STAFF REVIEW of Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight (Xbox One)

Monday, March 27, 2017.
by Adam Dileva

Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight Box art I’ve never heard of the Momodora series until this review landed in my lap. What surprised me was that Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight is actually the fourth game in the series. Normally I’m up to speed on my Metroidvania games, but this completely flew under my radar. Even more surprising was how great the game is, not because I was expecting it to be poor in any way, but usually delivering such a polished game like Reverie Under the Moonlight takes some serious dedication and knowledge. Well, developer Bombservice seems to have that in spades, as this game can easily hang with some of the better Metroidvania’s out there.

Kaho is a priestess from the small village of Lun, forced to find a cure to a curse that is spreading across the land, and she has her work cut out for her before it’s too late for everyone. Armed with just her bow and trust leaf, she sets on her journey to find out what has happened and put a stop to this curse by travelling to the city to see the queen, but getting there won’t be so easy now that monsters have invaded the lands.

While not a completely original trope to rely on, the story is interesting enough, but the enjoyment from Momodora comes from its tight gameplay and not necessarily the narrative itself. Yes, there’s a story present, and you’ll make small footsteps in the direction to figuring out the who, what and why, but the gameplay is what will keep you coming back. I personally wish there was a little more emphasis on a much more fleshed out story, but the narrative is simply used as a backdrop for your journey and exploration, harking back to the classic days where gameplay was more important than anything else, a trait I’m sure Momodora is trying to emulate.

The first thing that’s going to jump out at you is the game's classic inspired 16-bit graphics, though clearly with a modern touch with its incredible amount of attention to detail and sharpness. You’ll move from district to district, each with its own distinct visual mood and setting. Much like other Metroidvania’s, each area has its own boss that allows you to gain an item, generally allowing you to access a previously locked area, progressing your journey forward.

The next thing you’ll probably come to realize after a little bit of play is how difficult it can be. Not excruciatingly punishing, but it’s certainly got some challenge to it. Health is a premium that can be extended with found items while instant kill pits and spikes litter the environment seemingly everywhere. Checkpoints are scattered around the world in the form of bells that need to be rung, and while not spread out too far from one another, if you forget to save at one and then die, you lose all the progress you’ve made since then, which can turn to frustration real quick.

In classic Metroidvania style, the world map is represented by connecting squares, and as you progress through it you’ll realize that many areas intertwine once you have the needed ability or item to progress past certain points. While the design is tried and true, I wasn’t a big fan of the amount of backtracking that was required before the warp ability comes into play, especially early on when you’re simply lost, trying to figure out where you need to go.

What I did appreciate though is the inclusion of an Easy mode, as this allows a little more leeway for those that either can’t commit a lot of time to become more proficient or simply don’t have the skills too. Easy mode gives you the maximum amount of health allowed from the beginning, which is a great help to get you accustomed to the gameplay. It’s an addition that opens up the game for newcomers to the genre or players who simply want to enjoy it in a different way.

Where Momodora excels is its action and combat, brought together in a wonderful package emphasized by the beautiful artwork and animation. Kaho uses her leaf for melee attacks, allowing you to achieve a 3-hit combo. Her bow allows for ranged attacks but is much weaker, but combining both weapons is how you’ll become much more proficient at Momodora’s combat trials ahead. The animations are wonderful, as no matter what combo or series of buttons you press, the transitions are smooth and have a large amount of detail.

In regards to traversing the game's levels, Kaho can double jump and dodge roll out of danger. Eventually you’ll even be able to transform into a cat to move faster and into smaller areas, unlocking their hidden secrets. Kaho controls exactly as she should, as I was never able to blame a death on spotty controls, even once. You’ll find numerous vendors across your journey, allowing you to spend your collected ‘munny’ (yes, it’s called that) on new items that will grant you new abilities and even passive bonuses.

Momodora is a visually striking game. Even though its visual style is cemented in the classic 16-bit era, the amount of detail put into even the smallest feature is very impressive. While the pallet is a limited one, the animation and how it flows is what makes it stand out amongst others that I’ve played going for the same sort of art style.

Even when you’re standing still you'll notice small animations, such as objects that move in the background, allowing for more immersion into Kaho’s world. My only complaint is that certain enemies blend into the background due to the limited color pallet, making for some cheap hits and deaths. The same goes for pits, as sometimes you’re able to move down to the next area, and others are actual pits of death, but they are difficult to discern from one another.

The audio is just as good, as each area has its own mood and tone that seemingly fits to the setting and story. While not composed by a full orchestra, the music is retro inspired, like its visuals, and brings me back to the days where a game’s soundtrack was just as memorable as its gameplay or story. The melodies change based on the setting, ranging from low key tunes to larger piano harmonies.

I hope the previous games in the series make their way to Xbox One, as I’m now invested into the series, even if this is the latest entry. With its dark setting and undertone, Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight is a worthy and memorable Metroidvania adventure, even more-so to those that like to find every secret or love to speedrun. Visually it’s a masterpiece, and clearly a labor of love that hasn’t gone unnoticed, especially its' fluid animation in pure 16-bit bliss. Even though it does have a few minor faults, as an overall package, especially at its price point, it should be experienced for anyone that loves the genre or wants to relive the 16-bit glory days.

Overall: 8.5 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 9.5 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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