Publisher: AGM PLAYISM
Rating: T for Teen
Between Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight and Remilore, it’s incredible how I manage to find so much to say for titles that can be summarized as “it’s like X, but with cute girls”. In this case, Momodora is a Castlevania clone with a few Dark Souls elements thrown in the mix. Principal developer, rdein, has developed a number of games before this one, but has only gained popularity recently due to Momodora‘s beautiful pixel art and stark, Castlevania-comparable gameplay.
The world in Momodora has its own religion centered around a god named Esselin, closely modeled to the Catholic religion. You control a priestess whose task is to sacrifice her own life to dispel a curse that plagues a city and its people.
D*** is used sparsely.
There are creatures called “imps” who are depicted to be mostly naked, but not visually detailed. One female boss has only one hit point—her chest.
Blood is displayed when defeating certain enemies. Several items depict blood in their images. When Kaho dies, an elaborate animation takes place where she screams and falls forward.
Momodora has a compelling aesthetic from beginning to end as it draws you into its world and the dangers you will face as you control priestess Kaho. Armed with a magical maple leaf, you navigate through the city of Karst. Its residents cursed by their own queen, while beasts and spirits stand in the way of your journey to eliminate the curse once and for all. Momodora is a game that commands the player’s respect through its presentation and gameplay.
Now, how can I write that last statement with any confidence? Well, I did mention you’re fighting monsters, spirits, and witches with a leaf. Momodora wastes no time to establish that your character can die easily. Characters who talk to Kaho all tell her that she’s wasting her time and that she will die before completing her mission.
If the narrative doesn’t make Kaho’s vulnerability clear, the combat does. At the start, she can only take two or three hits before death and there is little margin for error. Kaho also has a limited arsenal which includes her leaf, a bow, and a dodge roll, while all the bosses have multiple attacks that they can use. However, the game does include four difficulty options, but you must pick one at the beginning of a new game file.
Momodora is more of a Castlevania clone than most people would expect. Before you even approach the first boss, you fight across several sections that give you room to learn how your moves work and how enemy placement will work against you. If you pay attention, the game is actually giving you visual information that benefits you through your playthrough.
The Dark Souls influence is felt in Momodora‘s aesthetic. The music’s soft tones enhances the grim atmosphere depicted in the pixel art, while characters and their color schemes depict the whimsical heart of the world. Momodora also borrows the bonfire aspect and item descriptions that drop more background narrative on the world and its people. Bells serve as save points, healing areas, and warp points. Optional items that you can obtain from boss fights divulge information on specific characters, fleshing them out without creating an entire history for them.
The animations also enhance the game, selling the weight of Kaho’s attacks and her behavior. The speed of certain enemies can make you panic or even freeze in fear of what they’re capable of. Enemy attack animations enhance the danger to Kaho, who can only handle a few hits at most.
The most entertaining portion of Momodora are the boss fights. Each one is a unique character that are all challenging in their own way. What I love the most about the boss fights is that they mainly require good observation and patience, something that I’ve struggled to maintain in 3D Souls-like games, but I adapted quickly in Momodora. This may sound surprising since a portion of the bosses also have bullet-patterned attacks thrown in, but it’s possible to learn how to evade every attack, given multiple attempts. There’s also an incentive to defeat every boss without taking a single hit. Upon doing so, an item is granted to you that conjures a powerful spell.
This is where the Castlevania influence comes back in. Items that you pick up will either heal and grant you a timed buff and certain item combinations can allow you to either survive longer or hit harder. Aside from the optional items, none of the items drastically change how you attack. They simply give you an extra edge; every fight still relies on your own skill and fortitude to see them to the end.
I want to make a quick aside here. The most interesting aspect about Momodora is its history, as there have been three previous games before it. Each one is its own game, but they take place in the same world. The developer rdein borrowed heavily from Castlevania and Cave Story, but each title improves, eventually leading to Reverie Under the Moonlight. This game is a refined work offering the best rdein has to offer.
Momodora is a game that hits every note right. It offers a solid and challenging experience that encourages multiple playthroughs. If you’re looking for a solid Castlevania-like game, pick this up. It is really affordable right now. If you’d like to check out the other Momodora titles, the third title is currently available on Steam. The first two are available for free on rdein’s itch.io page. I eagerly await the next adventure. Bombservice Studio is currently working on a new title, Minoria.
If you would like to support the developer rdein, feel free to visit their Patreon.
The Bottom Line
Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight is a masterfully crafted Castlevania clone that manages to stand out among the rest on its aesthetic.