Moonstone Island Switch Review – Portable Monster Farming

Moonstone Island Switch Review

Moonstone Island is finally on the Nintendo Switch! Any game that can be cleanly divided into discrete sessions like this is pretty much perfect for a portable console release. Better still, I’ve never played this game on PC. So my experience was doubly new and exciting. On the other hand, I’m not as familiar with the differences between versions. You can check out the original review here if you want to compare the two experiences.

The premise is simple enough. You’re being sent out on your own for a whole year. At the end of said year, you’ll be an alchemist? Or at least, more of an alchemist than when you started. While you do gain a lot of magical crafting skills, there are also monster-taming, farming, commerce, and social skills to hone. It doesn’t seem to matter which skills you hone, as your main quest only requires a year to go by. What you do with it is entirely up to you. I gravitated towards dungeon diving.

Moonstone Island Switch Review

To be clear, I love this level of freedom. There’s no pressure to achieve any specific goals, you’re free to succeed however you wish. I only discovered the dungeon quests because of a checklist that appears when each day wraps up. Said checklist is super effective at pushing you forward. You’re also motivated by the recipes you unlock. Finding out there was a better way to fly between islands? That kept me up until 1 AM a few times. Plus, actually unlocking that ability was very satisfying. Doing so made exploration even easier, which is another major motivator.

So Many Islands To Explore

Your world map is procedurally generated when you start. I didn’t realize how big it would be at first. But once you get that island-hopping glider, it all becomes clear. This place is huge! I instantly developed a burning desire to see every single island. But doing so requires whole tech trees’ worth of development in other areas. You need protective gear, stronger monsters, and ample supplies. Everything is connected in dozens of little ways.

Moonstone Island Switch Review

Although every system is complex and cool, the combat takes the cake in that department. Fights are card-based, with new cards assigned to your monsters as they gain levels. All the cards have complex interactions with one another, monster elements are a factor, and even items make a big difference. The battles are robust enough to be a game all on their own. To have farming, crafting, social links, and exploration added in as well? It’s downright preposterous, how big Moonstone Island feels.

Rich, Robust Battles to Fight

Every NPC is a source of quests. You can bond with them, find monsters for them, and even sell them resources. Each island can have mines and dungeons to explore. There are seals to recover, memory shards to collect, and monsters to tame. All the monsters can be raised with custom card decks and stats. You can build more houses and farms on different islands. I can’t overstate how stupidly big Moonstone Island can be, if you’re up for it. That said, it’s not perfect by any means.

Moonstone Island Switch Review

The moonstones, for example. They’re the game’s most precious resource, you need them for so many projects, and they’re near impossible to acquire fast enough. One moonstone drops per island per season. You need three stones to make an ingot, and you need ingots for endless reasons. I was constantly running out, with new moonstones being hours away in some cases. The only recourse I found was through dungeon diving. Chests can drop them, you see. But mines and dungeons don’t refresh with time. So you’re constantly pushing further to find more stones. It’s honestly pretty exhausting at times.

Moonstone Island also gets a little choppy on the Switch. My game never froze while playing, but larger islands, busier islands, would cause the framerate to suffer sometimes. To be fair, this was happening before the game’s proper release date on the console. Things may get patched up in the near future. But it feels worth mentioning regardless. There are other small issues, but nothing a patch or two won’t clear up.

Mostly Smooth Sailing

I’m impressed by the monster design, but I don’t love it. What I mean is, the pixel art is clean, crisp, and colorful. On the other hand, the designs don’t blow me away. The level design is the same way. Everything looks lovely, but not in a memorable way. It just sort of washes over you with a pleasant sigh. So I appreciate the visuals and animation on a technical level, at least. On the other hand, the mechanical design takes all of my focus anyway, so I’m not fussed about it.

This game feels perfect for portable play sessions. I almost never use my Switch in handheld mode, but this was an exception. I loved firing it up, getting in a day or two worth of labour, and shutting it down. The quest system, combat, and need to explore kept me coming back. I wish moonstones were a bit easier to find, but otherwise? Moonstone Island is an excellent time. I highly recommend checking it out on the Switch.

***A Nintendo Switch code was provided by the publisher***

The Good

  • Game map is gigantic
  • So much to do
  • Combat is complex and satisfying

The Bad

  • Minor framerate dips
  • Moonstones maybe too rare?
  • Visuals good but bland