Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Momodora III - Thoughts

After finishing Momodora II, I was prepared for more Metroidvania-style action, wondering what Momodora III would add to the formula. I found the answer to be quite surprising: nothing. Because Momodora III really isn't a Metroidvania per se; it has more in common with the arcade roots of the first Momodora of all things. It's crazy, right? I mean, how many series look backwards for inspiration, especially when they seem to be heading in the right direction? But rdein has learned a lot since his first title, as Momodora III proves itself to be the first game worthy of a playthrough.

That's not to say I didn't like or enjoy the first two games—they were charming and pleasant experiences that reminded me somewhat of when I used to savor playing Flash games on Newgrounds. But I left those games feeling that their diminutive size was more of a detriment than an appeal, as there really wasn't much that I could latch onto or discuss. I've recently discovered that I was more or less wrong about that; it wasn't the size of the games that failed to enthuse me, but the content of the games themselves.

What made me come to this realization is that Momodora III is as short as the other titles (~1 hour), but it doesn't feel like it's lacking anything. The game bounces you between a handful of worlds, letting you meet some cute girls and pick up a smattering of power-ups. Structurally this sounds very similar to II, but the vividness and variety of the locales feels so much more robust. Being able to equip three different items and having each zone conclude with a boss fight gives Momodora a momentum it had been previously missing. And rdein makes sure to pepper the land with curious oddities, hiding away secret power-ups within walls and having NPCs to mysteriously vanish, making the player wonder if they missed something earlier within the level. The other games had a touch of this esoteric flavor, but it's felt here most of all.

I have to openly admit that part of the reason why I prefer Momodora III to its predecessors is because... well, of the lack of a ceiling. I's downward delve felt too repetitive by the end and II's setting variety was rather superficial in hindsight, basically having the player move through some caves or... caves with a sky background. Momodora III still has some underground outings, but it also offers the player a lush grassland, violet garden, and riverside cityscape. I'm a huge sucker for stage variety, and III keeps its levels short enough that you never feel like rdein overuses certain gimmicks, traps, or enemies. The final area in particular is my favorite for both its mood and visuals, capping off the adventure quite nicely. And the final boss is no pushover, which is a nice change from the previous two entries.

Momodora III is a small, quaint, fun game—like the others—but it's also pretty satisfying. You'll face a decent amount of challenge on hard but it's nothing hair-pulling, which makes it a good fit for anyone that likes some action in their platformers. It was a bit odd emerging from this experience not yearning for more, but I don't think that speaks ill of Momodora III. If anything, I think it's a sign of III's success over its older siblings: it's the one title that holistically emerges as a game rather than an experiment.

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