Lost Moon: On the unused ending of Moon: Remix RPG Adventure
One of the reasons why Moon: Remix RPG Adventure is an anti-RPG is because it subverts the tropes of 2D-sprite based RPGs such as Dragon Quest. It does this is by first having you go through the banal actions of a stereotypical RPG called Fake Moon. You loot, kill monsters, and gain experience points for the sake of getting powerful. You think all this is part of your campaign to save the world from a dragon. However, your actions in Fake Moon impact Real Moon in a negative way. For example, the equipment you obtain from a dresser in Fake Moon are clothes you barged in and stole from a bar in Real Moon. However, an important scene in Fake Moon that does not occur in Real Moon is the final battle with the dragon. The reason for this is because it was part of an ending I call Lost Moon because it was scrapped in favor of a different ending. A dream sequence alluding to this ending was left in the game. In it, characters both familiar and unknown beg you to save them by opening a mysterious door. The last character is a shadowy boy who morphs into a dragon before asking for your help. This iteration of the dragon is never seen nor mentioned again. Spoilers ahead.
The game begins with a boy sitting down to play a new RPG called Moon. He spends hours destroying monsters and leveling up as he makes his way to the dragon. At the final boss, his mother orders him to shut off the game and go to bed. The console turns back on and the television sucks the boy into the game’s world, Love-De-Gard. As the boy, you meet an elderly woman named Gramby who mistakes you for her missing grandson. You assume his role by wearing his clothes so you can interact with other people. In a dream, Queen Aphrodite tells you to obtain love by helping people and reviving the souls of slain animals. By doing so, you rectify the damage you caused when you played Fake Moon. Eventually, you learn that a dragon has swallowed the moonlight and you must gain enough love so you can save Love-De-Gard by opening a door on the moon. To get there, you need to fulfill the king’s plan of building a rocket by collecting five parts and giving them to Dr. Hager.
After building the rocket, familiar characters ensure your trip to the moon is successful. Upon landing, the animals you rescued surround you. Inside the castle, you encounter the queen and the dragon who are two disembodied heads atop a pile of EEPROMs. You have to prevent the hero from killing them by opening the door of light. Despite many attempts, you are unable to open the door. The situation turns dire when the hero arrives and slaughters everyone, including you. The boy’s mom interrupts the game and tells him to stop playing. You have two options: keep playing or stop? This is a test to see if the player has learned the game’s overall message, which is: shut off the game console and go spread love and kindness.
There was a sense of mystery as I traveled to the moon in my rocket ship. I did not know what was going to happen when I opened the door. Talking to the queen and dragon in the strange-looking castle as serene music played made the experience feel otherworldly. Of course, that experience was interrupted when the hero arrived. I thought I had gotten a bad ending after failing to open the door. Watching the hero kill the animals I spent so much time saving made me distraught. After the hero destroyed everyone, the game asked me if I wanted to continue playing. I picked yes, thinking I would go back into the game and somehow save all the slain characters. Instead, I stared at the static of the in-game television, and the word “end” appeared on my screen. I tapped every button on my Switch Lite to see if I could trigger anything. Nothing happened. I restarted the game and obtained more love. Nothing changed. After watching the ending again, the game asked me if I wanted to continue playing. I noticed different sounds played depending on which option I highlighted. I could hear the sounds of the game when I highlighted yes and the sounds of nature when I highlighted no. I realized trying to open the door of light in Real Moon was not the way to save the inhabitants of Love-De-Gard. I had to open the door in the boy’s bedroom by selecting no. Light began to pour in as the boy opened doors and windows in his home. In Real Moon, the door of light opened and the characters escaped the game. As the credits played, I saw images of the characters mingling with the real world. The game thanked me for playing and ordered me to shut the game off.
