To the Moon
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|To the Moon|
To the Moon is a role-playing adventure video game developed and published by Freebird Games. It is the fourth video game by Canadian designer Kan Gao, and the first commercial production by his indie game development team Freebird Games, and was designed using the RPG Maker XP engine. To the Moon was originally released in November 2011. Initially released for Microsoft Windows, it was later ported to OS X and Linux in January 2014, and for Android and iOS devices in May 2017.
To the Moon is built on the RPG Maker XP engine, which is used to create 16-bit 2D role-playing games, in the style of Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy. However, unlike a typical RPG, To the Moon has no battle system (aside from a joke battle near the beginning), inventory system or party system. The game's focus, being a more story-driven game, is around puzzle solving, interpreting information from the subject Johnny's life, and finding ways to get deeper into his memories.
Gameplay is primarily about exploring Johnny's memories to find significant objects and collect energy from them to strengthen the memory and connect to a more distant one, from Johnny's old age leading back to his childhood. Occasionally, the player will have to explore Johnny's house and the surrounding area for certain clues, if they cannot gather enough energy from a certain memory, or don't know how to proceed to a further one.
Once the items are all gathered and the player has seen all the memories, they can connect certain objects that exist across two different memories to move freely between them. At this point, the player can begin manipulating the memories, by changing around characters, objects and events, to make Johnny believe he had achieved his dream of going to the moon.
Sigmund Corp. uses a technology that can create artificial memories. They offer this as a "wish fulfillment" service to people on their death beds. Since these artificial memories conflict with the patient's real memories, the procedure is only legal to do on people without much time left to live.
Sigmund Corp. employees Dr. Eva Rosalene and Dr. Neil Watts are tasked with fulfilling the lifelong dream of the dying Johnny Wyles. Johnny wants to go to the moon, although he doesn't know why. The doctors insert themselves into an interactive compilation of his memories and traverse backwards through his life via mementos. With each leap to an important moment in Johnny's memories, they learn more about him and what brought him to his current position in life, including his largely unhappy marriage to his childhood sweetheart, River. Upon reaching his childhood, the doctors attempt to insert his desire to go to the moon. In theory, Johnny's mind would create new memories based on that desire, and Johnny would die believing he lived without any regrets.
However, Johnny's mind does not create the new memories as planned. Dr. Watts and Dr. Rosalene must solve the problem to fulfill Johnny's dying wish of going to the moon.
Eventually, it is revealed that Johnny and River met as children at a carnival. They looked at the night sky and made up a constellation: a rabbit with the moon as its belly. The two agreed to meet at the same place the following year, with Johnny promising that should he forget or get lost, the two would "regroup on the moon". That night, Johnny gives River a toy platypus which River treasures for the rest of her life. Shortly after, Johnny's twin brother Joey was killed in an accident. Johnny's mother gave him beta blockers to induce memory loss of the tragic event, also causing him to forget his first encounter with River. He later happened to meet her again, and eventually marry her, and River only realized later on that he had forgot their meeting at the carnival. (Johnny confessed that he approached her in school because she was different, and revealed that he thought that was their first meeting) River, diagnosed as an adult with Asperger syndrome (although never directly stated, the game references Tony Attwood, who wrote numerous books about Aspergers), did not tell Johnny directly about their first meeting; instead, she tried to indirectly jostle his memories by cutting her hair and crafting paper bunnies, including a dual-colored one representing the constellation they made up during their first encounter, combined with the blue-and-yellow dress she wore on their wedding. River was unable to make Johnny remember before she died, and Johnny was left with lingering guilt and an inexplicable desire to go to the Moon.
In the present, Rosalene and Watts eventually implant a memory sequence in which Joey did not die, and lived on to become a popular author, and Johnny did not meet River again until they started working together at NASA. As the comatose real-life Johnny begins to die, he imagines going on a moon mission with River. During the launch, River holds out a hand to him. The moon appears through a window on the ship, and Johnny takes her hand as his heart monitor flatlines.
In the epilogue, Johnny and River eventually get married, and build and retire to the same house where the real-life Johnny and River lived. Back in the real world, Rosalene and Watts look to Johnny's grave, which is placed adjacent to River’s. They reveal to the audience that Johnny willed the house to his caregiver, Lily. Rosalene receives a phone call, and the two move on to their next patient. While Watts is leaving, he stops and the screen briefly flashes red, the same way it did when Johnny felt pain. Watts takes some painkillers, then follows Rosalene to their next adventure.
Development and release
To the Moon was developed and published by Freebird Games. It was designed using the RPG Maker XP engine, as first commercial production the indie game development team. To the Moon was originally released on the author's website and various digital download portals. It was made later also available via major digital distribution sites like Steam (November 2011) or gog.com (June 2012). Originally available only for Microsoft Windows, in January 2014 To the Moon was also released for OS X and Linux with the Humble Bundle X. Edward Rudd ported the game with the open source RPG Maker XP game engine recreation MKXP. Later this engine was also used for ports to other systems like the OpenPandora handheld. In May 2017, To the Moon was also released on Android and iOS by X.D. Network Inc. with the cross-platform game engine developed by Unity Technologies.
Fan-made language translations are also available for the game — supported languages are: Chinese, German, Italian, Spanish, French, Polish, Russian, Brazilian Portuguese, Vietnamese, Dutch, Korean, and Turkish.
On August 22, 2012, Freebird Games announced a second installment of the To the Moon series. While not a direct continuation of the previous story, some familiar faces returned, such as Dr. Watts and Dr. Rosalene. The game, titled A Bird Story, was released in November 2014. A full sequel, titled Finding Paradise is scheduled to be released sometime in 2017.
A downloadable minisode was released on December 31, 2013, both as a standalone download and as part of the Steam and GOG.com releases. This episode centers on Dr. Rosalene and Dr. Watts and features a holiday party at their local Sigmund Corp. office. A second minisode was released on February 18, 2015.
The soundtrack of To the Moon was praised by many critics. It features a theme song by Laura Shigihara ("Everything's Alright"), with the rest being composed by Kan Gao. The soundtrack was released on November 4, 2011 on Bandcamp, and as of the latter quarter of 2014 is now available via Steam as downloadable content. The soundtrack includes 31 tracks at a total length of 53:05 minutes.
On August 2, 2016, Gao announced that a mobile remake of the game was being developed by X.D. Network Inc.. After about a year, the remake released for Android and iOS on 12 May 2017. The remake features high-definition graphics, as opposed to the 16-bit graphics of the original PC release, although the soundtrack and dialogue will remain identical to the original.
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To the Moon has received generally positive reviews. Critics, while noting that the gameplay itself was lacking, praised the story and music. The game holds an average rating of 81 out of 100 on Metacritic.
In GameSpot's 2011 Game of the Year awards, To the Moon was given the "Best Story" award, which was won against Catherine, Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective, Portal 2, and Xenoblade Chronicles. which were also voted in the same category. To the Moon was also nominated in the categories of "Best Music", "Most Memorable Moment", "Best Writing/Dialogue", "Best Ending", and "Song of the Year".
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- "Most Memorable Moment". GameSpot. December 19, 2011. Retrieved December 19, 2011.
- "Best Writing/Dialogue". GameSpot. December 19, 2011. Retrieved December 19, 2011.
- "Best Ending". GameSpot. December 19, 2011. Retrieved December 19, 2011.
- "Song of the Year". GameSpot. December 19, 2011. Retrieved December 19, 2011.