Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight Xbox One Review with Stream
Straightforward gameplay built around skill instead of grinding
Pixel art and soundtrack have been created with care
4:3 aspect ratio
Doesn’t need to be so difficult
Momodora: Expect to Die A Lot
Playing as a priestess in a side-scrolling platformer focused on brutal combat, this Metroidvania removes major RPG leveling elements to create a higher degree of accessibility but with a greater ratio of difficulty. Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight is basically the GBA’s Mega Man Zero in the more open ended environment of a Metroid game.
Outside of the old school pixelated graphics, the standout visual element is the 4:3 aspect ratio. It is a little weird to play a game with black bars on the edges of the screen these days but at least everything is animated well. From a visual standpoint, this game reminded me of Cave Story, as if it is a 3rd cousin of that game. The soundtrack is also endearing, using the gothic visual theme as a reference point for each audio track.
Check out my Let’s Play here and watch me die a lot:
Priestess Kaho is trying to reach the Queen to figure out what to do about the incoming darkness that is spreading throughout the land. This aspect is unique because the player isn’t necessarily trying to defeat a nemesis or save a damsel in distress but simply get from Point A to Point B to talk to someone. But of course, along the way are hazards to overcome, enemies to kill, and bosses to take down.
Combat is buttery smooth but also difficult. In fact, expect to die a lot. Using a mix of melee and ranged attacked, each encounter with a bad guy could very well be your last thanks to brutally high difficulty. Thing is, the player doesn’t upgrade stats through grinding or even finding better equipment. The only thing that changes the player along the way are the occasional permanent health increases, think Metroid energy tanks or Zelda heart containers, and unlockable abilities like being able to air dash or making enemies drop more money. Arming the player with everything right from the start is definitely unique and there are three difficulty settings to choose from but I would guess most players will have plenty of difficulty playing on Normal. I frustratingly died way more times that I would have liked especially after playing for 15 minutes only to die a screen away from the next checkpoint.
Bosses are also challenging but there is usually a nearby checkpoint to ease the restart. Some bosses even fill the majority of the screen which is rather impressive. But like navigating the hazards of the environment and enemies within them, trial and error and pattern recognition is your best friend.
Besides the higher difficulty level, my other complaint, although minor, is that the ranged bow and arrow attack is mapped to the right bumper instead of the right trigger with no option to change button layout. Not that this is the end of the world but would have been more comfortable holding down the trigger instead of the bumper since the player needs to do this most of the time in order to survive. Positively, hitting the save bell with a melee attack is strangely satisfying.
Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight is actually the fourth game in the series but is the first time I am hearing of it. Although it has flaws, it isn’t all bad and actually uses some interesting design choices. If you ever wondered how Mega Man would play in a Symphony of the Night type non-linear style of play, this is the decent way to do so.