There was a time when nearly every single game I held in high regard was published by Konami.
Castlevania, Suikoden, Metal Gear, and even lesser known titles such as Vandal Hearts – they were my jam. And so it pains me that outside of PES, or whatever they call it these days, Konami doesn’t seem care about much else. Though perhaps now that’s changed. After last year’s Skelattack turned out to be an enjoyable romp, Konami has now unleashed GetsuFumaDen: Undying Moon into Steam Early Access. Reviving a property from 1987 that never made it out of Japan, it’s hopefully Konami’s first step into being more of a prominent player in the video game world once again.
In the west, players are more likely to be familiar with GetsuFumaDen if they enjoyed the multiplayer-focused Castlevania: Harmony of Despair, released on Xbox 360 and PS3 in 2010 and 2011 respectively. A DLC chapter was released for the game called The Legend of Fuma, which incorporated various elements from the original 1987 game and allowed players to take control of its protagonist, Getsu Fuma. GetsuFumaDen: Undying Moon, however, developed by indie studio GuruGuru, is a far cry from that title.
A roguelike, GetsuFumaDen: Undying Moon is mostly comparable to Dead Cells. Players always start at a safe hub before emerging into a world in which seemingly everything is out to get them. And while the first hostile area they enter will always be the same, the harrowing-sounding Land of Limbo, numerous other areas can be visited straight after once they’ve been unlocked. Assuming players make it that far, of course. The action in GetsuFumaDen: Undying Moon is uncompromising, and death takes you right back to the start with little to show for your efforts.
Taking control of Fuma is mostly a pleasure. He moves with grace, can double jump and mantle to reach high ledges, and has a nifty dodge manoeuvre that allows him to avoid enemy attacks. He’s a versatile fighter capable of wielding a whole assortment of weapons, too. At the hub there’ll always be a standard katana waiting for him, along with a random second weapon, so there’s never a reason to enter the fray unarmed. As he defeats enemies and opens chests, there’s a chance he’ll find more powerful weapons to make use of.
Each weapon type has a basic combo as well as a special function. Katanas, for example, allow Fuma to perform a counter attack, while umbrellas allow him to block attacks and float gracefully through the air. You can quickly switch between two primary weapons with the push of a button. Two secondary weapons can be carried as well, such as bows and arrows, rifles and shuriken. Chances are you’ll have a varied arsenal at your disposal shortly after starting a run.
Fuma also has some nifty tricks up his sleeves. If players demonstrate skill, landing hits and killing multiple enemies without suffering damage, he’ll assume a demonic form, powering him up. Skilled players will make use of Instant Flash, Instant Break and Instant Slay manoeuvres, too, allowing them to turn the tables on their enemies and stylishly end their lives. And there are devastating Surprise Attacks to employ, providing players can sneakily approach their foes.
The success of a run can largely depend on the utilisation of a Soul Devour system. Souls are occasionally dropped by enemies, and when collected they light up one of four bonuses displayed at the bottom of the screen. With the simple press of a button, the soul will be consumed, granting the bonus that’s currently lit up. It allows Fuma to greatly increase his health, power up his attacks, or gain a health potion. The latter may seem like a poor choice in comparison, but health potions don’t come easy in GetsuFumaDen: Undying Moon.
The combination of tense, skill-based gameplay and striking visuals has me really enamoured with GetsuFumaDen: Undying Moon. Each environment is detailed and full of colour, with fantastical enemies that really capture the imagination. Bosses, on the other hand, are screen-sized and really up the ante. There’s a cracking soundtrack accompanying all the action, too. In fact, right now there’s only one thing that sours me a bit on the game: its implementation of permanent progression.
As mentioned previously, whenever you die in GetsuFumaDen: Undying Moon you start back at the beginning. Any weapons that you collected are stripped from you, as well as bonuses earned via Soul Devour. Even worse, you only get to keep a fraction of the materials you picked up on your exploits; materials required to power up weapons, train Fuma, and unlock Secret Arts. If you keep playing until you die, then, it can take a long time to feel any sense of true progression.
There’s a skill you can unlock that allows you to carry more of your materials back upon death, but it’s still not very generous. Instead, your best option is to quit a run after beating a boss, which allows you to keep the entirely of your loot. I guess it creates a risk versus reward element, but it also seems counterproductive for a roguelike where the main challenge is to see just how far you can get. As it is, it just coerces players to farm the first stage to power up Fuma, which isn’t exactly exciting.
As it’s currently in Early Access, however, there’s a good chance that things will change if the community is vocal enough. And aside from that, there’s not a lot to be critical of. GetsuFumaDen: Undying Moon might just be the most interesting thing to come out of Konami in years, and that’s something to be celebrated. It does little, if anything, to push the roguelike mould, but with a visual style so unique it doesn’t really need to. This is set to be an accomplished revival of a long-dormant IP, and if it’s just the taste of things to come from Konami, colour me ecstatic.
GetsuFumaDen: Undying Moon is available now via Steam Early Access. Buy it or add it to your wishlist now.