Although Metroidvanias are a dime a dozen (and I should know, I’ve reviewed my fair share here), one word you don’t often hear used to describe them is quaint. That probably subverts a lot of expectations for some folk, but in the case of Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight it’s more of an appraisal of its setting and mood than it is of its action and progression.
Reverie Under the Moonlight is the fourth in the Momodora series, and stars a quiet priestess named Kaho, who is on a pilgrimage to the city of Karst to talk to its queen in the hope of figuring out how to lift a curse that’s befallen the land. The game starts in a dim, fall forest with our heroine working her way towards the castle, where the majority of the game takes place. There isn’t a lot of pomp and circumstance in the beginning, with Kaho casually talking to a few forest denizens while working her way through those familiar corridors and secret grottoes people come to expect from a game like this. But there’s a unique sense of lonesomeness to her quest that permeates every step, even when the action gets heated and the bosses consume the screen.
In keeping with Momodora‘s running theme, Kaho’s move set feels quaint – in a good way – as it’s both simple but perfectly adapted for the experience at hand. She has a melee attack in the form of a, uh, swinging maple leaf, which you can use to perform a very satisfying combination attack, as well as a bow and arrow that you can charge to give your arrows a boost. She also comes equipped with a double jump, an assortment of stat-boosting accoutrements and an inventory that replenishes at waypoints in a similar way to Dark Souls. The acquirement of goods and power-ups is fairly minimal, and those looking to get lost in a world of collectibles might find this disappointing. But as someone whose free time is at a premium, I kind of enjoyed that it was a bit more deliberate and on point than many other exploratory games.
What struck me as great about Momodora is the world in which you find yourself and the joy of discovering new places. Although the character design didn’t resonate with me, the world design and aesthetic was so compelling that I had to keep going just to see what other delights the developer Bombservice had waiting for me further on. While the platforming feels, once again, quaint, it’s slick enough to give me a sense of gratification and that I was doing more than I really was. Combat is often brutal, and I often heard Kaho’s bloodcurdling scream of failure – but fortunately, you aren’t waylaid a whole lot by death. And I found that in repeating the same sections over and over again I was able to learn enemy patterns and exploit the situation in a way that also reminded me of Dark Souls, in that sometimes your progress is marked in mastery of the game and skill and less about getting to point B.
Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight was something of an surprise for me. Although going in I was hesitant to play what feels like my millionth Metroidvania, Momodora turned out to have the right mix of new ideas, comforting tropes and satisfying exploration to allow it to rise above the sea of ‘retro-inspired’ games. Don’t let the cutesy, anime-inspired palette fool you – Momodora is a wonderful exploration game that any fan of the genre will enjoy immensely.
Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight was developed by Bombservice and is available on PC, Switch, Xbox One and PS4. We reviewed the Switch version.
Disclosure statement: Review code for Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight was provided by DanGen Entertainment. A Most Agreeable Pastime operates as an independent site, and all opinions expressed are those of the author.