Metroidvania style action platformers have never been more prevalent in the indie space. It seems they are being churned out ad nauseam, much to the delight of fans like myself. They are however starting to feel a little watered down, using familiar map patterns and predictable back forth fetch mechanics. When done right they can be quite memorable, influencing the genre within the indie scene for years to come – one such example is the latest in the renowned Momodora series.
Momodora: Reverie Under The Moonlight is the fourth instalment in the beloved Momodora series of 2D platformers. Unleash ravaging combos against a variety of formidable monsters and deftly dodge your way through a cursed land to seek audience with the Queen and dispel the evil that threatens all life.
It would be accurate to say that the resurgence of the metroidvania platformer has in part been tugged along by the Momodora series. First being released in 2010, Momodora captured the hearts of indie gamers with its nostalgic graphics, tight controls, intriguing story, and highly atmospheric level design. Momodora: Reverie Under The Moonlight has not only continued the tradition, but improved on it.
Just as we shouldn’t judge books by covers, we should not assess indie games by art direction, but when a game looks so good, it’s hard not to be captivated by its beauty.
The pixel perfect, polished art, fluid animations and vibrant colour pallet sell itself. If I was a pixel artist by trade, I’d have likely bought this game as case study into pixel art. Although the refined packaging set the bar and expectations high for the rest of the game.
Kaho (and most of the environment) is in constant motion; the attention to detail in the animation frames does no go unnoticed, creating a vibrant breathing world that flutters and pulses in harmony with the action. It’s this combination of modern day computer performance and nostalgic retro direction that allows Momodora to become a jaw dropping aesthetic spectacle that could not have easily been achieved in the retro age. We are truly fortunate to game in this age where pixel art games are not confined to 16 bit colour pallets and 5 frame character animations.
Reverie Under the Moonlight serves as a prequel to the previous games. Putting you in the shoes of Kaho, a priestess from the village of Lun – as you set out to investigate a strange plague contaminating her village by seeking audience with the Queen in the corrupted Karst City in order to beseech her aid.
Though the game’s story is a little cliche, it’s told in an intriguing and effective way, teasing little bite sized mysteries from NPC’s you meet along your path.
The meat of this experience is undoubtedly, the gameplay. Momodora’s controls are tight as a car full of sumo wrestlers, rivalling the the Konami greats. Kaho has strong environmental presence, with hits and attacks feeling weighted and impactful.
Taking on enemies are little mini challenges, where you dance around your opponent dodging and rolling, until the killing blow is struck. This system us by far the highlight of the game. Koha starts with a dual attack system, allowing you to melee swipe at close range, which can be chained together as a combo through repeated strikes. The second is a ranged bow and arrow attack.
In combination with the roll, the dual attack system allows a variety of combat scenarios to unfold, making each enemy encounter feel a little fresh and engaging.
No metroidvania is complete without epic boss battles, and Momodora delivers strongly in this department. Bosses range from the classic fullscreen, ‘find the weak point’ bosses, to smaller pattern bosses. They are done reasonably well, with unique designs and well thought out patterns.
Let’s talk sound; Momodora: Reverie Under Moonlight is an all rounder, it’s musical scores and sounds are as endearing as the other aspects of the game – though arguable its weakest point. The Scores are rich yet simplistic with tones that sing of adventure and melancholy. I feel the variety and event driven cues could have been pushed a little further, but overall it’s still a stand out audio package.
I cannot stress the importance of a series like Momodora, though it doesn’t necessarily bring much new to the table in terms of the ‘metroidvania’ formula, it hold the baton high, creating a ripple and wave effect that rolls through the indie scene – inspiring and motivating other indie devs to push the quality bar higher.
I absolutely adore this franchise for what it represents.
Generously, the developers have released the earlier Momodora games for free. I highly recommend checking them out to discover the roots of the series. They also make for great research case study into what make a great platformer.
If you are a fan of platformers, pixel art or metroidvanias, then owning Momodora is non-negotiable.