Lunar Assault 64

Lunar Assault 64 is a Nintendo 64 homebrew game by the Daniel Savage & team and released on 13 December 2020. It is a 3rd/1st person shooter where you have to save the moon from lunar beasts. LA64 was submitted for the 64brew game jam 2020 , and won 3rd place, tied with The Swoop 64. Fantastic!

You can download the ROM from the download page for this homebrew game by using the password LADF or see the source code on Github and download from Drive (PAL, NTSC).

Lunar Assault 64 story and gameplay

Lunar Assault 64 is the first of the games released for the 64brew Game Jam 2020 that I’m looking at that has a distinct story with a plot that progresses as you complete levels.

The story

In the shitty future, Emperor Reagan the 4th attempted economic stimulus by setting interest rates to -30%. This resulted in the average asking price of a studio apartment inflating to like, three bajillion dollars.

To avoid wage increases, software companies decided to pump the moon with breathable air a build housing for their employees on there.

Angered by humanity’s arrogance, the divine spirit of the moon released the lunar beasts to chase away the newfound earthlings’ residence from her domain.

To repel the giants threatening the tech parks, humanity constructed the lunar satellite laser array. The orbiting cannons lacked precision though, and required spotters on the ground to precisely aim for the lunar beasts’ weak spots.

Naturally, these spotters needed passion for the job.

Lunar Assault 64 intro cinematic

The game begins with an animated cinematic sequence in the form of a voiced FMV that explains the history behind the need for lunar spotters.

The game then introduces our main character, Wren Buster, who is starting a new job as a spotter. After doing some simulation training at home, she starts her first day with excitement alongside her tardy, disinterested and unnamed manager. He sends you off to kill lunar beasts one by one in order to save the residents of the moon.

Spoilers

As you complete missions, Wren learns that this job wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. She would prefer to research lunar beasts as a hobby than fight them as a full-time job.

Lunar Assault 64 gameplay

The objective in LA64 is to destroy lunar beasts one by one, each of which have several weak spots that need to be shot. The game shifts between a 3rd person perspective where you can move around and better navigate the terrain, and a 1st person view where you can target the weak points and attack.

The beasts move around, and the weak spots sometimes hide behind terrain or the beats themselves, which makes them hard to target. The game is all about positioning yourself to a point where you can have a clear shot, and timing it so that you can charge the satellite laser at the same time.

Destroy all weak spots, and the level is complete. Take too long, and the game is over.

Levels

There are four levels in Lunar Assault 64.

Level 1 – Simulation. This one doesn’t have any beast in it, but there are a few targets floating around the stage. The stage itself is crater-shaped so the targets don’t really have anywhere to hide.

Level 2 – Mark VI. The beast walks around a small central hill, so you’ll have to run around to catch it from the front.

Level 3 – Mark II. This diamond-shaped beast floats around a tall central mountain that is difficult to scale, so you have to be patient for an opportunity or scale to the mountain for a close-range but inaccurate shot.

Level 4 – Mark VII. The final enemy you have to contend with is an agile beast that jumps around and tries to hide behind one of several small hills surrounding the area.

‘Size’ theme

Size plays into how the game plays since the size of the lunar beasts are gigantic and the player is so small. In a way, it reminds me of Breath of the Wild’s giant robotic creatures or Shadow of the Colossus in how they dwarf everything around them.

Daniel also mentions in the game jam interview that there is a more subtle interpretation in that Wren has trouble coping with the size and scope of the responsibilities she’s taking on.

Credits

There are a lot of people involved with making this game, more than the others we’ve seen so far.

