February 2022

Tsuki no megami no densetsu IV: Ekuripusukingu to no tatakai (月の女神の伝説IV:エクリプスキングとの闘い) – Super Famicom, 1994

The immense success of Tsuki no megami no densetsu IV and Tsukimeg IV Easytype made a sequel a foregone conclusion for Kyopro, which immediately commissioned both a fourth entry in the series as well as a handheld port for the Game Boy. In a slightly odd move, most of the Kyopro team that had worked on the first three games was shifted to the handheld version, while an almost entirely new team was assembled for the Super Famicom sequel. This team, mostly new hires, would go on to produce the majority of future games in the series. Its title can be translated as Legend of the Moon Goddess IV: Fight against the Eclipse King.

In addition to the removal of the unpopular time limit, the new team added a “career system” to the game – Selene could take on a variety of “careers” that would enable her to access new skills, dialogue, and combat abilities, with the caveat that only a single career could be held at any given time. Party members–up to three at a time including Selene–also had jobs, though they could not change them. The map was also expanded, with more dungeons, the addition of conversations and other visual novel gameplay elements in select dungeons, and many combat skills were given uses in dialogue and vice-versa. This leads to a total of 101 possible endings, with each carrying a value of 1-3 stars. Getting any 3-star ending unlocks the new game plus mode, which further enables a series of joke endings.

This game, set in 1972, has Selene inhabiting the body of a middle-aged woman named Mioko, attempting to unravel a conspiracy of assassination attempts on seemingly random figures in the fictional coastal city of Odohama. While Mioko herself was not assassinated, she and her suspicious death at the age of only 46 play a crucial role–especially given that she was one of the police detectives investigating the case. Eventually, it is revealed that the Eclipse King, a longtime rival of Selene, is attempting to influence history via the butterfly effect. By killing people who will have an impact in the future, the Eclipse King plans to create a future where no one will believe in, or ask for the aid of, Selene herself, permanently banishing her from the world. Fan-favorite characters Inspector Takahashi and Akima the Reluctant Oni both make cameo appearances, with the latter serving as a secret recruitable party member.

Massively popular in its home market, Tsuki no megami no densetsu IV was nevertheless never considered for a North American or European localization. The failure of the previous game, combined with the large amount of text to be translated and fears at Kyopro that the gameplay was “too complex” for Western players, all contributed to this decision. Numerous fan translations sprung up in the ate 1990s and early 2000s as a result, but the game has never been officially released in English–or any other language–as of 2018.

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Tsuki no megami III no densetsu: Shin jidai (月の女神IIIの伝説:新時代) – Nintendo Super Famicom, 1991

The third entry, Tsuki no megami III no densetsu: Shin jidai (Legend of the Lunar Goddess III: A New Era) was released for the Super Famicom system in Japan in 1991. Equipped with both more powerful hardware and battery-backed memory, this game was very ambitious in scope and used the largest cartridge size available at the time. The system is very similar to its predecessor, with a text-based on-screen parser, similar to LucasArts’ SCUMM engine, accompanying graphics and character portraits in a visual novel style. Battles are now real-time, rather than turn-based, in a similar style to Square’s ATB system. The game also incorporates a day/night cycle and a time limit, requiring the central mystery to be completed in seven in-game days. 26 different endings, lettered A-Z, are possible, and the Star System returns as a rough grade: achieving three stars is possible for endings A-N and doing so unlocks a new game plus mode.

Selene takes on the identity of a murder victim in 1950s Tokyo after Inspector Takahashi sincerely wishes on the moon to learn the mysterious girl’s identity and killer. Selene is forced to find information not only on the killer but on the identity of the victim, Yuki; a series of late-game conversations rely strongly on information that Selene has been able to ascertain and affect the ending. In addition to Takahashi, players encounter Akima the Reluctant Oni for the first time, and oblique references are made to the Eclipse King, though he does not appear.

The world map has been replaced with a smaller but more detailed map of Tokyo, with various buildings taking the place of dungeons and caves. Exploring these allows Selene and up to one follower to build combat experience, find items, and even uncover certain otherwise unavailable clues. Six different followers are available, including Takahashi, Akima, and two secret characters.

A major success in Japan, the game nevertheless inspired some of the earliest ROM hacking attempts as players tried to remove the seven-day time limit, which many felt was restrictive. Since some characters can only be encountered at certain times of day and in certain locations, it was possible to softlock the game extremely easily into a state where only the bad ending (ending Z) was possible. Illicit cartridges with the “time travel version” were circulated, and Kyopro eventually released their own as Tsukimeg III Easytype.

