Before Reverie Under the Moonlight, there were three Momodora games. Momodora I is a freeware title that laid the foundation for the series.
|Genre||Run and gun, platformer|
|Purchase/Free Download||Download from itch.io.|
For those who have heard of Momodora, chances are that you know of the commercially available Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight. It’s currently a widely available indie game that you can find on platforms like Steam, the PlayStation 4, the Nintendo Switch and the Xbox One. However, Reverie Under the Moonlight is not only the fourth game in the series, but a prequel. According to developer rdein, you don’t have to play these games in order to understand the story.
But knowing me, I’m just one of those strange somebodies who hates playing games out of their release order. So I decided to marathon through these games and start from the very beginning.
The first Momodora is a humble game that you can find on itch.io—and no, you won’t find it and its sequel on Steam. And while it’s freeware, you do have the option to support the developer by leaving a little tip for the game. So if you can, please do them a favor and leave a dollar or two when downloading.
So, let’s see how this series began!
A Forbidden Land with a Forbidden Treasure
Momodora begins with a short prologue following the tale of a shrine maiden named Isadora Doralina.
In the land of KoHo, common are the sacrifices of maidens, in hopes of recreating the world as a better place to live.
Not all accept the rituals, though.
An orphan girl, who has lost her mother to these rituals, entered a forbidden land, in search of a particular item.
The legends say that this sacred item can even bring the dead back to life, but for a certain price…
With that in mind, Isadora enters a mysterious cavern with only a Magic Leaf, a big leaf that can cut like a blade.
Momodora’s gameplay is as straightforward as its plot. It’s a mostly linear run and gun platformer where you explore a large network of caverns while fighting off some strange eyeball creatures. Right from the get-go, you can tell that the visuals and gameplay scream Cave Story. And well, that’s because rdein was inspired by games like Cave Story and Mega Man. So if you’re familiar with how those games played, then you’ll feel right at home here.
The game has no native controller support, so you’d have to use the keyboard (with arrow keys) with no way to rebind the keys. Welp, time to fire up Xpadder then.
With that said, I definitely recommend playing Momodora using a controller because the game itself can get rather challenging.
While Momodora looks like a Cave Story clone, the controls are quite different. You know how jumps are pretty floaty in Cave Story? Here, the controls are tight and momentum is nonexistent. I don’t have much of a problem with this, considering the gunplay and platforming are very fast-paced and enemies can tank a lot of hits. Though this does mean that after a jump, your descent is like a rock dropping from a high place. And considering there are many many Spikes of Doom that drain your health extremely fast, you better not suck at platforming.
Momodora’s progression is mostly one-way, with occasional alternate routes that take you to optional collectible items. And well, there’s no real incentive in collecting these items other than gaining a small bit of lore about KoHo. For real. Not only do they have no practical use, there is no special unlockable if you find them all in one playthrough (not even an epilogue or a hidden ending). And some of these items are very tricky to find, especially since some of them are hidden in secret passages.
In fact, the hint to find one of them is inside the game folder itself. So hopefully, you’re not trying too hard to find the 2YO Doll in-game.
Momodora initially starts you off with the Magic Leaf, but you will eventually come across new weapons that allow you to take on the numerous cave-dwelling creatures, such as the Karst Gatling (rapid fire machine gun) and the Chaser Bazooka (homing missiles). These weapons are usually in the main story path, so you can’t really miss them. You will also come across two secondary weapons, the Boomerang and the Shield. The Boomerang is extremely useful to have as it can pass through walls and take care of many small enemies. The Shield is the only item in the game that uses a recharge meter, but I don’t find it terribly useful since it doesn’t do a great job in protecting you from harm.
You only have 5 HP (3 HP in Time Attack) and you can only heal by interacting with specific crystals or getting in contact with save point crystals. The save point crystals also function as checkpoints in the game and you typically only find them between different sections of the caverns.
The enemies follow a consistent motif regarding their designs, mostly the single eye. The most common ones include the Bakman and the Oko. And as you progress through the game, the newer enemies LOVE to shoot all manners of projectiles at you, so good luck with that.
Through all this fast-paced action, my biggest complaint is that cycling through your weapons to get the one you want is a bit of a pain. Both the primary weapons and secondary weapons are each mapped to a single key. Also, weapons like the Magic Leaf, ESP Gun and the Karst Gatling quickly lose their effectiveness through the course of the game, making it seem like the later enemies in the game are damage sponges.
The soundtrack by J.W. Hendricks might be one of my favorite indie game soundtracks of all time. It’s a fusion of 8-bit chiptunes, ambient music and drum and bass. The tracks start off pretty mellow and even somber, but later pick to being upbeat and adventurous. It’s too bad Hendricks doesn’t really compose anymore because I probably would’ve bought this soundtrack on Bandcamp or something.
My final complaint about Momodora is the one and only boss in the game. The execution is a bit underwhelming.
In the final moments of the game, you face off against a new character named Lamia, who I assume is guarding the forbidden treasure that Isadora was looking for. We never even see the treasure, so…
This boss fight is a three-phase battle. What annoys me is that during the first phase, Lamia seems to take NO DAMAGE from any attack you throw at her. But as it turns out, you have to use the Magic Leaf during a specific moment in the fight—when she uses a red energy ball against you. In a similar manner to how you fight Ganondorf in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, you have to deflect Lamia’s projectile back at her until she takes damage. Not once has this game ever indicated that you needed to do this, not even a subtle hint. It’s just one of those things that you had to take a wild guess in.
Lamia then transforms into a giant eyeball creature called a Cheeoko (who strangely looks like Zero Two from Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards), which takes up the last two phases. This form takes damage normally, so go as crazy as you want with the weapons. However, this fight is pretty disappointing as the Cheeoko tends to hover in one spot and follows a very predictable attack pattern. You can easily keep your distance and just snipe her with the Colt Single Action Army or just wander about while firing off the Chaser Bazooka. This fight will be over before you know it.
It’s kind of disappointing, though I didn’t really have high expectations for the boss to begin with. But once you figured out the tricks to defeat all three phases, this is mostly a painless battle.
There isn’t much else to say about Momodora, other than that it is a solid, charming action-platformer that you can complete in less than one hour. If you want to dip your fingers into the series, then this is a good place to start.
- Quality freeware!
- The gameplay and graphics are strongly reminiscent of Cave Story.
- Mostly linear arcade-style run and gun action. Challenging but fun.
- Beautifully made retro-esque soundtrack.
- No native controller supporter, so I recommend using something like Xpadder to alleviate this.
- The collectibles serve no purpose other than small bits of lore.
- Weapon cycling to get the right weapon isn't well suited for the fast-paced action.
- Disappointing final boss.