  • Development work
    • Daniel Savage
  • Voice acting
    • Natasha Miner
    • Clayton Savage
    • William Beltran
  • Quality Assurance
    • Adrian Spetz
    • Pocket Racer
    • networkfusion
    • Rocky
    • Vanadium
    • korgeaux
  • Music
    • Clair de Lune – Claude Debussy
    • Cello Suite No. 1 – JS Bach
    • harbour, ARENE01 – Morusque
  • Intro FMV assets
    • Solar System Scope
    • Claude Debussy
    • Daniel Savage
  • HQVM question answerer
    • CrashOveride
  • UNFLoader Development
    • Buu342
  • Special Thanks
    • Hazematman
    • WadeMalone
    • Allie
    • Nabile
    • gamemasterplc
    • streams
    • Vanadium
    • joeldipops
    • Vatuu
    • lambertjamesd
    • Zest
    • kivan117
  • Extra Special Thanks
    • Natasha Miner
    • N64brew Jam Team
    • Alyssa Savage
    • Rose-Lynne Savage
    • my Mom and Dad

Conclusion and review

Lunar Assault 64 can be described in one word – charming. Every polygon rendered is oozing with effort, yet not taking itself so seriously that it falls flat.

Story

I haven’t really mentioned it in the rest of the post, but the intro pokes fun at a possible future of corporate and government stupidity. It shows how a ridiculous concept like lunar data centres came come to be and how they must be kept running despite always being under attack. The solution? Blast nature with lasers.

The dialogue with Wren and her boss is also great, it shows the contrast between someone who is a book-smart rookie and a life-tired middle manager who just wants to get the day over. She learns that the career she chose is tougher than it looks from a distance, and he doesn’t really seem to care for anything until Wren decides to leave. I’m sure that all of use have experienced something like this at some point in our lives.

The only thing about the story that seems to be a loose end is that we don’t know what Wren decided to do after she left. It seems as though she spent a lot of time focusing on this career path only to abandon it rather quickly. It’s a great opportunity for a nice joke to wrap up the story that was unfortunately missing.

Gameplay

The concept is great – in this shooter you’re not the one doing the shooting, you’re providing aim for someone else. The delayed bullets are quite hard to aim, but that’s an issue with all N64 FPS games. Other games overcame it with an auto-targeting system, but that would make this a bit too easy. It takes a while to get used to, but the best way to aim is to use the joystick to make large sweeping movements, and then move with the D-pad for precision.

Speaking of – this is the only game I can think of that uses the left/middle controller configuration. Most games on the N64 make you hold the controller with the middle and right prongs or even the left and right prongs but Lunar Assault 64 control scheme stands out a little bit more because of this. The only problem is that pressing the A button during cutscenes is a bit awkward.

Moving around the game is weird. The character often gets stuck on slopes so you have to do jump your way upwards, kind like a platform game with slippy slopes except that you don’t slip down. It’s quite frustrating and feels unnatural.

It is quite fun to hit enemies and the difficulty in timing your shots does feel rewarding. I particularly like how the enemies change their strategy after being hit to hide ore move around more aggressively.

The only way to lose in Lunar Assault 64 is to run out of time. It’s a bit of a shame, it would be nice if there are something else to keep you on your toes like an enemy attack or stage hazards that make you watch your step a bit more.

The game itself is a bit short. It can be completed in about 15 minutes, most of which are cutscenes. It would be nice if the game was prolonged by maybe having a ‘hard mode’ in which the lunar beasts and their weak spots move faster, or if you have to face two beasts at once.

All my complaints are just nitpicking really, I just feel like a few changes could have made this great game a tad bit greater.

Overall

This is the first game that we’re looking at that combines an FMV sequence, 2D graphics and 3D graphics and it looks great. The 3D models are low-poly and the terrain is a bit jittery, but it all serves its purpose.

The game design is superb and ambitious, it just feels as though it was constrained by the limitations of the deadline. It is complete, it’s fun and it balances gameplay and story well but it lacks a little bit of polish that would have perfected it.

I look forward to what Daniel Savage and friends have in store for the future as it looks as bright as the sun on the moon’s surface.

Articles across the web

Lunar Assault 64 is a homebrew game for the N64 by Daniel Savage where you have to save the moon from lunar beasts in1st and 3rd person.
Article published on N64 Squid

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