Dead Moon for the TurboGrafx-16 is a horizontally scrolling space shoot-'em-up not unlike Gradius or R-Type. Throughout each of the game's six levels, you make use of a variety of lasers, bombs, or shields to guide your ship through multiple waves of alien ships and eventually destroy the boss waiting at the end of the level. The graphics and audio are some of the best you'll see out of the TurboGrafx-16. If you're a shooter fan, you'll appreciate how easy it is to outfit your ship with weapons and upgrades. These make it possible to survive the swarms of ships every level throws at you. Unfortunately, the bland level layouts and uninspired boss encounters ultimately outweigh the game's better aspects. This makes it tough to recommend Dead Moon over the majority of other shooters that are available for the TurboGrafx-16 and for the Virtual Console service as a whole.
To its credit, Dead Moon is pleasing to the eyes and ears. The space and city backdrops are rich with detail, while the multiple parallax scrolling layers impart a good sense of depth and speed. Some of the alien ship designs look a bit too generic, but the game doesn't give you much time to lament that fact because the screen is always swarming with enemy ships and bullets. The frenzied action is accompanied by juicy explosions and an intricate techno-rock soundtrack that puts the typical TurboGrafx-16 game to shame.
Because the screen is constantly full of hazardous stuff, the game is brutally challenging. Thankfully, that challenge is offset somewhat by the weapon and upgrade orbs that enemy missiles frequently leave behind when you destroy them. Some orbs will outfit your ship with homing missiles and shield pods. Solid-colored orbs change your main weapon and let you swap among six-way bullets, a forward spread gun, a wave shot, and a big blue laser. Collecting multiple orbs of the same color will upgrade your weapons one level. Conversely, getting hit will cause your weapons to decrease one level, which means you can usually survive two or three hits before you lose a life. You also get a limited stock of bombs with each ship.
The problem with Dead Moon is that it's a one-trick pony. The screen is always full of enemies, but the level layouts are dull and the boss encounters are uninspired. Enemy ships appear in patterned groups, pop off a volley, and leave, while the backgrounds merely scroll by--apart from the rare asteroid or ship fragment. Shooters like Gradius and R-Type are memorable because they make you navigate through asteroid fields, rotating structures, or cramped tunnel runs. You won't encounter any of those things in Dead Moon. On top of that, the bosses--while large--hardly animate and don't do much except expel bullets or hurl themselves into a corner at predictable intervals. Every level feels like the one before it. Dead Moon simply doesn't justify the 600 Wii points you need to spend to play it on your Wii, especially when you factor in the lack of a two-player mode or any bonus modes.