Alice in Metroidvanialand
The concept of ‘Metroidvania’ is tossed around quite a lot now, with the eShop even having a suggestions tab for the genre. It’s primary platforming and exploration mechanics are quite old school, but modern 2D titles can slap on the idea that it might be like Super Metroid or Symphony of the Night while doing little to implement the concepts properly. While last year Hollow Knight brought a whole new realm of cool and creativity to the genre, Momodora – Reverie Under the Moonlight made me remember while I fell in love with it’s tough but fair style of gameplay.
In Momodora you play as magical girl Kaho, a priestess on a quest to stop a curse that has been corrupting her land. The primary method of attack she uses is a chain of enchanted maple leaves simulating close quarters combat, with a bow and arrow as back up to take down ranged enemies. There are opportunities to pick up items to alter your approach to fighting, and a healing system closely resembling the estus flasks of Dark Souls. Some parts of the game feel easy while others can give you a little bit of a challenge, but there are harder modes including a 1 hit KO option which offers a NES level experience of frustration.
The world of Momodora is crafted with this gorgeous pixel art style that is astounding in detail. From the atmospheric depth of the areas surrounding the haunted city, character movements and attacks down to their facial expressions, it’s all handcrafted in a way that makes it one of the most impressive works of pixel animation in the past few years. While this one element makes the game look perfect, there are other gaps that make the experience feel slightly amateurish.
The sound design especially feels like there is a lot of opportunity for repetition, with the first few levels being bombarded with similar ‘pixie girl’ screams from each enemy, along with the piercing scream Kaho makes everytime she dies. The soundtrack is there, but it is hard to call it memorable. While at first the fanservice was kind of weird for me, but as I continued through it became clear that they went with the right kind of level for this scale of game.
Getting back to basics
Momodora : RUTM is the fourth game in the series by developer Bombservice, who funded it partly with Patreon donations. The earlier games have a striking resemblance to Cave Story, with sequels evolving to a stage where they have a look and feel of a super sweet, fanservice laden Castlevania title. Instead of whips, you’ve got maple leaves and instead of Dracula, you’ve got a queen to fight amongst a delegation of big-eyed cute witches, and instead of a bat you turn into a cat.
The way it really makes it feel comparable is in the level design. While the modern Metroidvania attempts to give freedom in all directions, the original games gave mostly the illusion of freedom with you having to progress mostly in the way the game is nudging you. Momodora feels tight and mostly linear, which condenses most of it into a highly playable and engaging sidescroller.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: A review code for Momodora: Reverie Under The Moonlight Review was provided by Dangen Entertainment.