To the Moon for Nintendo Switch Review — Always Faithful
To the Moon's Nintendo Switch remake has some problems but is still worth playing.
Playing To the Moon again in 2020 is a peculiar experience. It still holds up, but the industry around it has evolved quite a bit. At the time of To the Moon’s release, games focusing almost entirely on a story with minimal gameplay mechanics were a rarity. Since 2011, an entire genre of “walking simulators” has emerged with titles such as Gone Home and What Remains of Edith Finch being at the genre’s forefront. If anything, that means To the Moon is much more fitting release in 2020, so it makes sense that X.D. Network would partner with Freebird Games to bring the critically acclaimed title to Nintendo Switch.
While bringing over what seems to be a simple game would seem like an easy task, a lot more is actually going on here. The original version of the game for PC was made on RPG Maker XP, a toolset created back in 2004. Obviously, a program like that does not support modern consoles, so X.D. Network had to entirely remake To the Moon in Unity so it could come out on a modern platform. Still, it is impressively faithful to the original even though it has some of its own issues.
One can barely tell that this is a remake of To the Moon at first glance, which may either be a positive or negative statement for you. Those looking for massive gameplay or structural overhauls to the game will be disappointed. It’s almost uncanny how similar this remake is to the original.
I enjoyed most of the slightly polished up art assets and widescreen support actually looks great. X.D. Network really knocked it out of the park when it comes to recreating the limitations of something like RPG Maker XP while still embellishing this game to make it visually appealing in 2020. To the Moon’s environments aren’t doing anything outstanding, but they all still remain iconic and their beauty is captured well here.
I also enjoyed the redesigned menus that resemble a notebook. The utterly fantastic soundtrack and the rest of To the Moon’s charmingly stock sound design were also intricately recreated. The whole game can be played with the touchscreen too, which averts the prior control issues and, coupled with its short length, makes this remake a great fit for handheld mode.
It also makes a couple of the noticeable differences stand out more, sometimes for the worse. To start, some of the more subtle area exits in larger areas are no longer indicated with arrows. While this is okay for returning players, newer ones could have trouble navigating some of To the Moon’s more obtuse levels. Ultimately, the faithfulness of this recreation makes parts that aren’t the same or even worse stand out more, most of which were just small visual oddities or exclusions. I missed the fake code that appeared on the side of the screen during puzzle sections, and one introspective scene used some art of Eva that looked like it was the wrong resolution and poorly inserted, as you can still see some of the white from the background it was clipped out of in the image.
Then, we have the actual negative aspects of the remake. The Nintendo Switch version of To the Moon seems to feature more noticeable loading than the original within the same confined areas. While these loading segments were fairly short, they were long enough to hurt the pacing in some segments of the game. My character would sometimes be drawn to move in a certain direction even after I let go of the d-pad or initiated a conversation. The original To the Moon isn’t a technical masterpiece considering it was made on RPG Maker XP, but these differences just barely threw me off during my playthrough.
The story has not been touched at all, so fans of the original don’t have to worry about that. It’s still the emotionally gripping tale about a dying man’s regrets, dreams, and relationship with his deceased wife that still brings me to the verge of tears on subsequent playthroughs. Within this story-focused subset of games, To the Moon still remains one of the strongest in that regard. The puzzles are still incredibly simple and boring, but their brevity means that they don’t interfere much with the core experience. Narrative-focused games and walking simulators shouldn’t feel the need to inject pointless gameplay elements anymore, but I can forgive To the Moon for this as it trailblazed the genre back in 2011.
To the Moon has its quirks, but is still remembered fondly as one of the standout indie titles from the early 2010s. The core experience still holds up and has visually been recreated well by X.D. Network, and I hope they end up giving other RPG Maker classics like Yume Nikki a similar treatment. The jump to Unity did cause some unfortunate niggles, like the more noticeable loading times and control issues, and some of the slight visual alterations made me uneasy at first, but I still enjoyed playing To the Moon on Nintendo Switch almost as much as I did on PC 8 years ago. If you’re a fan of narrative-focused games, walking simulators, or whatever you want to call them and still haven’t played To the Moon, it’s definitely worth checking out.