After regaling fans on PC since 2010, the Momodora series of games finally
makes its debut on consoles, with undoubtedly its best iteration to date in Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight.
For the uninitiated Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight may indeed be the fourth instalment of the franchise from indie developers Bombservice, but it is in fact a prequel
to all the previous PC-centric titles.
With an evil beginning to infest your small village of Lun, emanating from the East - to be precise from the city of Karst. You, playing as a Priestess named
Kahon must travel to the city and speak with its ruling Queen.
Alas, upon arrival you find that the evil curse is manifesting from the Queen herself, who has
seemingly made a pact with the underworld that has not only turned her into an embodiment of its wicked ways, but has begun to use her as a portal to spread
its affliction which is now beginning to plague the wider world.
I’ll say it outright, if you are at all a fan of the 8 or 16-bit generation games then you will love Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight
(henceforth referred to as Momodora) from its retro art style, thematics and gameplay on offer Momodora oozes the same charm and nostalgic
drippings that made the classics of those times so memorable.
With a plethora interconnected screens littered with strategically placed enemies, ladders and spiral staircases alike for you to traverse upon and a final
boss tucked away in an intertwining, labyrinthine castle, it’s clear the Castlevania and Mega Man inspirations Momodora is heavily focused upon
- fostering a true love letter to those fan favourites. But it also has a few more tricks up its sleeve too.
As you begin your journey - in a woodland on the outskirts of your destination - Momodora presents itself as a simple side-scrolling
platformer with a double jump, an evasive roll (with a few frames of invincibility) set to Circle and two methods of attack; a close combat melee
using your leaf weapon - by pressing Square - and a magical bow with infinite ammo using R1.
You’ll find yourself mainly sticking to your bow to dispatch foes from range, that can be fired either in quick succession or charged for a more powerful
attack - ala Mega Man’s Mega Blaster - from one screen to the next. The enemies you’ll be facing-off against are quite varied too, slowly escalating from
purely melee-based to projectile and even inflicting staus effects upon you as you trek through Momodora's beautiful 2D sprite-filled world.
But it's once you reach a fork in the road that Momodora truly opens up, giving you the freedom to explore in any particular direction you
like and bringing those metroidvania stylings to the forefront.
Most modern metroidvania games today attempt the formula of walled gardens - only accessible through the acquisition of various powers you accumulate - and
whilst Momodora does have those, its design philosophy focuses more on player choice, both in not only where you decide to venture first -
and in essence the order of bosses you wish to take on - but with a small element of narrative choice and obtuse consequences from what may seem like
That's not the only new element within Momodora developers Bombservice have seen fit to incorporate though, with a few very Souls-lite
mechanics injected into the gameplay; ranging from the simple map design - viewable by pressing the Touchpad - folding in upon itself, to
bonfire-like checkpoints in the form of tolling bells.
Striking a bell with your leaf weapon will initiate that particular checkpoint (overwriting your current save file) whilst refilling any lost health and
replenishing all of your finite wares, if you have found a particular hidden item you can even interact with the bell and use its ability to instantly warp to
any thematic area previously discovered.
The items you choose to equip Kahon with is where your approach may begin to diversify in Momodora. Within the game you are given three slots
for consumables and two for equipment which bestows passive effects for Kahon; as you can imagine you’ll acquire far more of either, than you can fit in all
of the slots available, and you’ll find yourself having to pick and choose what you’d like to equip to best suit your circumstances.
Consumable items - as the name implies - are of finite use that can range from restoring small portions of your health to casting spells that damage the enemy,
with you being able to cycle through the equipped trio via L1 and activate items using the Triangle button. Whereas the passive equipment
you choose to assign to Kahon is always on, allowing you to reap the benefits of its status effect from adding a fire element to your attacks or
gaining a slither of health from every enemy you vanquish.
You’ll obtain equipment either through purchase at many character shops using the game's currency - acquired from enemy drops - that is cutely called
‘munny’, or through exploring every nook and cranny in the game world. I just wish the consumable equipment slots were more expansive - accommodating
all of your items - instead causing players to pause their game and assign new ones when expended, during boss battles for instance.
Those aforementioned boss battles though is where the true fun of Momodora shines through. Like previously mentioned the order in which you
take them on may differ slightly depending on where you choose to explore first, but each one brings a unique challenge requiring you to use all facets of
attacks, memorisation and maneuvers available at your disposal.
What I did find was missing within Momodora though is any kind of overpowering, catchy music. Part of the nostalgia factor from those great
games of past is a tune you still remember and hum to yourself decades onwards, unfortunately Momodora lacks anything that truly shines
through in that department and it's a blemish that stands out against all its other qualities.
In a sea of retro-inspired titles, much like Shovel Knight before it, Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight stands out amongst the fray
and becomes the perfect game for fans of the Castlevania or Mega Man series’ of old. And I hope it doesn’t get passed up by fans and critics alike.
But beyond its quality retro surface offerings,
Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight manages to inject a few new ideas into the mix too, creating a formula that's both nostalgic yet fresh
and most of all fun. And whilst its length may be a problem for gamers seeking a far more meaty retro experience, it truly doesn’t outstay its welcome and
offers replay value for gamers who choose to unlock all of its hidden caveats.
Review copy provided by the publisher for the PlayStation 4.