To the Moon is one of the best story games I’ve ever played. It’s sweet, funny, and has an element of Truth that makes a story worth telling. It has a great theme song, and it’s only about six hours long. It even has Animorphs references. My one real complaint is that the “gameplay” part is a little forced—silly puzzles that are more frustrating than challenging.
Six years later, creator Kan Gao has “finally” released the sequel, Finding Paradise. Does it live up to the original?
I’m going to say yes. It’s maybe a bit less sweet and a bit less sad, and I wasn’t as happy with the way it ended as I was with To the Moon, but these are all complaints within the framework. It feels very natural as another story in the To the Moon “Sigmund Corp” universe, and I was totally satisfied with this as a sequel. (Except now I’ve been made curious once again about the tiny bits of continuity between games, and I bet it’ll be a while before the third one is out.) And there’s even another great theme song by Laura Shigihara.
Speaking of Shigihara, I’ve been comparing Finding Paradise to To the Moon, but I can’t help but compare it to the other story game I just played, Rakuen. These aren’t quite as close, but since Gao and Shigihara are friends and collaborators and both games were made with RPG Maker, it’s not a surprise that they’d end up in the same space.
I’d say Gao’s games have an edge over Rakuen in being tightly focused on one story. Rakuen gets mileage (and credit) out of being able to tell five compelling stories, plus having a bunch of bonus fun content hidden in corners, but both To the Moon and Finding Paradise can afford to shape the entire world around the story and the main character, which leads to the game feeling focused in a way that Rakuen does not. Finding Paradise is actually even better at this than To the Moon, to the point where I think Gao must have had some great playtesters: at one point I wandered up away from the main plot and ran into a dead end, and not only did one of the characters complain about it, but the other made a fake treasure chest to “fix” it. And Finding Paradise never felt fetch-quest-y to me, which was one of my primary complaints about Rakuen. That said, some of Rakuen’s stories may have actually hit me harder than Finding Paradise’s, though none quite as strong as To the Moon’s.
If you haven’t played To the Moon, Finding Paradise does stand alone, but you’ll miss some of the callbacks and some of the character development for the few recurring characters. (And since I liked To the Moon better, why wouldn’t you just play that one first?)
So yes, if you like bittersweet story games, go play To the Moon, and then if you like To the Moon, go play Finding Paradise.
EDIT: And if you’re getting interested in the bits of metastory, like I am…play the free “minisodes” that take place between the two main games. The second one in particular all but confirms one of my suspicions…