Review by StaplerFahrer

"Tennis Anyone?"

Not being much of an anime fan, I never really saw much of Sailor Moon, save for a few episodes of the "butchered" DiC version a long while ago. But I know enough about it to realize that it involves some suggestively clad schoolgirls fighting evil or something, and that, no, it's NOT okay for adult males to engage in watching it, unlike what certain Japanese-wannabe posers would have you believe. That said, I was most intrigued that an arcade game had been made of Sailor Moon, and not just any arcade game, but a Final Fight-style side-scrolling beat em' up. Yes, a Sailor Moon beat em' up. Upon learning this, I knew I had to play it at least once. Sure, I've never been very good at beat em' ups and I'd most likely die a grisly death halfway through the first level, but hey, who doesn't want to see Sailor Moon get what's coming to her?

Upon starting up the game (along with the requisite cry of "SEERA MUUN!" from the attract mode sequence), I was prompted to select my preferred Sailor Scout. Not having watched the show, I didn't know much about any of them, save for the fact that neither Mercury nor Jupiter are girls' names. I quietly choose the old standby, Sailor Moon herself, and then got ready to kick some ass!!!

Sadly, things are not quite so simple. Sailor Moon quickly finds herself in some unnamed city surrounded by thugs and monsters looking to give her a beat down, at least by those who aren't too busy laughing at her ridiculous outfit. These included hellish fiends such as marionette-like creatures who remove their own heads and throw them at you, and my personal favorite, guys wielding tennis rackets who will grab your hapless Sailor Scout and administer a savage beating with said racket. Unfortunately for the player, Ms. Moon is seriously lacking in the ability to deal with these threats. Button A will cause to her to deliver a girly, wimpish-looking punch followed by a combo move; get close to an enemy and she'll perform either a shoulder throw or simply bash the enemy in the face with her knee, thus causing them to die of embarrassment. Button B makes her jump, allowing for some serious drop-kicking action; but best of all, pressing A and B together will cause your Sailor Scout to perform a move consisting of a whopping five frames of animation that will clear out all enemies around, but will cost you some of your health. (arcade veterans will realize that this is the exact same system as used by Final Fight).

But what about the dreaded "third button" you've been avoiding pressing up until now, for fear that it might unleash some sort of hellish cataclysm that you could never possibly survive, let alone control for your own purposes? Hitting THAT button will momentarily pause the game and treat you to a brief animation of your chosen Sailor Scout performing some special move and/or over-emoting in the typically annoying anime fashion, which will inflict serious damage on all on-screen enemies. Of course, to use such ungodly, devastating moves, you must first obtain blue crystals. The more of these crystals (probably some form of XTC) you possess, the more powerful the move, until you obtain five crystals, which will cause your Sailor Scout to perform one of their signature moves from the show. Sadly, these crystals tend to be fairly rare, meaning that Ms. Moon had to rely mostly of her fists to get her through the game, and unlike Final Fight, she can't pick up objects like lead pipes or baseball bats and use them to her advantage. That's right, despite being surrounded by potential weapons, Sailor Moon is apparently so confident in her limited abilities that she doesn't need to use any of them. Then again, I suppose it would ruin some of the Sailor Moon mystique (good god, did I really just type that?) to see her bashing someone's face in with a lead pipe. Your best bet is to simply punch-combo your way through the game, which gets boring real fast, and whatever amusement you get from seeing a girl in a school uniform kneeing a man in the face quickly wears off.

As I fought through wave of enemies all out for Sailor Blood, I was challenged not only by the sheer number of enemies and Sailor Moon's pathetic repertoire of moves, but by my own personal morals. Is killing Sailor Moon and exterminating her presence from the earth not a brave and honorable goal? And should the one who slew Sailor Moon not be heralded as a hero for the ages? The debate raged in my mind as Sailor Moon was once again handed down a beating via a tennis racket. Despite my doubts, I pressed on; I had to see Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon to the end, even as the pile of Sailor Corpses grew higher and higher.

Fight your way through an seemingly endless stream of mostly identical-looking enemies (save for the occasional palette swap) and you'll reach the level boss, which I presume is some sort of character from the show as well. Like most bosses in bad beat-em-ups, the bosses of Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon simply simply walk or fly about aimlessly until you decide to attack, at which point they'll simply smack you away, taking off a fat chunk of your health, unless you're lucky enough to land a hit by some sheer stroke of fate, at which point they'll likely knock your ass again with some one-frame move that's impossible to avoid. Jump-kick? Well, you needn't even bother with it, as most bosses will knock your Sailor Scout out of it like no one's business. All is not lost, however, as Tuxedo Mask will show up and toss you a rose which will recover all your health. Deus Ex Machina-tastic! Sadly, even this was often not enough to prevent Sailor Moon's untimely demise. Not that I mind, of course, as Sailor Moon might be the first arcade to bolster self-esteem whether you win or lose. Sure, you lost, but at least you got rid of Sailor Moon. And in the end, isn't that what really counts?

Yes, for a game based on a TV show for girls, Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon is surprisingly difficult, almost unfairly so, particularly when fighting the final boss Queen Beryl who simply teleports in and out at will, smacking Ms. Moon about with ease. And what do you get for all your efforts? A spectacular ending, neatly wrapping up all plot points and providing the player with a deep sense of satisfaction and closure? Well, not really, as this game has no real ending. That's right, after defeating the final boss, it skips right to the credits. That's it. In fact, Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon dispenses with the luxury of a plot altogether. At least it doesn't feature the "save the girl" plot cliche of most beat-em-ups.

Graphics? Well they're serviceable, but not much better than Final Fight's, which is quite sad considering that this game came out over five years later. Like many beat-em-ups, there's a shocking lack of quality evident in the animation. The Sailor Scouts don't so much fight as they do twitch rabidly about. Sound? Well, you'll probably not going to even notice it, the music is totally bland and the sound effects consist mostly of dull kicks and thuds and the occasional voice of your Sailor Scout (each of whom sounds about five years old). Technically the game is really nothing worth mentioning at all, and aside from the Sailor Moon license there's not much to separate it from the hordes of other beat-em-ups churned out by game companies on a regular basis.

In the end, Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon is a game of absolutely no distinction, made interesting only by its tie-in to a popular TV show. If you're looking for a good beat-em-up, stick with something like Final Fight that at least has a little variety thrown into the mix. Sailor Moon just isn't worth your quarter.*

*Unless you want to see Sailor Moon being beaten with a tennis racket


Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 04/04/05


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