I enjoyed the ending, but one thing that struck me was how abrupt it seemed. Until I reached the castle, I thought my objective was to investigate the disappearance of the moonlight. Instead, Real Moon was in danger of ceasing to exist. If the hero killed the dragon, the story presented in Fake Moon would come to an end and the game would turn off. I find it surprising that such an important scene is not depicted on a chip as a form of foreshadowing. The chip you get from the haunted house serves no purpose because it hints at the dragon’s tail, one of two locations the unused ending takes place in. This chip could have been scrapped or replaced with one that hints at the opening of the door of light. Another thing that struck me about the ending was that I did not get to see the hero’s fate after the door of light was opened. Not only does he not show up in the credits, but you do not get to know much about him in the game. You can only learn about his past by obtaining the white-feathered arrow. At first, the item seems useless, and none of the characters know what it is. However, it is the catalyst for the hero’s maniacal behavior. If you show the arrow to Bilby at the bar, he will tell you that the hero is wearing cursed armor and will fight until he dies. If you show it to the minister, he will pretend not to recognize it. At Midnight University, the owl will tell you that ground-dwellers (the residents of Love-De-Gard) and moon-dwellers (the animals you save) once lived in harmony. For whatever reason, the ground-dwellers forgot the moon-dwellers existed. The people from the city created a hero that would kill the moon-dwellers and the dragon. How this was done is shown on one of the game’s nine chips. It depicts an arrow being shot at a house and someone turning into the hero as a result. According to a document on the minister’s desk, it was he who devised the plan to fire the arrow. This reveals that the hero is a sympathetic character that needed help the most. It would have been cool if helping the hero escape his cursed armor was a puzzle you could attempt to solve. The hero would have his own routine, and his hostile attitude could have been a challenge you had to circumvent. Since the hero is such an important character, helping him would have rewarded you with a significant amount of love. Unfortunately, the hero is an antagonist whose past and conclusion are barely touched upon by the game’s end.
One character who is barely mentioned and expounded is Gramby’s grandson. The unused ending reveals that he was the one chosen to be the hero by the white arrow. You reunite the grandson with Gramby and he recounts a nightmare in which monsters attacked him. This nightmare is Fake Moon since the monsters you fight are as hostile as they would be in a stereotypical RPG. Gramby tells her grandson that he must atone for his actions by healing injured people. After doing so, he will be killed. Many characters form a line waiting to be healed. Two notable characters are a samurai who will not stop bleeding and a soldier yearning for his mother instead of defending his country. The grandson evolves into the dragon you see in Fake Moon as he heals the injured characters. Afterward, he tells you that the hero version of himself will kill him in a looping scenario. As a result, the tale of the dragon and the hero will never end. As predicted, the hero arrives and kills the dragon by beheading him.
The two endings have noticeable differences. The unused ending is much darker in tone and lacks the metafictional qualities the original has. Similarly, it places more emphasis on concluding a story rather than imparting a message to the player. However, I find it more poignant than freeing the characters from the confines of their world. I also think it makes better use of the plot elements that are barely touched upon in the game. However, I understand why it was not used. It may have been incongruous with the game’s humorous tone. Love — the theme of the game — is not mentioned or used at all. Perhaps Love-De-Lic thought the ending they used conveyed the game’s message more appropriately.
In an interview with Yoshiro Kimura and Kazuyuki Kurashima, they considered adding the unused ending to the Switch version but decided not to. I think it is a shame because it would have given players who played the game previously an incentive to play it again. Likewise, it would have made this version feel definitive. As much as I am fascinated with the unused ending, I think it is unnecessarily dark and players might have found it too jarring had it been used. Gramby sentencing her own grandson to death seems out of character. I think a more cohesive conclusion could have borrowed elements from both endings. You stop the hero from killing the dragon by breaking his curse, thereby freeing the boy from the armor. Gramby reunites with her grandson and you receive a lot of love as a reward. With that task finished, you travel to the moon, meet the queen, and open the door of light. During the credits, you see Gramby, Tao, and the grandson in the real world. This not only fleshes out the hero and the grandson, but it also uses the metafictional elements from the original ending. Ultimately, I find the original ending satisfying because it corresponds with the game’s overall message: Gain love, not levels. It is unfortunate we did not get to experience the third side of the game hidden beneath Fake Moon and Real Moon — Lost Moon.