up rocks and hurl them at her insect enemies. However, more often than not, the slow rock-lifting animation allowed the beetles to charge the poor girl without giving her a chance to react.

That’s not to say that Saga of the Moon Priestess is a difficult game by design. The puzzles that you’ll encounter throughout the game’s five dungeons are never obtuse. It’s very much a by-the-numbers game, with an anticlimactic ending. At an MSRP of €5.99, you might be tempted to give this one a shot, but buyer(s) beware: Moon Priestess is a very short game. It took us around four hours to complete it, and it doesn’t really have any replay value. The game expects you to tackle things in a very linear manner, and it lacks the sense of freedom and wonder that you might expect here.

Conclusion

The biggest issue with Moon Priestess is that it so blatantly wants to appeal to fans of old-school Zelda games but that it cannot live up to the standard set by those very same games. In a vacuum, Saga of the Moon Priestess is a decent little indie RPG, but the sheer existence of those better games and the lack of polish displayed here, turn this one into a last-resort option if you’re looking to scratch that Zelda itch.

VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 2.0/10 (2 votes cast)
VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
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Saga of the Moon Priestess - Review, 2.0 out of 10 based on 2 ratings
SebastiaanRaats


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