There are points in life when serious questions need to be pondered. Do I need a new job to fulfil my dreams? Is it time to consider starting a family? What do I want from my life? Do I have a new favourite Metroidvania?
When a Metroidvania ask this question that is a big deal. I do not go into new Metroidvania’s thinking this will happen – that is just a recipe for disappointment. So, when Minoria asked the question, I was very taken aback. All I was after was a fun spiritual successor to Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight. Not an all timer.
I know when this feeling began to coalesce. The second night I was playing Minoria I felt contented. Incredibly contented. I was doing the standard Metroidvania thing. Exploring a game world that is just the right size, discovering lore and items and fighting enemies. The world was well constructed, the lore was intriguing and the combat was clicking and everything felt right with the world. And that feeling persisted until the game finished and lingered after the credits finished. I love Minoria.
Minoria does not rewrite the rules of Metroidvania. But Minoria is an incredibly refined Metroidvania, all killer no filler. Like Reverie Under the Moonlight, Minoria is a short game. Reverie took me 4 and half hours (roughly) to finish. Minoria took just over 7 hours, and I am a slow at video games. Getting the Platinum took somewhere between 9 and half and 10 hours. There is nothing wasted. For some people this is a short game (that’s a fair viewpoint) but for me it is unbelievably tight, devoid of waste. I dig that. I dig that a lot.
This shows with the pacing. Just as I was wanting a new movement ability – there it was (double jump). Just when I had exhausted all avenues of exploration – there was the second (mid-air dash). Boss fights placed exactly where they needed to be. And no boss run backs! Well, almost none. There was one that required a bit of a run back but the rest where right near the boss. And that’s just great. My tolerance of boss run backs has gradually waned and I am fond of getting right back to it. Minoria greatly aided and abetted that.
This is as good a place to talk about the map. Essentially like Reveries but bigger. But not too much bigger. Just the right size. Almost every exploration looped back to a handy short cut. And because of the size of the map, tracking back to an area where the movement was needed was never a chore. There is no fast travel, but it isn’t needed – compact maps help with this and with the movement abilities getting around is a lot of fun.
Minoria has my favourite parry since Sekiro. This parry has made it into my top five video game parries, and quite possibly my top three. The parry pose looks like Sekiro’s – neat but the result of the parry is completely different. Semilla can parry anything – a sword, a bomb, a spear, an arrow and magic spells – and the resulting riposte is a devasting torrent of strikes, targeted at whoever was parried. If multiple entities are in the vicinity they can be caught up in the maelstrom. Anime as all get out. Oh, and the parry can be executed in mid-air – so even more anime.
Beyond the parry, I dug the combat. Simple, but effective and feels great. There is a button for swing a sword, a button for magic and the parry/dodge button. Oh, and a jump button. There are different swords – and one mace but they all have similar move sets – the only difference is the final part of the combo. But, the games length stops repetition setting in, and combat feels weighty and meaty. As long has combat has the certain umph I can work with it. Minoria has the umph. Even the magic has that umph – which makes this the game in which I used the most magic. I mean, I still used a lot of melee because I am a melee guy at heart, but it made for a fun diversion from time to time.
Combat begets boss fights. And this is a bunch of fun boss fights. Not the most challenging boss fights of all time, but I found a lot of joy in them. Boss fights need not be super challenging to be joy to fight. I do love an almighty clash (such as a Sword Saint Isshin) but a fast and thrilling duel works as well. And there are more than enough of them Minoria. You will die in a few hits if evasions are mistimed but attacks are clear, dodges and parries are clean and if the boss is defeated without taking damage, a special bonus is awarded – I can get behind that.
Finally, the story. I probably should have started with this to set up context and stuff, but here we are. 2 Nuns, Semilla (Warrior Nun) and Anna Fran (Inquisitor) have arrived in the Kingdom of Ramezia to rescue a princess and in the process put down an uprising of witches. This is a conflict in the midst of a larger war between the church and the witches. However, as in all conflicts with a religious bent, things are not cut and dry. Our protagonists may not be here by choice (a debt of sin is involved), who’s good and who’s bad is up for debate as more information becomes available. Supporting this is the sheer amount of lore. All the characters, all the regions in the conflict, all the history of the conflict has lore and documents relating to it. There is a lot of context here.
Which helps to lay the groundwork for Semilla and Fran being here, and their relationship – which develops through the game as they learn all they can really do in this situation is depend on each other. All culminating in the ending. Minoria has two endings – spoilers ahoy – side with the Witches or side with the Church. Side with the Witches, indicated as the morally right thing to do sees Fran dies (and I did get emotional). Side with the Church, perhaps not the right choice but Fran will live and both Fran and Semilla will see their debt of sin wiped out. It becomes of a choice of doing the right thing but losing someone close or doing the questionable thing and securing personal freedom – I dig that choice – there is something of consequence at stake.
So yeah, I love Minoria and I am pretty sure I have a new favourite Metroidvania. Hats off to Bombsquad – a banging follow up to Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight.