Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight

A game by Bombservice for PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Switch, originally released in 2016.
Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight is the fourth entry in the Momodora series, and its story is a prequel to the others. The game stars Kaho, a priestess whose village has been attacked by evil spirits. Kaho leaves her village and heads toward the Kingdom of Karst, hoping to gain an audience with the queen and find some way to end the curse. But when she arrives, she finds the land no better off than her own, as some dark force has begun to merge the worlds of the living and the dead, and monsters roam the streets.

As in the previous games, the player encounters a number of NPC’s who have each been affected by the curse. Some have chosen to fight against the evil, some have become overwhelmed by what has happened to the world around them, and others are lost and wandering. Kaho has a number of opportunities to aid these people, and her decisions lead to new bits of narrative, an optional boss encounter, and the possibility of reaching the game’s true ending.

The Momodora series has changed over each of its iterations, with each entry offering a larger and more complex world, a more detailed narrative, and higher visual quality, and that is once again the case here. The basic format of the game has changed as well, with the original Momodora taking the form of a linear action-platformer with a focus on ranged weapons; whereas Momodora II offers an open world, falling firmly into the metroidvania category with a traditional metroidvania map and the acquisition of new movement abilities; and Momodora III returns to a linear experience (although backtracking is possible to complete some side quests) but offers more complexity with its inventory system and passive buffs.

Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight offers an open world design similar to that of the second entry, but with a significantly larger world map. In addition, the metroidvania elements are reduced, with only one significant upgrade that allows backtracking to previous areas. In fact, the world is quite open, allowing the player to freely move through multiple branching paths in any order with no single “correct” path of travel. Aside from a few key areas, most of the world is accessible with the player’s starting abilities, allowing for a tremendous range of freedom in exploration, and a metroidvania map is included to help the determine which areas remain to be explored.

The player travels through a number of traditional fantasy locales, including a forest, an ancient city, and a monastery, but some of the regions change things up a bit, including an area that is entirely submerged, allowing the player to tap the JUMP button to hop-swim to any point in the environment, accompanied by the trademark slowed underwater movement.

Another area is themed around the mythos of the game… Since the world of the living is being merged with the world of the dead, a number of the enemies you face appear to be apparitions, where you and the NPC’s you encounter are solid. In fact, one of the NPC’s you meet has actually been displaced from the land of the dead. However, in one area, you enter a sort of underworld where you transition from the bright colors of the living world to that of the dead, and enemies take solid form where you yourself are represented as an apparition.

Kaho has a 1x variable jump and a very short double jump, and like the previous protagonists, she comes equipped with a red maple leaf as her primary weapon, allowing her to strike nearby enemies. Her basic attack speed is slower than that of previous entries but she has a 3-hit combo that allows her to strike enemies multiple times in succession, with the final strike hitting at double the power. She steps forward a bit with each strike, and there is a short cooldown period after the third strike.

Kaho also has a strong overhead slash which she can perform by jumping and striking, and players can transition directly from an overhead slash into a 3-hit combo for maximum damage. Strangely, Kaho is unable to duck and strike with her maple leaf, as using it causes her to stand up. However, the wide swipe of the leaf means that she has no issues hitting foes who are shorter than she.

Kaho has an additional weapon in the form of a bow and arrows, which are weak when compared to her maple leaf, but arrows are infinite and can be fired fairly quickly (especially after certain upgrades are obtained), allowing her to kill distant enemies and wear down bosses from a safe distance.

Holding the ARROW button charges the attack to unleash a stronger arrow, and holding it longer changes this to a 3-way shot. A later powerup grants another level of charge, allowing Kaho to unleash a rapid-fire barrage of arrows in a straight line. Arrows are also used to trigger the occasional orb to open new paths of travel, and Kaho is able to duck while firing them.

She also has a dodge roll that allows her to avoid damage, which is handy since many enemies appear in tight quarters, and this also allows her to roll behind shielded enemies to attack them from the rear, although this ability is rarely required. Interestingly, if Kaho approaches an enemy from the rear, it will not detect her, allowing her to get the drop on certain foes.

Killed enemies drop bouncing pink stars – just as in Momodora III – and these are used as currency to make purchases from shopkeepers throughout the world. Hidden treasure chests also hold large caches of stars, and the player can farm for stars by transitioning between screens to let enemies respawn, but major enemies will start dropping fewer stars if the player kills them repeatedly.

There are a number of useful items to be purchased, and many others that are found through exploration, and the player has five inventory slots. Three of the slots are dedicated to active-use items such as healing flowers and limited-use buffs like increased attack power or defense. The two remaining slots are dedicated to passive buffs, including an item that draws in currency, one that increases your resistance to status effects (poison and curse), and the ability to add poison and flames to your attacks, allowing you to take out enemies more quickly wear down boss’ life bars with health-draining status effects of your own. Some items offer a trade-off, such as restoring a bit of health with each enemy killed, but eliminating currency drops; or increased attack power at the cost of health.

