For over 13 years the Momodora games have delivered exponential delights, like someone constantly returning to the drawing board to take one more crack at their favorite creation. If Momodora: Moonlit Farewell is the culmination of all that effort, it puts on a hell of a display.
Guilherme “rdein” Martins has been putting in the work with his studio Bombservice since the first Momodora launched in 2010, quickly followed by Momodora II in 2011 and Momodora III in 2014. The first two games are, as even the itch.io page on which they’re available states, “very roughly put together and fairly unpolished.” There’s still something to them that was even more visible in the third entry, though, and by the time the fourth game arrived in 2016 there was clearly a major evolution underway.
Even more so than those before it, Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight set the stage for Moonlit Farewell. The visuals were refined and more mature than its predecessors, the map layout more interesting and varied, and the combat more engaging and occasionally challenging. Moonlit Farewell takes something that worked very well as a by-the-numbers, bite-sized Metroidvania, pulls the camera back, and expands its world, character connections, and gameplay concepts further. It’s not going to surprise anyone who is otherwise intimately familiar with the genre, but there are enough fun and engaging ideas on display to keep players coming back for return visits to its fantastical world.
You can ring my bell
In Momodora: Moonlit Farewell, Koho high priestess Momo Reinol is tasked with tracking down the source of whomever rang the foreboding black bell and summoned demons from the world beyond. Players are sent out with little more than the maple leaf weapon and trusty bow combo the series has carried with it for years, but it doesn’t take long for Momo’s repertoire to expand.
This entry has the usual staples of traversal to unlock, including the ever-present double jump, dash, and other moves that make it easier to get around and get the better of increasingly demanding enemies. You’ll find items to boost your max health, attack level, magic capacity — primarily useful for ringing a healing bell for a quick refill — and manage your stamina.
Progression involves unlocking new areas to explore, back-tracking to previous locales with newfound powers, and gradually unraveling the mystery behind who rang the black bell. Doing so will hopefully secure the safety of the village and life-giving Lun Tree. If you’re worried about this ostensibly being the fifth entry in a long-running series, don’t be. Moonlit Farewell is as good a jumping-on point as any and there’s no real need to study up before you begin.
Bombservice could have gotten away with little more than a mix of a solid moveset and resplendent visuals, really. There are some interesting new additions in Moonlit Farewell, however, particularly when it comes to the new Sigil system. Sigils are cards that can either be found tucked away in various corners of the map or purchased from Cereza. Most of them offer helpful buffs, like the ability to regain a little health every time you kill an enemy or a brief window of invincibility after healing.
There are some solid risk-reward Sigils in the mix, too, though. The Hare Sigil prevents stamina depletion while increasing damage taken from enemies, while The Fool limits you to a single hit point. Okay, so maybe that one is all risk. In the beginning you can only attune two at a time, but you’ll eventually expand your slots, giving you an opportunity to become as strong as you feel is necessary to progress. There aren’t really any game-breaking Sigils, at least as far as the combinations I had equipped, but it adds a nice wrinkle to the combat and progression.
Metroidvania games can feel lonely, and while your adventure throughout this world can be a lonesome one, there’s a feeling of connectedness throughout Moonlit Farewell. Maybe it’s the fact that I was able to enjoy running into the few friends I had at save spots, or the fact that Cereza is the one who provides a not-insignificant number of the available Sigils. Either way, it was a welcome feeling, and one that might have been enhanced further if I had unlocked the ability to warp earlier in my run. Going back to the starting village to reconnect and reset would have been a nice touch, but there’s a catastrophic demon invasion to stop, so I guess no one has any time for that.
Moonlit Farewell‘s feeling of companionship is bolstered further through a light mechanic in which you can deepen your bond with Cereza by striking up conversations and sharing meals. This was like a microcosm of the optional campfire conversations littered throughout Sabotage Studio’s Sea of Stars. I’m not normally one for relationship building in video games, but expanding upon this might have made the world and its characters feel that much more alive.
As sparse as it is, I enjoy the writing and brief dialogue exchanges in the Momodora series. It’s beefier than ever here, which is appropriate considering the fact that this is twice as long as the previous longest entry was. You should be able to run through Moonlit Farewell fairly thoroughly in about 8 to 10 hours, give or take. I’d gladly spend a few more if it meant a deeper connection with its world.
With that thought in mind, there are also literal Companions that you can optionally assign to follow you around through each area. They all have different capabilities; some are healers, while others can assist in combat and exploration. I could take or leave most of them, and didn’t find them to be a necessity. It’s more of a ‘nice to have’ feature, and at worst you have an oddly cute little weirdo hopping or floating around the map with you.
The long goodbye
Most of your time here will be spent seeking out new areas and contending with the generous helping of bosses, all of which are pretty simple but fun to fight. The action is complemented by absolutely gorgeous pixel art, with backgrounds that are full of details and character animation that comes off as lively and natural. The soundtrack is fitting for the genre, taking a more mood-driven route than one with a core focus on melody. Many of the tracks echo the esoteric nature of the story and world of Momodora. Beyond the driving boss fight tracks, the compositions have a hint of melancholy backing them, making for an even more bittersweet farewell.
Thankfully, you won’t have to say goodbye as soon as the credits roll. In addition to all the exploration and upgrade hunting that will eventually lead to 110 percent completion, Moonlit Farewell has some post-game content worth checking out after the dust settles. One of the first new features to open is a boss challenge area, which lets you choose to rematch the bosses you faced one by one in both normal and Nightmare difficulties. The only major difference in the latter category seems to be the addition of what can best be described as ‘dead zones,’ which are little squares peppered across the screen that drop you down to single-digit health when you touch them. It’s mostly a limit to your mobility, but that’s enough of a hindrance in some of the more nail-biting fights.
Once you finish the main story, you also have the option of starting all over again in Arrange Mode. This is exactly what it sounds like, mixing things up with some surprises, including new enemies and mirrored areas. I’m still exploring the post-game content, but the idea alone gives me Symphony of the Night inverted castle vibes.
You can pet the cats
Like the entries that preceded it, there’s an indelible charm to Momodora: Moonlit Farewell. It’s been a real treat to see the series grow over the years, and tracing the path from beginning to end is an experience I’d recommend to almost anyone. Starting from the rough but interesting early days and witnessing the transformation that’s taken place from there to Momodora: Moonlit Farewell makes what is purportedly the “final game” come off like a true swan song.
There will always be a part of me that hopes this isn’t the case, but endings are great. Endings should happen more often. Saying goodbye isn’t as final as it sounds; it’s simply a heartfelt see ya later.