Review: Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight

For whatever reason, members of clergy always seem to have all sorts of arbitrary restrictions put on their weapon usage. Take Dungeons and Dragons for example: the cleric class can only use blunt weapons, as if bludgeoning someone to death with a mace is somehow more pious that hacking them to death with a sword (at least based on AD&D 2nd Edition rules, things may be different now). The hero of Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight is a priestess by the name of Kaho. Kaho seems to be trying to break these holy vows of weird weapon restrictions because she isn’t shy about using a bow and arrow to dispatch far away enemies, showing that we have entered an age where the holy people aren’t afraid of drawing blood in combat. And when the enemies get close, it’s time for some melee combo beat down with a leaf.

So much for using a normal weapon. But the leaf attack actually looks pretty cool, its reminiscent of a crimson cypher from Strider. Knowing that it’s a red leaf that Kaho is using as a weapon conjures up an image of a Canadian flag on warpath, but spending too much time making light of the leaf for a choice of weapon could take away from the fact that it is an effective weapon in the game. Between Kaho’s archery prowess, dodge rolls, and the melee leaf of death, Kaho is able to string together some pretty impressive combos and brings a welcome element of an old fashioned beat ’em up to a 2D platformer.

This kingdom of Karst is a large area to explore, and the path that needs to be followed for Kaho to find the necessary four crests isn’t always clear though exploring a nonlinear path is part of the fun. There are hidden secrets and items to be found, and plenty of expensive items for purchase. Certain areas show passageways on the map that are impossible to get through when they are first discovered, which simply beckons the player to return at a later time. In a nutshell, typically what someone would expect out of a Metroidvania.

Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight takes place in a beautifully designed pixel world that harkens back to the Paleozoic era when 8-bit games were the standard. In this cursed land evil is becoming more widespread, corruption is reigning, and the dead are rising. Kaho, a priestess from the village of Lun, needs to travel to the kingdom of Karst to seek an audience with the queen in hopes of bringing an end to this wretched curse. 

Like many adventures, the nature of what Kaho needs to do in order to accomplish her goal changes slightly when she finally reaches her destination and meets some of the inhabitants of Karst. Karst has become a hostile city, that is now crawling with evil entities that want nothing more to stop Kaho in her quest. In between battling the regular critters Kaho will encounter impressively sized and challenging boss fights, and the eccentric people in Karst who have likely gone mad thanks to the curse. The dialog boxes that appear when talking to these citizens is how I imagine the townsfolk of Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest would talk if they received a better English localization translation. One of the more memorable lines was something to the effect of don’t be scared, I’m a human like you. While the character who said this did nothing to validate my thought, the initial reaction was a human doesn’t say that.

The dialog boxes that appear over the heads of the various NPCs help give Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight its old fashioned feel, and it also works to keep the player interested in the story and giving character to the residents of Karst. When this story telling device is paired with the pixel art that looks like circa 1989, this title does feel like how most of us might remember an NES adventure game like Zelda II, at least those of us that are old enough to. When this is mixed with the more modern game play mechanics, Momodora is able to invoke feelings of nostalgia for the 8-bit era while playing like something more modern.  

The musical score is a highlight. The music, like the visuals, is done in a style that seems like a homage to the games from a couple decades ago but of a higher quality than we had from the chiptune days. The music in some areas has a soothing, relaxing quality, so even though it is the soundtrack to violently dispatching undead evil it would be just as appropriate for yoga or meditation.

Closing Comments

Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight is the ideal mix of old and new. The visuals and 2D platforming scream ’80s NES, but the detail that went into the pixel art and the attack combos mixed with fluid animation give this title just enough of a modern feel so it doesn’t feel dated. This Metroidvania adventure is rather short, only requiring somewhere in the ballpark of five hours to complete for a skilled player, but that feels like the perfect length for this game. The various difficulty levels help make the title accessible to anyone, whether you are looking for a walk in the park to experience the story or a brutal onslaught that would challenge even the quickest of thumbs. Fans of Metroidvanias and old adventure games owe it to themselves to check out Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight.