Minoria Review

Continuing the decade-long tradition of arming young women with a weapon and sending them on a perilous quest that first started in 2010’s Momodora I, Minoria launched on PC over a year ago—now that it has been released on consoles, let’s take a look both at how the game is and whether the port (the Nintendo Switch version, to be precise) is up to snuff. A sort of spiritual successor to the superb Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight, Minoria has many of the elements present in the 2016 release; it also takes the series in new directions, not all of which will be appreciated by those who merely wanted more of the same.

The game’s unique artstyle oozes with character, with expressive characters and tense battles. Elektrobear’s (Momodora, Virgo Versus the Zodiac) talented soundtrack work also plays an important role in setting the game’s mood.

The basic premise is immediately familiar: you play as Sister Semilla, a warrior-nun that has been tasked with cleansing Ramezia of the witches that have taken hold. A cutscene at the beginning familiarizes you with the general context, but most of the story and lore regarding the setting is presented in a very indirect manner: it’s up to you to find archive logs and chat with NPCs, piecing together both what’s happened and who’s who in this seemingly decadent, zealot kingdom. If you’ve played any of the Souls games, you’ll immediately recognize this method of worldbuilding and storytelling. It does a good job at setting the mood and acquainting you with the world as much as you want to, never letting the story dominate the gameplay. While things seem straightforward at first, pouring through the lore and reading the bits of dialogue offered by the game paints a different picture than what you’re initially led to believe.

Speaking of gameplay, many of the Momodora series’ elements are here: this still is a streamlined Metroidvania, a sort of laser-focused adventure that’ll take you between six and eight hours to complete, with little to no padding and a strong core of mechanics that you have access to from the beginning (for the most part). You start off with a sword and a healing incense (the game’s equivalent to items and spells), but quickly find other weapons and incenses scattered across the world—the weapons have different movesets and damage ratios, and the incenses unlock new spells and buffs to use. As you recover these upon resting at a checkpoint, using them regularly to supplement your melee attacks is encouraged, and weaving between slashing and spellcasting made the quick paced fights even more entertaining; still, the fact you can swap your equipped incense mid-battle, and considering they each have different usage pools, can trivialize a few of the bossfights and encounters.

There are plenty of incenses to find and purchase, each granting you access to new spells or passive benefits. These include beams of light, buffs to your damage, and summoning dragons, among many others.

Combat itself is centered around a handful of basic actions: you can damage enemies, dodge or parry their attacks, and fill up their stun gauge. Minoria is very generous with cancelling, too, and will never lock you into an animation. Everything in combat is quick and precise, and the inclusion of the parry mechanic allows for interesting new enemy attacks and how to counter them. The combat was specially good against the bosses, which have bolder attacks and more complex movesets you need to learn and predict in order to win. That said, there were a few moments where things didn’t seem to work as they should, such as when parries that had connected (including the counter-attack animation) didn’t prevent me from taking damage. These inconsistencies weren’t frequent but they did push me into dodging more often than I would otherwise.

Progress is measured both by the XP you acquire from defeating enemies, which allows those who are having a bit of a hard time to grind things out before any sections or bosses they’re struggling with, and the navigational skills (such as double jumping or dashing) that you unlock as you progress through the game. There’s only a couple of them to be found, but they’re both significant in how they improve your movement, and the quantity is just enough given the game’s short length.

There are a handful of character interactions strewn throughout the game, and most of them have subtext and background that require further reading into the game’s lore to comprehend.

The biggest departure from Bombservice’s other games is the change from pixel art to Minoria’s mix of hand-painted environments and cel-shaded characters. Whether this is an improvement or not is something subjective and entirely up to you, although I will say this: as someone who was skeptical of it at first, specially based on the screenshots I’d seen, the new artstyle looked great when played and in motion, both on the big screen and using the Switch’s portable mode. It’s well used to characterize each region, be it the grim and bloody prison halls or the lush and colorful Minoria forest, and the subdued soundtrack plays well into setting the game’s more somber mood.

Beating the game once, without backtracking much for collectibles and exploring, took me around six hours. This is a short adventure, and there’s no way around that—for better or for worse. Those who wish to prolong their time in Ramezia can do so by achievement hunting, trying to find all the game’s items and collectibles, beating the post-endgame ‘dungeon’ or doing a second run: the game even has a new game plus mode, which allows you to carry your levels and most of your gear over. The last boss of the game also gives you a choice to make, so for those who wish to see how things change in the final cutscene (and don’t want to just look it up on YouTube), that’s also motive to go through Semilla and Sister Fran’s quest a second time.

Minoria only features a handful of different regions, but they all look and sound very distinct from one another. Each area also introduces new enemies and environmental challenges or hazards, keeping things interesting as you progress through the story.

As a longtime fan of the Momodora series, Minoria was a pleasant surprise. It’s still got a lot of the Momodora DNA, including my favorite part of the series—the straightforward gameplay and concise adventure, which you can beat in a day or two of gaming—but manages to keep things interesting by changing up the game’s art direction and introducing a few new mechanics. If I haven’t mentioned anything concerning the port so far, it’s because there’s nothing to mention: I encountered no bugs and barely had any framerate dips, docked or otherwise, while playing it on the Switch. Minoria’s yet another great take on the Metroidvania genre by the folks over at Bombservice, and anyone who wants to play a good-looking, mechanically cohesive adventure that won’t take them thirty hours to beat, look no further.

Minoria is now available on the Nintendo Switch, PS4 and Xbox One.

You can also find it on Steam, Humble, and GOG.

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