To The Moon: The First Game That Made Me Cry

I’ve played lots of games. RPGs, RTS games, FPS games, and MMOs. This following game is by far the most unique game I’ve ever played. I don’t even want to call it a game–it’s an interactive narrative. It was made with RPG Maker, got a lot of buzz because of its heart-warming, tear-inducing story, and ultimately got famous by word of mouth. The game I’m talking about is “To The Moon”, by Freebird Games. Inspired heavily by Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Memento, and invoking an atmosphere similar to Inception (NOTE: the game was made first, way before Inception hit theaters worldwide), this instant indie-classic is a strong proof that games can be used as an effective medium for storytelling.

You play either as Eva or Neil, changing between the two characters whenever the plot needs it. Eva and Neil are scientists whose specialty is granting the final wishes of dying people by changing their memories. They cannot, however, simply plant a memory to a client’s mind. They must make sure, that the memory to be implanted is directly connected to the client’s deepest memories and desires. In order to do this, they travel through the client’s memories in search of clues to make the process of implanting memories seamless with the client’s own memories.
In “To The Moon”. Eva and Neil are tasked to grant the final wish of a dying elderly man named John. Much to their frustration, John does not know why his final wish is to go to the moon. Eva and Neil soon undertakes a journey through the memories of Johnny (starting from the latest memory to the earliest ones), eventually uncovering long-forgotten memories, and towards the end, makes the player face the issue of whether changing memories is proper or not. Without giving away any more spoilers, it is pretty much safe to say that if you’ve watched Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, you will feel at home in “To The Moon”.

"To The Moon" highly resembles 1990s SNES Japanese RPGs in terms of graphics and controls.
“To The Moon” looks a lot like an SNES JRPG (Japanese RPG). The graphics are highly similar to Final Fantasy 6, Chrono Trigger, and other old-school RPGs. This is natural since the game was made through RPG Maker (specifically RPG Maker XP). I have tried RPG Maker (RPG Maker VX), and to be honest, even though the game looks so old-school, creating a complete game with it, let alone a good one, is highly difficult. This proves how much love was given to the creation of “To The Moon”.
Going back, you do not really do anything in “To The Moon”. Aside from simple puzzles and fetch/fed ex “quests”, “To The Moon” is a point-and-click game at its core. The game is more about discovering the memories of Johnny. As a player, you have little to no power in affecting the game’s ending.

The game's strongest point is its story.
The game’s strongest point is definitely its story. The plot is a mixture of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Memento. Johnny’s love story drew inspiration from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, while his desire to go to the moon and the scientists’ quest to find why are heavily drawn from Memento. The comparison with Inception is purely coincidental, as the makers of “To The Moon” tried to rationalize the processes of memory changing, eventually coming up with something like this: trying to find the most basic desire and implanting it to the client’s memory, but making sure that the new memory is highly coherent with the existing ones. This sounds a lot like Inception, but as I have mentioned earlier, this is coincidental since “To The Moon” was made before Inception. The likeness of the two can be further attributed to the fact that one of the game’s main inspiration, Memento, was made by Christopher Nolan, who was mainly responsible for Inception. Christoper Nolan’s works have highly similar undertones, which somehow explains the game’s likeness to Inception.
Going back, “To The Moon” makes you cry. Right from the beginning, I knew there was something heart-warming to be expected from the game’s plot. I knew that I might eventually shed a tear or two, but the game really captivated me to continue on. The atmosphere of the game’s plot, plus the nostalgic graphics it has, draws you to finish the game, even though almost no gameplay can be derived from it.
Another thing that kept me going is its soundtrack. The soundtrack is extremely well done for an indie game. They also add a lot to the atmosphere. Play the game until the end and you will understand as to how the soundtrack helped make me cry. Haha.

Although the story is good, the dialogue needs a lot of editing.
Although the game has a very strong plot, I feel that the dialogue created for it is mediocre. I have primarily two problems with the game’s dialogue: (1) grammatical errors/translations, and (2) unnecessarily rude comments from the scientists, specifically Neil. This however, is only observable at the first half of the game. By the game’s third act, you will warm up with Neil, as he has warmed up with the memories of Johnny. My take on this is that Neil was made to reflect the players’ attitude towards games like this. He is the character that most of us will most likely relate to. In the game, he shows the most progression throughout the story, and he has the most flexible and believable personality, unlike his counterpart, Eva, who for the most part, was cast a “professional” scientist (you will eventually warm up to her, too, albeit much farther into the story).
You will never regret journeying through Johnny's memories.
You will never regret playing “To The Moon”. You start the journey with a few clues, but by the end, when you have pieced together all the missing puzzle pieces, the game transforms from a JRPG spoof to a legitimate emotional journey that movies like “Big Fish” feature. “To The Moon” is arguably one of the best games released in 2011, and I highly recommend that you play this game.
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IGN: 7.5
Gamespot: 8.0