GetsuFumaDen: Undying Moon is stunning to behold. While I’m far from an authority on the style, the ukiyo-e visuals are incredible to see in motion. They make for some incredible flourishes in combat and creature/environmental design. It’s a game I want to push through so I can see every monster and place within it and appreciate the work that’s gone into its visuals. It’s just going to take a really long time, because the game is super hard and has no interest in getting easier.
Konami and GuruGuru’s decision to make the game a roguelite was a bit of a downside for me, but as a sequel to a title from the Famicom era, it kind of makes sense. Running out of lives often meant going back to the start of the game for many titles in that period, so a roguelite where you can at least, theoretically, get a few perks for later runs could be kinder than some of the games from this era. You just have to do everything with a single life in this one, (sort of) Double Dragon 3 style.
GetsuFumaDen: Undying Moon sees Hell opened up and spilling out everywhere. You’re the lucky one tasked with dealing with it. You’d think being a chosen protector would mean that you’d armed yourself in any way to take care of this problem, but you’d be wrong. Mostly, you’ll need to rifle around the hellish domains looking for equipment (this is a roguelite, after all), making do with whatever you can scrounge up down there.
This play style means you often get some variety in how you fight, because you never really know what sort of equipment you’ll find. Many of the main weapons, like katanas, gauntlets, spears, and umbrellas, will appear often. So if you find yourself more comfortable with any one combat style, you’re probably set. Your sub weapons have a lot more variety in how they operate and their damages/ranges, so those will encourage you to keep changing how you play. They have a limit in how much you can use them before they need to go through a cooldown, so don’t expect to spam them if you get something great, though.
Between the weapons and sub weapons, I found several different styles I liked throughout my runs, which pushed me to play really aggressively. GetsuFumaDen: Undying Moon’s Steam page mentions pacing and timing in combat, and there are some neat systems there, but what I felt worked best was rushing things and just beating them down with the right weapons. You and your foes both take ridiculous amounts of damage when hit. So you can wipe out foes easily if you rush them, but you can die in seconds if you mess up. The result is this invigorating, almost frightening speed in combat, where a single error can end your run. It made every moment playing it feel compelling and engaging.
I found that aggressive style a bit necessary because the game has so many visual effects in combat that it’s kind of hard to see what’s going on, though. Your weapons create these big, colorful splashes, as do your enemies’ attacks, so close combat swiftly fills the area with effects. It’s like one of those smoky brawls you’d see in a Bugs Bunny cartoon. It looks nice, but it makes it hard to tell what anyone is doing, so I took a lot of extra hits from stuff I couldn’t see. This is a bit annoying when you can die so easily, and makes using the timing and counter effects a bit more difficult, but I felt it worked fine when I just threw myself at everything recklessly.
I find it hard to complain about any of the visuals when GetsuFumaDen: Undying Moon looks so beautiful. Seeing these enemies from folklore brought to such striking life with their colors and designs. Watching the movements of the Oni, Wanyudo, and other creatures. The stunning bosses, Ryukotsuki in particular, are just a treat to watch in motion. You almost get so caught up in the art of that fireball that’s rushing for your head that you forget that you need to avoid it. The soundtrack is fantastic as well, creating this action-heavy feel that I think captures the spirit of the folklore and culture along with it.
The locations are equally captivating. The second stage features this background of Hell that shows a landscape of demons stretching off into the distance, capturing their cruelty and the tortures they’re inflicting on the people there. It looks fantastic, as do the pieces of broken homes and set dressing all over the place.
While this all looks great, the stage setups themselves feel kind of slapdash in their random generation. There’s not a lot to GetsuFumaDen: Undying Moon besides endless, uninspired caves that sprawl out in directions without any kind of thought to them. While fighting monsters makes them interesting, they’re not that interesting to explore. That said, there’s not that many types of monsters in each area, so combat also gets kind of old quite quickly. It stays exciting because you can die quickly from minor mistakes, but you do start to feel that these stages don’t offer enough content to justify their length.
Being a challenging roguelite, you might think there are some things you can unlock to make later runs easier. You’re right, but honestly, these require a ton of runs and the return just isn’t great. You lose everything if you die, but can choose to end a run between levels to store up some equipment. You need to store up so much stuff to buy even the tiniest upgrade, so you feel like you need to end runs often just to go back and buy a little boost. It takes ages to unlock any weapon or character perks, and those aren’t that great. Grinding just isn’t a viable way to get through the game, so expect to be at this one for a bit unless you get good quickly.
While I have some gripes about it, GetsuFumaDen: Undying Moon is looking good in early access, and its challenge and variety in combat often had me wanting just one more run. Hopefully it’s still at a point where it can be tweaked to improve these elements, but for now, it’s still a solid experience.
GetsuFumaDen: Undying Moon is available via Steam Early Access. It will come to the Switch in 2022.
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