Of all the recent Metroidvania-style gaming IPs in the last decade, Momodora by developer Bombservice has certainly been the one that has built quite the cult following ever since it was conceived as a humble indie project way back in 2010. Each game gradually built upon gameplay ideas and lore concepts until everything came together as one epic experience in Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight in 2016 – technically the fourth instalment in the series’ canon. This was a dark fairy tale Metroidvania adventure with a stronger emphasis on platforming than most, and featured some stunning 2D sprite graphics. Fortunately for Xbox One owners with Game Pass, the entirety of the game can be found on the digital catalogue and is still well worth playing alongside recent genre classics like Bloodstained and Timespinner.
Rather than come up with a direct fifth instalment in the Momodora series, developer Bombservice have instead decided to step out of their comfort zone a little and create Minoria. While still very much in the Metroidvania mould, this game serves as a spiritual successor to Momodora and takes place in its broader universe, retaining the dark fantasy elements and themes. Even though the experience remains faithful to the style of the series, Minoria still manages to forge its own identity and present its own dark fantasy flavour within its engaging Metroidvania game design.
In Minoria players take control of Sister Semilla, who like most nuns has super powers (she can’t fly though). She is joined by fellow nun Sister Fran as they find themselves in the middle of a rather terrifying war against witches and other ghoulish creatures of the night. As these nuns make their way through the city and its dark cathedrals, they find themselves battling a charismatic cast of foes while piecing together the dark and often violent narrative. While Momodora was certainly on the darker side, Minoria turns it up a notch.
One of the starkest and most contrasting things about Minoria that immediately sets it apart from its spiritual predecessor is the visual presentation. Where Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight impressed with its detailed and fluid 2D sprites, Minoria completely changes up the visuals by making use of 3D polygons. At a first glance it seems like the graphics are flash animated 2D, but very soon it becomes clear that everything, including the character models, are fully 3D but made to resemble 2D as much as possible. The 2.5D graphics actually come together nicely with the game’s medieval cathedral art style, but if there is one minor gripe it’s the character animations. While the character designs look very cool, they animate like paper dolls with too few frames of animation. It’s not a deal breaker by any means, but it still means they stick out given how strong the rest of the presentation is.
The gamepay doesn’t change things too much from what players would expect from a Metroidvania, and in fact Minoria doesn’t necessarily try to reinvent the wheel too much in comparison to some of the recent hits in the genre. It has the RPG and exploration elements, but what it does do is place a stronger emphasis on the combat and platforming. The combat system in particular is far more involved in Minoria and the enemies hit hard early on in the game. The game design in particular shines in its challenging and satisfying boss encounters, giving the game a rather Mega Man feel with its vibrant cast of boss characters.
Minoria on Xbox One is a worthy entry in the broader Momodora canon. While Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight is arguably the more memorable experience, Minoria is still a welcome and unique take on the developer’s own Metroidvania formula; one that manages to do things with its own style both in presentation and gameplay. To see this humble indie project from the itch.io platform grow and evolve over a decade to a point where it can spawn its own spin-off is a pretty huge deal. Minoria is a memorable dark fantasy Metroidvania with satisfying combat and memorable boss battles that will really test your skills.