Momodora: Moonlit Farewell Is A Thrilling Adventure In A Gorgeous Pixel Art World
Yes, you can pet the cats.
The action platformer Momodora: Moonlit Farewell starts with a bang. Demons threaten the once-peaceful Koho Village, and playing as an appointed priestess of the moon goddess, you’re tasked with stopping the invasion at its source. Almost as soon as you pick up the controller, you’re battling a gargoyle-like demon that guards a bridge. You dodge ground-slamming attacks and counter them with your sacred leaf until the bridge collapses and you wake up back home.
The Momodora series has been around since 2010, but most players, myself included, were introduced to it with the last game before Moonlit Farewell, 2016’s Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight. Before its release, developer Bombservice made three other Momodora games, but Reverie represents a massive jump in quality and popularity. A note from the developer on the first game’s Itch.io page even reads, “It was also the first game project I completed, so it's very roughly put together and really unpolished. I advise you to play the sequels instead!”
Any Momodora game is a good one to start with, and Moonlit Farewell is no exception. Released on January 11, it continues the story told in Momodora III, but there’s no need to play any other game in the series to get it. Action is more of a focus than narrative in the Momodora games, which say more with their worldbuilding than explicitly through their stories’ events.
Gameplay-wise, Moonlit Farewell is an action platformer that’s a bit more linear than the average Metroidvania. While you will unlock new paths by finding traversal abilities, it’s not the kind of game where you’ll frequently retrace your steps. If you do go back to old areas, it’s mostly to acquire previously inaccessible health and attack power upgrades and other items, which are helpfully marked on your map from the start.
Those items include Sigils, equippable cards that offer anything from health regeneration to flaming arrows. Moonlit Farewell’s combat is simple — comprising just a few simple melee slashes and a ranged bow attack — but by choosing the right Sigils, you can create wildly different builds. Like Momo’s movement, her attacks have some heft behind them, and knowing whether you should finish a combo or roll away to avoid an attack is the backbone of combat.
Instead of scouring old areas for secrets, you’ll use Moonlit Farewell’s abilities, like a satisfying double jump, to tackle challenges in whole new locations they unlock. Moving through Moonlit Farewell’s environment just feels great, as it always has in this series. Part of that comes down to the weighty feel of Momo’s gait — which may come off as a little slow at first if you’re not used to the series’ pace, but it has much more to do with how everything looks.
Reverie Under the Moonlight’s chunky pixel art and silky-smooth animations captivated me the first time I saw them, and Moonlit Farewell is a significant improvement. Koho Village is alive with expressive NPCs, the forests around them feel massive and ancient, and ruins feel suitably claustrophobic and dangerous.
As good as it looks in screenshots, Moonlit Farewell is much better in motion. From its tiniest enemies to room-filling bosses, the animations in Moonlit Farewell are gorgeous as well. Some of my favorites include Cereza, a fellow priestess with cat ears, stretching whenever you enter a room she’s in, and a certain white serpent you encounter toward the end of the game, who constantly jitters in a way that’s both menacing and cute.
While they never get much depth, I instantly fell in love with Moonlit Farewell’s supporting cast. Along with adorable animations, Cereza can sell you a few Sigils and occasionally offers to share a meal when you run into her in the game’s safe rooms. In contrast to the brash Isadora, a returning character, Cereza isn’t quite sure she’s cut out for all this demon-slaying, but watching her grow over the course of the journey is one of Moonlit Farewell’s many small delights.
If you’re looking for fast-paced combat and AAA polish, last week’s other Metroidvania release, Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown may be more your speed. But Moonlight Farewell offers a more ephemeral joy. Its roughly 10-hour runtime is packed with secrets and upgrades around every corner, so every step feels like it contributes to the slow climb to the end. Its combat is easy to grasp but no less satisfying for it, and moving through its gorgeous world is its own treat.
The wait since Reverie Under the Moonlight was well worth it, and I’m already itching to play through Moonlit Farewell again.