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Minoria Review: Hack ‘n’ Slash Hallelujah (Switch)

Switch owners rejoice - yet another masterfully crafted Metroidvania is upon us! Don the habit of Sister Semilla, a lady of the cloth who lets her sword do the talking. Join us as we sink our teeth into Minoria and destroy the heresy that clutches Ramezia.

Minoria Review: Hack 'n' Slash Hallelujah (Switch)

Brazilian developer Bombservice is back with what is intended as a spiritual successor to the series Momodora. Smite evil from the land as a sword-wielding nun, wading through the blood of witches and heretics on your path to free Ramezia from the clutches of all things unholy.

Director rdein has been developing games for more than 10 years already, with his first entry into the series Momodora releasing exclusively on itch.io back in 2010. While the first couple of entries in the series remain in relative obscurity, Momodora: Reverie Under The Moonlight has earned a sizeable following and a “very positive” review status on Steam.

Inspired by games such as Mega Man and Cave Story, rdein has grown from strength to strength as a developer. Some consider it inferior to Reverie Under The Moonlight, but Minoria is a well-polished and excellently crafted title. 

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

Minoria - PC Official Release Trailer

Story – Nun Too Shabby

You play as Sister Semilla, a leggy nun embroiled in a war against witchcraft and heresy. Her companion, Sister Anna Fran, does most of the talking throughout the game. Semilla lets her sword do the talking.

Ramezia, the kingdom in which this game takes place, is a theocratic monarchy that carries out violent inquisitions against witchcraft at the behest of the clergy.

The game kicks off in the midst of a massive ritual started by the witches. There are corpses littering the hallways of this cathedral, blood all over the walls and enemies around every corner. It is unknown what the intent of the ritual is, all that you know is that you must put a stop to it.

Sister Anna Fran is your faithful companion

Sister Anna Fran is your faithful companion

As the story progresses, it becomes more and more apparent that the bloody methods of the church are perhaps not as holy as they would have you believe. Heresy is a blanket term for anything deemed that goes against their beliefs, no matter how trifling. As the story unfolds and you learn about some of the persecution, some of those branded as heretics and witches are in fact mostly harmless, fighting mostly for survival against a genocidal church bent on wiping them from existence.

The dialogue is well-written and gripping, not once did I feel bored or skip through it. The game lets you skip the cutscenes, but if you do that you’ll miss some surprising twists. 

Much of the story is told through archives and notes found scattered across the levels. It’s not especially challenging to find them, especially once you find the Odd Incense which makes a sound when you’re nearby a secret passageway. This is good, as it fleshes things out nicely and provides context.

The library can be accessed near most save points and provides tutorials as well as some backstory

The library can be accessed near most save points and provides tutorials as well as some backstory

Gameplay – Religiously Rewarding

There is a lot to talk about in terms of Minoria’s gameplay, so let’s break it down.

Controls and Combat

Your controls are as follows: jump, attack, incense, and parry/dodge. These are remappable, but I found the default controller scheme just fine.

The Incense mechanic gives you a selection of different consumables that have a variety of effects, from offensive to healing or defensive. There are passive incenses, which you can equip. These passive incenses will, say, provide you with regenerative health or what have you. Magic by another name, essentially. Just don’t say that too loud around the church – they’ll have your head!

You can have up to 3 active incenses equipped, which you will cycle through by tapping the ZL/ZR buttons. These can be used in combination with physical attacks, and for the most part are provision for your ranged abilities. There are quite a lot of different incenses to collect, and this allows for some interesting variation.

Burning incense provides you with ranged abilities - it's a bit like magic!

Burning incense provides you with ranged abilities – it’s a bit like magic!

The combat is crisp and enjoyable. You have a handful of weapons available, but much like in Dark Souls your parry is powerful. Time this right, and you’ll cut your foes to ribbons. If your timing is off, either you’ll get hit, or you’ll counter while taking damage. This may seem overpowered to players who are particularly good at timing their button presses, but if you’re rubbish at it like me, it’s nice and challenging throughout.

