Retro Requisition would like to draw your attention to a classic video game of old that we shall be formally requisitioning to be reborn, revisited, rebooted, or remastered. We will explain what makes each game such a timeless classic still worthy of attention, pitch what it would be all about and get all realistic by discussing the possibilities of it actually ever happening.
“We, the most awesome and fabulous team at That Not Current, have decreed in all our wisdom and obsession with the wonders of retro gaming, that the following game should be brought back to life and hereby submit this formal request to make it so:”
Moonstone: A Hard Days Knight (1991)
THE PLAYERS: Mindscape, Rob Anderson, Todd Prescott
PLATFORM(S): Amiga, Dos
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?
In the modern age it’s very easy to describe a game as a truly unique, mix-mash of genres the likes of which we have never seen before. But that is exactly what Moonstone: A Hard Days Knight was upon release at the dawn of the ’90s. Set in a fantasy-infused imagination of medieval England, the game allows up to four players to play as rival knights tasked by the druids with finding the mystical “moonstone” and returning it to Stonehenge. Gameplay follows four distinct styles; turn-based exploration for traversing the world map; real-time hack ‘n’ slash combat for battling enemies encountered; multiplayer combat duels when opposing players decided to attack each other; and traditional RPG elements for levelling up your character as well as buying, selling and discovering unique equipment and treasure. Add to that a splattering of gore that made Moonstone one of the bloodiest games ever released at the time, drawing outcry and protest in the USA that resulted in the developers removing it from the US market. Germany went a step further, and actually banned the game outright.
Moonstone received polarising reviews upon release, and never sold particularly well. Yet in the following years its reputation grew and today it is widely regarded as a truly vintage game, highly sought after and one of the defining games on the Amiga platform.
WHY DOES IT NEEDS TO BE REBORN?
When looking at a game that is over a quarter of a century old, there is always the fear that it really won’t hold up to modern review — that simply does not apply to Moonstone. It still works as an engaging, challenging, enjoyable adventure. Imagine then if you take that basis but modernise it to today’s world? The end result could be something truly spectacular. I’m absolutely struggling to think of any game that has ever existed that has the same feel and genre combination as Moonstone.
Given the host of fantasy RPG’s that have performed so well over the past few years (such as Skyrim and Dragon Age series) Moonstone modernised could be a revelation in today’s age.
And for a game that courted controversy in video gaming long before it was fashionable, this is a little slice of history that is far too easily forgotten in modern times. It more than deserves to made relevant again, especially in a world much more engaged with video gaming than we could have ever thought possible back in 1991.
Without question, Moonstone: A Hard Days Knight was way ahead of its time. It was one of the first games to feature hints during loading screens and also the inclusion of mini-games in the form of gambling in the taverns you can visit – another very early example of a now common feature in most RPGs. Each enemy type required a different approach, showing an early level of challenging gaming AI.
As someone who is a big board game fan (if you hadn’t already worked it our from my weekly Tabletop Tales column) Moonstone represents and captures a cherished time where the emerging video game industry was trying to replicate traditional tabletop games — and actually compete with them. Playing this game, it echoes of board games (such as Talisman and Dark Tower), spliced together with the action of video gaming. When I first played it as an nine-year-old, it felt as if it was tailored just for me, with the Monty Python and The Holy Grail reference and The Beatles pun just the icing on the cake. It was sublime; everything I could want and more.
No doubt, a total of 26 years on from it’s initial release it’s definitely about time such a revolutionary title gets the love it so richly deserves.
WHAT WOULD WE WANT TO SEE IN ANY REBIRTH?
Basically, the same core gameplay and setting.
While new shiny HD graphics would quickly get it up to speed as relevant for the modern age, the only essential modification would be more responsive controls for combat – the one valid criticism of the original game is they are complex and clunky. It could also do with a save feature, although the game can be polished off in about three or four hours by those initiated.
Maybe expanding each location could be a novel twist, introducing a Golden Axe-esque side scroller for each area? Developing the RPG elements further would also add to the game, with more than the original three stats to upgrade and more variation of equipment available. It would also be good to see greater diversity in your knights fighting style; sword and shield, dual-weapons, even ranged weapons. And, while not a necessity by any means, there is definitely scope to make the game map bigger, offering more places to visit and more to explore.
Amazingly, the original game shipped on three 1.4Mb disks, but still managed to include a fantastic soundtrack and a range of cut scenes, and the essence of both of these needs to be present in any rebirth. Part of Moonstone‘s allure is its presentation and styling, and any radical tangent away from that would hamper the feel of it.
The game almost feels like a precursor to the mobile games market, and I’d imagine it could be made compatible on that platform quite easily, and you’d have to imagine it should do very well.
Sure, if the option is there for an all out reboot or sequel then as long as the essence and feel of the game is maintained – most crucially keeping it as a 2D game – then sign me up! There is a lot of scope and lore in the world to enhance the tale and provide a fuller gaming experience worthy in the modern age on its own merit, not just through nostalgia fuelled sentiment.
IS IT LIKELY?
The game is over 25 years old now and in all that time it hasn’t been revisited, so hope dwindles by the day. However, the biggest stumbling block is publishers Mindscape called in quits back in 2011.
However, that in essence made the game abandonware and opened the door to would be developers to do their own reworking. And a lot have given it a go, which is well documented at the Holy Grail of Moonstone fan-sites, The Moonstone Tavern. However, none have managed to get over the final hurdle. The original developers Rob Anderson and Todd Prescott have publicly encouraged a few of the ongoing fan-run projects, but neither has given any indication whatsoever of any ambition to revisit the game.
It is now readily available from myabandonware.com, and patchy controls aside, it is still very much worth playing.
And we can only hope that someone, somewhere, someday decides that resuscitating such a fantastic, classic, retro game is worth it.