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Moonlight Madness: San Francisco (unreleased prototype) – Nintendo Entertainment System, 1990

Tsuki no megami no densetsu II was contemplated for a North American release, and a nearly complete translation was prepared by Merkatur in 1990. Previewed in Nintendo Power, the game was pulled from distribution at around the same time as EarthBound Beginnings, for many of the same reasons. With the new Super Nintendo console just around the corner, it was felt that a niche title on aging hardware stood little chance of success. A complete prototype was located in the mid-2000s and eventually dumped as a ROM, leading to widespread familiarity with the title among enthusiasts.

Merkatur was famous for the high level of quality and polish they brought to their titles, even in 1990, and this shows in the final prototype. The script is well-translated, if truncated, and a number of changes have been made for North American tastes. The setting was shifted from the Kanto Region in 1923 to the San Francisco area in 1906, with many major and minor graphical changes implemented as part of the setting change.

Many of the oni enemies were entirely redrawn as “ghosts” of the sheet-with-eyeholes variety, and the prejudice on display was both toned down and changed from anti-Korean to anti-immigrant. The biggest change was Selene herself; worried how Western audiences would respond to a moon goddess possessing a male body, the character was localized as a male lunar alien named Solenoid. The complex ending system was also changed, with only a single possible villain (the cult). It is unclear whether the finished cartridge would have had battery-backed saves, as there are provisions in the ROM for both a save/load system and a 128-character password (a variation of the PC-Engine HuCard save system).

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Tsuki no megami no densetsu II: Chōsa no konran! (月の女神の伝説II:調査の混乱) – Nintendo Famicom, NEC PC-Engine, Sega Mega Drive, 1989

With a title that translates to Legend of the Lunar Goddess II: Investigation Confusion!, this title saw an overall refinement of the mechanics of the first entry. The text parser is replaced by a series of static commands and an inventory, similar to many adventure games of the same period like Maniac Mansion. The combat system has also been upgraded, resembling Dragon Quest, and several revisitable dungeons were added along with a world map in order to give combat-oriented players more content.

The Famicom version was the baseline, with the PC-Engine and Mega Drive versions derived from it; the Mega Drive added colors and minor animations, but the PC-Engine version became infamous due to its save system. While the Famicom and Mega Drive could both use battery-backed saves on their cartridges, this was not possible with the PC-Engine’s HuCard, so the game used an infamous 256-character password system instead. Strident complaints led to a version on CD being released for the CD-ROM² PC-Engine add-on, but the size of a Tsuki no megami no densetsu II save file took up the majority of the system’s available memory–a major problem given the lack of an easy memory manager. Ironically, due to their low sales and poor word of mouth, the PC-Engine versions are coveted collector’s items today.

Selene is summoned to investigate a murder in the wake of the 1923 Great Kanto earthquake, inhabiting the body of a young half-Korean man, Kim, who had been injured in the quake and died some time later. Kim was attempting to solve the murder of his half-sister, who was slain in their small village in the wake of the disaster and passed off as one of its victims, and Selene was summoned by the sincere prayer of his mother. The scenario touches on many issues from the time, including anti-Korean sentiment and massacres, militarism, and the toll of the devastating 1923 quake. Unlike the previous game, whose enemies were entirely oni, the combat involves many human adversaries as well as the disturbed spirits of the recently dead.

The ending is not wholly dependent on Selene’s actions; the ultimate perpetrator of the crime (an oni-worshipping offshoot of the cult from the first game, a corrupt police chief, or Kim’s ex-lover) is randomized for each playthrough. While the number of endings has increased, the rating system has been abolished, replaced by the “star system.” Completing the game with one antagonist awards a star and opens the option to play a new game plus which guarantees one of the other two antagonists, while completing it a second time awards a second star and the ability to face the third antagonist. Three completions opens up a cheat screen that allows players to modify the scenario to their liking to experience various parts of the game.

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Tsuki no megami no densetsu: Hyōi monogatari (月の女神の伝説:憑依物語) – PC-88, 1987

The first game in the Tsuki no megami or Tsukimeg series, released for the PC-88 home computer exclusively in Japan. The title roughly translates to “Legend of the Moon Goddess: Possession Story.” Uniquely, the game uses a text parser rather than a menu, and could therefore be considered interactive fiction or a text adventure. The parser does make combat rather awkward, though, since each attack command must be entered by hand; there is no ability to repeat the last command. Each location is illustrated with a still or lightly animated image, while conversations feature portraits of both the speaker and Selene. Combat is limited to certain times and certain areas, none of which can be revisited, meaning that unless a player deliberately grinds for experience and money when the opportunity presents itself, they may have difficulty in the late game.

