Thursday, October 18, 2018

Momodora Reverie Under the Moonlight Review


 As I had announced last week, I played through Momodora Reverie Under the Moonlight on Twitch as part of my #HorrorGameOct streaming series. Since it was a relatively short game, I ended up finishing it in two streaming sessions! Here’s my review of the game, now that I can put ot in the “completed” page of my backlog.

Overview
Momodora Reverie Under the Moonlight is an indie Metroidvania game that was originally released on PC in 2016. The game follows a priestess tasked with snuffing out the source of a curse that has caused the kingdom to be plagued by witches, skeletons, ghosts, and other Halloween-appropriate baddies. Though Reverie Under the Moonlight is the fourth installment of the Momodora series, it represents the point at which the series gained mainstream recognition and is thus my first exposure to the series.

Pros
  • Momodora features gorgeous pixel art and animations. The player character in particular has detailed animations while in action as well as a variety of charming idle animations.
  • For a colorful retro-style game, it pulls off a creepy atmosphere quite well. The spooky environment is enhanced by NPCs that express fear, anxiety, or malice even with relatively limited dialog.
  • The music is fairly low key but tends to kick in at the right times to give a sense of dread.
  • The protagonist’s mix of close and ranged attacks is fun to use. The game script describes the heroine’s weapon as a “magic maple leaf” but wielding it feels more like pillow case with a brick in it, giving landing a combo strike a satisfying sense of weight. I also enjoyed using the bow to juggle enemies and shoot down their projectiles.
  • Level designs in Momodora are not revolutionary for a Metroidvania, but offer enough variety and secrets to uncover to make filling in the map feel worthwhile.
  • Most games of this type offer some sort of traversal enhancement partway though (traditionally something like a grappling hook or jet pack). In this game you can transform into a cat!

Cons
  • The game’s difficulty didn’t scale consistently, especially when it came to boss battles. Some of these battles required full use of my action platforming skills, but there were also bosses where I could get away with just crouching in the corner and spamming arrows.  
  • Since the heroine’s strikes carry a lot of weight, positioning her during attacks felt a little imprecise, leading to a handful of accidental deaths during the first half of the game (I eventually learned to compensate).
  • The game has two endings. The bad ending is very unsatisfying. Getting the good ending requires following an obtuse process that I wouldn’t have been to figure out without consulting a guide. While the good ending is an improvement, it still felt anticlimactic compared to the buildup from the game’s atmosphere and NPC dialog.

While Momodora Reverie Under the Moonlight doesn't do much to deviate from the formula established by similar games that came before it, I enjoyed my time with it quite a bit thanks to its strong mechanics and presentation. It’s generally a solid-by-the-numbers Metroidvania that'll please fans of the genre but won’t win over holdouts.

Score: 🎃🎃🎃🎃
Completion Time: 6 hours (98% map completion)

Disclaimer: As of this week, Tales from the Backlog is no longer participating in the Amazon Affiliates program. I'll be sure to include a new disclaimer if I enter into a new advertising/sponsorship arrangement in the future. Any Amazon links in older posts will still work for shopping purposes but no longer serve as a revenue source for this blog.


 

 

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Dragalia Lost Impressions

 

While I’m not the biggest mobile gamer, whenever there’s the opportunity to play something published by Nintendo (legally) on my phone, I’m sure to give it a shot. Their newest mobile title, Dragalia Lost, is an interesting one in that it’s not adapted from an existing Nintendo franchise, but is a new IP they created in collaboration with CyGames Studios (of GranBlue Fantasy and Rage of Bahamut fame). So far, I’ve been able to put a few hours into the game, which feels like just scratching the surface, but that's been enough for me to put together some early impressions.

Overview
Dragalia Lost is a free-to-play fantasy action RPG. The campaign consists of alternating visual novel-style story scenes and short overhead dungeon sequences in which the player fights a few enemies, gathers some treasure, and then fights a boss (like a very simplified version of Zelda or Ys). The player controls a party of four characters, most of which have the ability to transform into powerful dragons for a brief period of time. Dragalia Lost makes its money via microtransactions, primarily in the form of randomly drawn items, characters, and dragons (i.e. a “gachapon” or “loot crate” mechanic).

