With it pre-dating me by roughly six years and releasing exclusively for the Famicom in Japan, I never got a chance to check out Getsu Fūma Den when it initially released, but the most recent Indie World Showcase still had me excited for its remake. Dying Moon completely revitalises the 1987 original, as it features a contemporary roguelike style and sports a Japanese ukiyo-e art style that is reminiscent of Okami. It might not be making a full release until 2022, but has arrived just today on Steam's Early Access, and I was able to spend several hours venturing through its gorgeous dark fantasy world.
The real highlight of Undying Moon for me was its combat, as it's simple to grasp and there are many types of randomised weapons that you can obtain. Here you can have up to two melee weapons and two ranged/throwable weapons and the key to surviving is to slash your opponents to pieces whilst rolling at the right moment to avoid their oncoming attacks. The weapon selection here is plentiful as you can find spears, clubs, and katanas for melee combat and you can use bows, bombs, and shurikens to attack enemies far away. Each of these weapons come with their own stats too and it's a constant struggle deciding what to keep.
If you die during a run you do have to start from the beginning, but that doesn't mean that your progress has completely been lost. As you progress, you obtain points that can be invested in training to improve stats such as your overall health and damage output and there are secret arts you can learn that will give you enhancements such as starting a stage with more gold or being able to carry more healing potions. Each weapon in the game also has its own skill tree and this is tied to a light crafting system, as you need a required amount of materials to be able to unlock another power-up.
Dying Moon plays like a typical roguelike as the layout of the map that you are exploring changes on each run and the placement of the enemies is always altered. Whilst it does feature randomised elements, the boss encounters and enemies that you'll face within each stage remain the exact same for each respective area. This I felt was to the game's detriment, as I found myself quickly mastering each enemy's attack patterns with them being repeated so frequently. Hopefully within a future update, a more varied cast of enemies could be added to prevent things from feeling predictable during each run.
I did also encounter a few other headaches stemming from the game's roguelike nature. Sometimes an entire crowd of enemies would spawn in the same narrow space and this pushed me to pick them off from afar, otherwise I would have been quickly beaten to death. I also found that a lot of my success was hinged on pure luck (a problem which isn't exclusive to this game and plagues a lot of other roguelikes). Sometimes I would find a club with an attack stat of over 400 and would absolutely steamroll my way through the game and other times I was left with mediocre gear and struggled to even make it to the first boss.
As I mentioned earlier, the art style is absolutely gorgeous and it really does feel like you're controlling an interactive Japanese painting. The gameplay takes place from a 2D perspective, but it has almost a multi-layered look, as off in the background you'll see details like fires raging and cherry blossoms floating in the wind. The bosses here are also spectacularly designed and their imposing nature reminded me a lot of Dark Souls. The first is a giant skeleton that fires flaming skulls at you and tries to crush you with its fists and another favourite is a giant five-headed water dragon.
Undying Moon I can see being a huge hit with fans of roguelikes like Hades and Dead Cells. Its combat is simple to grasp, its weapon selection is plentiful and its gorgeous visuals are really unlike anything we have seen from the genre. That said, I did find that my success was largely dependent on how generous the game was feeling and I do wish there was more variety with enemies to prevent things from feeling repetitive. Still, it has entered early access with a solid foundation and things are only likely to improve from here.