Selene is summoned to look for a missing person in a remote Japanese village circa 1912, possessing the body of a young bride who had succumbed to tuberculosis on the eve of her wedding in response to a sincere wish upon the moon from the woman’s mother-in-law. The missing person is the young woman’s betrothed, Akito, and there are indications that he is not the only one. Selene’s success in uncovering the perpetrator (an oni-worshipping cult), rescuing Akito, and calling off or going through with the wedding influence the ending, which is rated on a scale from F to S. The S ending unlocks the ability to play as Akito, who in turn only has two endings, success and failure. In total, there are eight endings (S, A, B, C, D, F, Akito success, Akito failure); later games indicate that ending A is canon.

Despite the waning state of the PC-88 market in 1987, Tsuki no megami no densetsu: Hyōi monogatari was a huge success for Kyopro, with the entire first run of games selling out in a little more than a month. A Western localization was never considered; the game remains unavailable in any form other than its original release.

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Tsuki no Megami or Tsukimeg is an ongoing series of video games developed by the Kyopro software division of Kyoto Processed Ricepaper Concerns and published for a variety of platforms. The series’ full name, Tsuki no megami no densetsu, roughly translates as ‘Legend of the Lunar Goddess.’ Localized versions have been available internationally under a variety of titles, but since 2000 the name Selenic Mysteries has generally been used for the series, with the word “Selenic” being used instead of “Lunar” to avoid confusion with the Lunar series of JRPGs from Game Arts.

While there is considerable variation in individual games, the series’ trademark is a combination of visual novel style storytelling, usually with an element of mystery and investigation, and traditional turn-based JRPG combat. This relatively unusual combination has made it quite popular in its native Japan while being regarded as a “hidden gem” by many western gamers, and a popular subject for fan translations.

The heroine of each game is Tsukuyomi (ツキヨミ), the moon goddess of Shinto mythology; her name is generally translated as Selene for western releases. After a sincere person wishes on the moon for aid, Selene is able to possess the body of a recently deceased person nearby in order to aid them. This usually takes the form of investigating a mystery, though later games also add in an additional element of Selene having to impersonate the soul whose body she is possessing, with her effectiveness having an overall bearing on the story as a whole.

Interspersed with investigation and conversation are turn-based battles, which occur randomly in certain areas and at predetermined points in the story. Selene, and in later games her companions, can equip weapons, level up, and gain skills that can also in some cases be used outside of battle. These battles are typically represented as attacks by vicious oni, demons from Shinto mythology, who are actively working against Selene and her quest.

The large number of endings–dozens in earlier entries, hundreds in later ones–is a key aspect of the series, and obsessive replayability has long been a Tsukimeg hallmark. A melancholy tone, especially at the end, is also noteworthy, with many entries gradually moving from bright and colorful antics to somber and mournful over the course of a game. Selene is, after all, only temporarily possessing the body of the recently deceased, and her departure means an apparent second death for that person. It also means that there is no easy way for Selene to revisit the area, giving each adventure a firm note of finality.

In keeping with that, Selene herself is the only regularly recurring character in the series, though she regularly makes references to past adventures. In later games in the series, some supernatural creatures like the Eclipse King and fan-favorite Akima the Reluctant Oni reappear. A few mortal characters have done the same, most notably Inspector Takahashi, who appears in several games at various stages of his life, from young boy to police academy recruit to weathered veteran.

As of this writing, the most recent game in the series is Selenic Mysteries: Cruise Ship Chaos (月の女神の伝説:ミステリークルーズ; Tsuki no megami no densetsu: Misuterīkurūzu), which was released in 2018 for the Nintendo 3DS as a physical cartridge in Japan but as an eShop exclusive in North America and Europe.

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Snow Leopard Spot
We like to think that this is the coolest “spot” to be in the whole zoo! Our award-winning combination of molded concrete rock and industrial freezer-moderated cold has led to a successful captive breeding program here at the park, where we not have more snow leopards than there are in the wild! Come meet all six of them today.

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Grizzly Bend
We think you’ll find this exhibit quite “bear-able!” Lovingly detailed to resemble the grizzly bear’s native habitat, the enclosure features a number of donor-selected accoutrements, including a beach ball dispenser, Goldilocks house, and lion-bear-tiger motif mural. If you are interested in becoming a major donor and taking over sponsorship of the exhibit, please contact the Zoological Parks LLC Development Office.

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Macaque Spring
Japanese Macaques are famous as one of two species of primates on the Japanese islands to use hot springs for exclusionist bathing and socializing! Our replica hot springs capture this in every detail, especially during the winter months! By popular demand, and after several incidents, visitors may avail themselves of “Mancacque Springs” next door for a full-featured imitation hot spring experience.

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Timber Wolf Run
Our wolf pack is a perennial favorite of visitors, and definitely something to howl about! Of note, as required by the settlement between Zoological Parks LLC and the Baker family, we emphasize that these are wild animals and are not to be approached, petted, belly rubbed; wolves do not do “zoomies” and any sustained charge is likely an acceleration to attack speed.

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