Observations
  • This game has very high production values for a mobile game. The graphics and character designs look very nice, many of the cut scenes are fully-voiced, the musical score includes several vocal tracks, and there are some TV-quality animated scenes sprinkled throughout.  The overall presentation is about on part with a late 3DS game.
  • In other mobile games I’ve played, including Nintendo’s own Fire Emblem Heroes, the story has felt like something cobbled together to justify the action and spur the player to put money into the gacha system. Draglia Lost’s story and characters feel richer, more like what I would expect from a more traditional video game. The depth of the lore, from what I’ve seen so far, almost feels wasted on a free mobile title.
  • I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the writing in the dialog sequences. I particularly like Notte, the protagonist’s fairly companion. Her humorous lines put her way ahead of previous similar characters like Navi in Ocarina of Time.
  • The voice acting for the main characters is solid, though some of the supporting characters sound a little off. Overall, it’s about on par with dubbed anime.
  • Dragalia Lost has systems on top of systems and I’m still discovering more after several hours of gameplay. Every character can be modified in several ways, each piece of equipment can be upgraded, the party’s composition can be changed around, and you can feed the dragons to raise their stats! I find myself too impatient to tinker with all this and instead just trust the “Optimize” button to do its job.
  • Touch screen controls aren’t ideal for an action RPG, but the implementation in this game gets the job done. I’m generally able to move, attack, and dodge with a reliable degree of accuracy. Some of the special moves that require specific holding and swiping gestures feel a little clumsy,  however.
  • In what I’ve played up until this point, using the gacha system or other microtransactions haven’t been essential. With the free stuff I collect by playing the game, I’ve been able to get the characters and items I’ve need and avoid running out of stamina. The impetus for microtransations may ramp up a bit in the future, but I’m thinking it will be quite some time before I’ll feel like the game is truly pushing me to spend money.
  • Dragalia Lost features some really catchy music. There’s a couple of Japanese vocal tracks that I would love to listen to outside of the game.
  • The dungeon level designs are pretty bland. Each one is essentially comprised of the same thing: about three kill rooms with weaker enemies, a treasure chest that is slightly off the main path, and then a boss battle. Since these sections are pretty short (less than five minutes), I can understand why they keep it simple.
  • The story-to-gameplay ratio seems pretty high for a mobile game. I would think that for a mobile game the idea is to get in, bash some enemies, and get out. Instead I've had many sessions with this game that are primarily watching cut scenes. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, since the cut scenes are enjoyable, it's just not what I would expect from a game on my phone.
  • Dragalia Lost does something that a lot of mobile games do that drives me crazy. The game requires installation of large mandatory patches on a regular basis. The game doesn't auto update, so if it's been a few days since you've played, be prepared to spend a large chunk of your gaming session staring at a download progress bar. This can be especially problematic for those on a limited data plan. (I had this same issue with Fire Emblem Heroes and UtaPri)
Despite some issues that are prevalent in free-to-play mobile games in general, Dragalia Lost has really impressed me. Its combination of fun characters, bopping sound track, and decent gameplay will mean that it'll probably be my go-to phone time waster (other than Twitter) for at least the next few weeks. Also, knowing that many other Cygames properties have been adapted into other media, primarily anime, I'm curious to see what fruit their partnership with Nintendo may bare in the future.

Since this post is about a free game, there's nothing to topical to advertise. However, if you'd like to pick up a new game while also supporting this blog, you can do so via this affiliate link: Amazon Video Games












Sunday, October 7, 2018

#HorrorGameOct Streaming Series


Final Fantasy 5, Ys, Beyond Oasis, and Battle Chef Brigade... I've been on a long streak of RPGs on my Twitch stream and it's time to change things up. Thus, for the rest of the month of October, I'll be switching to one of my other favorite genres: 2D platformers! On top of that, this month is #HorrorGameOct, so I'll be focusing on platformers with a spooky Halloween theme. (If you'd like to know more about #HorrorGameOct, check out this post on the Chic Pixel blog).

The first game in the line-up will be Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight, a Metroidvania game set in a world of monsters, witches, and curses. This game has been on my radar for a while for its great pixel art, so I'm really looking forward to digging into it. If I manage to finish Momodora before the month is over, the next game in the lineup will likely be Bloodstained Curse of the Moon, a spiritual successor to the 8-bit Castlevania games.

Streams will be on my Twitch channel on Tuesday nights from 8 - 11 PM ET. I hope you'll look forward to joining me for some spooky platforming fun!

 If you'd like to pick up a spooky game of your own while also supporting this blog, you can do so via this affiliate link: Amazon Video Games