Momodora: Reverie Under The Moonlight Review
Release Date: March 16, 2017
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), PC
“Metroidvania” has become a common term in the gaming medium. A good metroidvania is a sublime experience which melds the best of past and present 2-D design. Unfortunately, many titles have tarnished this once proud moniker and metroidvania no longer encapsulates transcendent titles, such as Super Metroid or Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight is the most recent title to go all in with the metroidvania label and, to be frank, it does not disappoint. This is actually the fourth game in a long-running series and has just been released for the PS4 after being on Steam for over a year.
Reverie Under the Moonlight offers a familiar conceit: an evil curse has swept the land, monsters now rule the world, and even the townsfolk who seem trustworthy can’t really be trusted. You take control of a priestess named Kaho from the village of Lun and set out to find her majesty the queen who, by your reckoning, can defeat all the evil festering throughout the world.
Although Reverie Under the Moonlight‘s story is present, it exists more as part of the atmosphere and not as a traditional narrative. You will meet new characters over the course of the adventure, discover some of their motivations and plights, but true to the nature of the classic 8 and 16-bit platformers this game emulates, your heroine’s quest is a fairly linear one with different routes to take in each section. Although the story explains what’s happening overall and gives deeper value to your role within those events, there isn’t a lot of intrigue. Each moment of exposition exists as a checkpoint for your progress more so than a turn of the page for some sweeping narrative.
This could be considered a missed opportunity, however, Reverie Under the Moonlight handles everything exactly right. The reason is most interactions can be almost entirely optional. Interacting with curious objects or talking with the besieged citizens cowering about the labyrinthine maps can be entirely bypassed in the interest of focusing on the action of which there is plenty. The importance of the story isn’t as much of a predetermined factor as it is an optional component to enhance your fun.
You will notice right away that Reverie Under the Moonlight has some of the most stunning 16-bit work seen in ages, thanks to both a vivid color palette and impressively fluid animation. Characters’ clothing billows as they move about. Environmental objects which could have been inanimate sway and billow in the wind. A garden level is full of dangling potted plants which swing back and forth with proper physics, and in an infernal region, smoke pours in through the vents and pores in the floor. In such an exploration-centric game, it makes a difference that every new area is amazingly detailed and visually exciting.
A great deal of effort went into making the game look exceptionally good, especially in the character animation. No effort is spared on Kaho’s attacks, and once you get confident enough, you will be rolling, dashing, and battering enemies in satisfying, nimble ways. As powerful as you feel, the game does not skimp on difficulty as you will die a decent amount of times, and more quickly and easily than metroidvania titles before it. Kaho requires a fast and light touch as well as a bit of memorization as you learn your way around enemy patterns. Reverie Under the Moonlight isn’t the kind of game that reaches a punishing level of challenge, but there is an expectation to learn to play smart, much like the Souls titles.
In fact, Reverie‘s highlights are its mostly melee-centric bosses. Since there’s no way to block attacks, the game’s full-on duels are all about footwork and dodging. They bring to mind the NPC battles in Bloodborne in that they’re sweaty-palmed affairs which look like sequenced fight routines, with no cheap tricks other than intimately learning enemy moves and applying that knowledge on the fly to stay alive and deal damage when possible. In beating these bosses, there’s a sense of not just memorizing simple patterns, but actually mastering the surprisingly deep combat, which is rewarding.
Other than using Kalo’s methods of attacking, she can double-jump, and evasively roll out of danger quickly to keep her health in check between checkpoints. All of this is before you begin to discover other additional abilities which lay hidden throughout Reverie‘s several maps or in the shops of several strange vendors. These special abilities or equipment can have small or drastic effects on how Kaho behaves in combat both passively and directly. Also, she gains the ability to change into a certain animal, which I won’t spoil here because it is a neat moment and further opens up the levels to new pathways.
Lastly, the soundtrack of Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight is an instant classic and enhances what is already a beautiful and engaging experience. It makes the game feel like a story you’re being read just as much as it’s a game you’re interacting with, and it’s something I have not experienced in a great while. In an age when we have entire orchestras composing the musical memories of some revered titles, it’s easy to forget how much simpler efforts, when placed in the right hands, can grant amazing results.
Overall, Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight is fantastic taking the best parts of many different gaming experiences and adds its own flare. Beyond just marking the checkboxes, it’s the quality of work that went into this title which will catch your eye. To think there’s a group of people producing this kind of game within the indie scene, with this level of polish and care, it can only mean better things are in store for the future. Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight may be brief, but the time spent is as rich as anyone could ask for.
Momodora: Reverie Under The Moonlight
- Beautiful pixel art style
- Fascinating world to discover
- Simple yet deep combat system
- Fantastic musical score
- Story takes a backseat
- Plenty of backtracking