So, Dark Souls, right? Everyone knows about it, it’s a hard series of games, and my opinions on it are too lengthy and unpopular to include in this article. My feelings on Dark Souls deserve their own thesis, but all I’ll say is that they are hard, and leave it entirely in the player’s hands to figure out what is so hard. I don’t necessarily think that Dark Souls should be what gamers imagine when the word “difficult” comes to mind, and I don’t really think that every hard game ever made is instantly a Dark Souls clone, but as I said, another article for another day.
Some of the games inspired by or similar to Dark Souls, however, are fantastic. One of which being the topic of the day, a little-known title known as Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight. This game is a 2D platformer about a cute little priestess named Kaho traveling from her village to the Queen of the land in search of aide. Her town had been entirely destroyed by a monstrous plague, and Kaho hopes the Queen could help. Upon arrival, however, she finds the villagers mad with despair, the city darkened by the plague itself, and monsters roaming about. Armed with her trusty… leaf of justice, Kaho must navigate her way through this hellish city in search of the Queen, despite constant warning from the villagers not to do so.
I personally love this game. I think the art direction is phenomenal, the promotional material is beautifully drawn, and the pixel art is perfect and brings back that old retro feel of Castlevania, another game Momodora takes strong influence from. Momodora dabbles in the “Metroidvania” style of video games; games that take influence from both Metroid and Castlevania, usually involving a lot of backtracking and “getting this ability to get through a door to get this ability to get through another door”, along with similar elements. I don’t necessarily agree to this term, but it is the most widely used and recognized term for games like Momodora, so we will go with that.
Where Momodora differs gameplay-wise is that you don’t really get any stronger, just smarter. There are power-ups like making your bow charge faster or you can dodge in the air, but these things don’t make fights easier, they make navigation easier, and this is where I believe it starts to stray away from the tropes associated with Castlevania. You’ll find some equipment lying around that give you passive skills, but you only have two slots to use them in and you’ll find yourself swapping them constantly depending on the situation. And your weapon, the magical leaf of infinite power and knowledge is all you get. It’s a leaf. That’s what you get. You also get a bow, which is mostly used for solving puzzles or cheesing enemies you really don’t want to deal with.
Alright, now the good stuff. If you haven’t seen Egoraptor’s video Sequalitis on Megaman, then you’re gonna hear a couple overlapping points, so I highly recommend watching it, it’s a fantastic video that makes a lot of great points on game design. Momodora is a difficult game, but enemy placement is brilliant in Momodora, each tough enemy giving you the time and resources to figure out how to defeat them before wrecking you, making your deaths your fault but your victories sweeter. While climbing a ladder, you’ll see an enemy swing its scythe a certain number of times before continuing to pace around, and that’s your ticket. You saw what it can do, now what are you going to do about it? That describes most of this game, honestly. The saving system is similar to Dark Souls in that you replenish your items and save your game at a bell instead of a bonfire. Some of these bells can be easily overlooked, making the search for the next save point your top priority most of the time.
The bosses, however, could’ve used some work. They follow the same trend as showing you their tricks and then bashing you with them, but what makes them different is simply their difficulty. The climb to the boss is usually harder than the boss itself. They’re beautiful visually, the fights are fun, but they feel like they’re from an entirely different game. I’ve died maybe once or less per boss on average? No broken or thrown controllers, no anger at lost save data, just a “meh” and I get them the second time. But there’s no satisfaction there like there is with the regular enemies, making them underwhelming and dragging the game down.
On top of that, Momodora likes to play “where’s the nub” with the player, just like the mobile Castlevania games do. “Where’s the nub” is a very easy game, you see, when you have no idea where to go next, you stare at the map for hours looking for the nub that shows you the one little room you didn’t enter or the one square of empty space you could’ve visited. There’s not a lot of backtracking, and what little there is goes by very quickly as you get better at the game.
So, long story short, it’s a flawed game, sure, but it’s a great one too. For how much it costs, somewhere in the $15 range depending on what sales PSN has going on, the experience is too fun to pass up for fans of the genre. Those who don’t usually play these kinds of games will find this one an easy entry point, as it does very little of the “bad” things associated with Metroidvania games, and you’ll have a good time regardless. Especially if you’re into the retro aesthetic and the art, because the game has a ton of beautiful environments and backdrops to show off.
Now, about Dark Souls…