Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight Review (XONE)

Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight is a retro throwback 2D Metroidvania with fantastic sprite work, awesome music, and satisfying gameplay that fans of the genre will love. It isn’t as beefy or complex as some of its contemporaries in the genre, but it makes up for it with extremely challenging gameplay that rewards skill and punishes carelessness. In perhaps the greatest design decision ever, however, it also offers an easy mode so that almost anyone can still experience the full game even if they aren’t a big dick internet hardcore gamer badass. That’s awesome. See all the details in our full Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight Xbox One review.

Game Details

  • Publisher: Playism
  • Developer: Bombservice
  • ESRB Rating: “T” for Teen
  • Genre: 2D Metroidvania
  • Pros: Great visuals and sound; satisfying gameplay; Easy mode
  • Cons: A bit shallow; extreme difficulty
  • MSRP: $10

Reverie Under the Moonlight is actually the fourth Momodora game, but the first to appear on consoles. It is also a prequel to the other games, not that that matters much, though. All you need to know is that you play as a priestess named Kaho who travels to a far away kingdom to try to stop a curse that is spreading across the land.

Gameplay-wise, Momodora RUTM is very much in the 2D Metroidvania style. You are free to explore a map full of enemies and platforming elements and you find new abilities along the way – such as being able to use a cat form to get through small spaces Kaho can’t normally fit through – in order to reach new areas. Unlike most Metroidvanias, however, Momodora is surprisingly shallow as there aren’t actually very many new upgrades and abilities to find. It is also fairly short at just around 4-hours. I do like that the game is kind of condensed and well paced without a lot of fluff, but it also lacks the sense of progression and satisfaction that comes with finding an arsenal of new abilities.

The game makes up for the lack of new toys to play with by offering tough as nails gameplay that really keeps you on your toes. Armed only with a magic leaf for melee attacks and a bow and arrow, your attack options are fairly limited but the combat itself is remarkably satisfying. Melee attacks really sound and look like they’re powerful and the wide range of enemies – including plenty of bosses – with their own unique weaknesses and patterns give the combat a lot more variety than you’d expect. The game also takes a few cues from From Software’s Dark Souls and Bloodborne in some interesting ways, too. You can only save at designated locations, and when you save it recharges your healing items. Similar to Bloodborne, there is no block ability in the game and instead you have to use invincibility frames on your roll animation to roll through attacks to avoid taking damage as well as position yourself behind enemy defenses. It is a neat meshing of gameplay styles and systems – Metroidvania with Soulsborne – that we haven’t really seen before.

It has to be noted that Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight is absolutely punishingly difficult, though I suppose that is to be expected from a game that borrows from both 2D Castlevania as well as the Souls franchise. You will die. A lot. Like, A LOT a lot. Developer Bombservice did something remarkable, however, and actually included an easy difficulty mode in Momodora: RUTM that will allow players of any skill level to play through the game. It does go a little towards the extreme end of the spectrum by giving you maximum health right from the start as well as some items to buff you up even more, but I love that they at least give you the option for those that want it. You still have to actually play through everything, and beat all of the bosses, and thoroughly explore everything, and the game is just as fun on easy mode as it is on normal. There, I said it.

I have always wondered what Dark Souls would be like if it wasn’t so damn brutally difficult. The worlds you explore and the enemy encounters you face are so cool and interesting but, even as popular as those games are, only a very small percentage of gamers actually get to see any of it. Hardcore Souls fans will balk at the idea of an easy mode, but they have to realize not everyone is a closet masochist that enjoys slamming their head against a wall repeatedly to show how much of a hardcore gamer they are. Making great games more accessible to more people is a good thing. I love that Momodora: RUTM offers an easy mode. I wish other hardcore games would do the same.

As far as the presentation goes, Momodora: RUTM is pretty fantastic all around. The game runs at a 4:3 aspect ratio, so there are chunky black bars on the sides of the screen, but it enhances the retro vibe. I guess. The visuals are great, though, with big fat gorgeous pixels creating some truly awesome looking character sprites and surprisingly detailed backgrounds. The music is also excellent and fits right in with the retro aesthetic.

All in all, Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight is a neat combination of ideas old and new that form a pretty solid all around package. It is undeniably a little shallow, though, and I wouldn’t rate it above fellow Castlevania-like Slain: Back from Hell or Metroidvanias AxiomVerge and Ori and the Blind Forest, but it is very solidly in the second tier of 2D action/platformers on Xbox One. And I really, really love that it offers an easy mode so more people will actually be able to see it all. At just $10 Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight is also perfectly priced so that anyone with any interest in 2D action/platformers should give it a try without hesitation. Buy it.