Kaho can’t do much to raise her level of defense, but the right upgrades can make her an offensive powerhouse, tearing through enemies quickly and taking down many of the game’s bosses with ease. While there are a couple of shield-based items, these are active-use and have short-lived effects; however, thorough explorers will discover a number of hearts spread throughout the game world which extend Kaho’s life meter slightly with each pickup.

The open-world Momodora II offered health drops from killed enemies and spikes that inflicted minor damage. Momodora III, on the other hand, relegated health restoration to bells (which also acted as save points) and had insta-death spikes. Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight uses the latter system, so players must be careful in their exploration, as they may find themselves far from the safety of a health-restoring bell, and a single mistimed jump during a challenging platforming sequence can land them in a pit of spikes.

Fortunately, players have access to a health-restoring item called a bellflower, which may be used on demand to restore a bit of health. Players may only carry a few at a time, but this number increases as more bellflowers are discovered, and all consumable items are restored upon ringing the bells. Once a certain upgrade is acquired, the player can also use bells to warp between each of the game’s major regions, allowing for fast backtracking.

There are a number of secrets to be found throughout the game, including false walls that lead to hidden pickups, 20 ivory bugs spread throughout the game world that may be traded to an anthropomorphic bunny (the developer has a thing for bunnies) for additional currency, treasure chests packed with currency, and a number of items and upgrades.

The Momodora series is known for its numerous one-eyed enemies, but only a few bomb-tossing cyclopean foes make an appearance here; however, a number of the other enemies are present, and are now more menacing given their improved graphical fidelity. Many enemies have heavy attacks that can drain a good chunk of Kaho’s health, and many have long-range projectiles, which can be tough to contend with given that Kaho’s strengths lie in melee combat.

That said, many of the tougher foes have long telegraphs for their attacks, giving Kaho the time to cover the ground to her target, and striking an enemy causes its attack to be interrupted, rewarding aggressive behavior. If Kaho does not reach her target quickly enough, she can still dodge roll to avoid an attack or jump and strike from above, transitioning into an enemy-stunning multi-hit combo from there.

There are a number of bosses to be fought, many of which are tougher in the early going when Kaho’s life meter is short and she hasn’t acquired many offensive buffs. Since Kaho can’t absorb many hits, the player must stay mobile to avoid incoming attacks. Most bosses have close- and long-range attacks, preventing players from spending the entire battle at the edge of the arena picking them off with arrows, but players can certainly alternate between up-close strikes and long-range arrow attacks to deal with many of these foes.

There are also a couple of occasions where Kaho faces off against large unnamed bosses in enclosed arenas, as well as an instance where she fights a boss alongside one of the NPC’s.

One of the main villains is a giant heavy-chested antlered witch who seems to be behind the evil that has spread across the kingdom. The player faces her on a couple of occasions, and she eventually turns Kaho into a cat, which turns out to be a blessing as the cat is able to fit into areas that Kaho cannot reach on her own, opening up new avenues of exploration. While the cat is unable to climb ladders, cast spells, or toss projectiles, it retains Kaho’s sweeping maple leaf strikes and other movement abilities, making it effective in up-close combat. From here, the player is able to transform between human and cat form at will, although the “cat sphere” takes up an active inventory slot.

Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight offers a higher level of visual quality than the previous games in the series, with detailed characters and enemies, lush landscapes, multiple layers of parallax, and smooth animations, as well as some nice touches like falling leaves and a couple of cute idle animations for Kaho. The game offers three difficulty settings, as well as a challenging New Game+ mode that sends the player back to the start of the game with all of his weapons, equipment, and currency, but with none of his movement enhancements. Also, the enemies are tougher the second time around and able to cause much more damage to Kaho, making bosses particularly difficult given her low defense stats.

The Momodora series was created by Guilherme “rdein” Martins under his Bombservice label, who also provided programming, art, music. Music for the game was also composed by "notriousKnave", and programming and art were also provided by Hernan Zhou, with art also by "PKBT".

Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight is a prequel to the Momodora series. Momodora was released as freeware in 2010, offering a fairly linear action platformer experience with some optional side paths. Momodora II was released as freeware in 2011 and falls firmly into the metroidvania category with an open world and backtracking to reach new areas. Momodora III was released as a paid download in 2014 and is also a linear action platformer.

The developer also created a sword-based action game entitled Bunny Swordmaster Story, which was created over the course of five days and contains two stages.

The game was published by Playism / Active Gaming Media, which also published Kero Blaster, Pink Hour, Pink Heaven, Gunhound EX, Hakoniwa Explorer Plus, Touhou Luna Nights, Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth, Mighty Goose, some versions of La-Mulana, and La-Mulana 2.