If the Dark Souls influence was not already apparent, some of these enemies hit really hard. They also sometimes jump out of surprising places, and you’ll likely be seeing the “Game Over” screen pretty often. I’ve sometimes run up to an enemy that appears to be weak, only for said enemy to nuke me with a particularly hefty attack. You have to stay on your toes.

Fortunately, the game provides enough save points that it’s never a massive slog to find one, but I did feel the pressure of a low healthbar sometimes while doing so.

The boss fights are formidable skill checks, but never feel unfair

The boss fights are formidable skill checks, but never feel unfair

Exploration 

The levels are massive, and fun to traverse. Wander too far, and you might find yourself facing a boss, or a mini boss. These encounters can also catch you by surprise, so be wary of how much healing incense you’re packing – you don’t want to wander into one of these unprepared.

Save often – Minoria is pretty hardcore in this regard. I found myself having to beat a boss twice because I forgot to save and was destroyed by a minor enemy before I had found a new save point. Too eager to continue exploring, and the game punished me for this.

Minoria rewards patience. That said, it’s fun to blast through levels at a blistering speed.

What Metroidvania would be complete without some good old-fashioned platforming action? Minoria delivers the goods, with some rather enjoyable platforming sequences. I never felt that these platforming sections were overly challenging, but quite simply, they were fun. It worked well as it made things interesting while keeping the action flowing nicely. After all, the focus is on the combat.

There are some interesting character to meet throughout the game

There are some interesting character to meet throughout the game

Graphics – Spellbinding

Minoria is beautiful. The cel-shaded graphic style is cohesive and a pleasure to behold. Each new area is distinct, complete with new enemies and secrets to uncover. 

Somehow, in the midst of all the beauty, the game manages to maintain the oppressive atmosphere of an active inquisition. It might have something to do with all the corpses laying around.

The character designs are all easily distinguishable. At first, some of them seem kind of fan-servicey, and that may be off-putting to some. This is a minor drawback if you’re able to look past it. I wouldn’t say it’s over the top, but I personally found it a little odd. For example, the player character Sister Semilla’s habit is weirdly revealing for what I’d imagine being appropriate for a woman of the cloth. Understandably as a warrior, she would need some freedom of movement, but I still found it strange.

On a more positive note, the levels are absolutely gorgeous. They are each distinct, and even though the world itself is pretty crappy it’s nice to look at. Sure, everything wants to kill you. There are still corpses everywhere. At least you’ll die with a nice view.

This game is more and more beautiful as it progresses

This game is more and more beautiful as it progresses

Audio – Catharsis Composed

The soundtrack fits perfectly with the theme. From somber piano pieces, to delicately arranged arias, the sound design is on point. Sound designers Elektrobear and nK did an excellent job of capturing and creating the atmosphere.

A beautiful landscape stained by the blood of innocents. Revelations of misguided faith. A desperate fight for survival against a powerful and well-established killing machine. The soundtrack captures all of this, and is filled with emotion. I imagine it to paint a picture of what’s going through the minds and hearts of Sisters Anna Fran and Semilla as they discover that the cause they are fighting for is perhaps the greater evil of their world. They are driven forth not through their own will, but for fear of their own lives. To resist the church is a death sentence, as evidenced by the hundreds of corpses laying around. Much like their fate, it is inescapable.

I reviewed Minoria on Nintendo Switch. DANGEN Entertainment provided the review key.

Summary
What more could you ask for? Minoria is a beautifully realized title that is entertaining throughout. Aside from some minor nitpicks, this game is a masterfully crafted Metroidvania complete with an interesting story, gorgeous level design and a phenomenal soundtrack to tie it all together.
Good
  • Beautiful cel-shaded graphics
  • Responsive and intuitive battle system
  • Musical arrangements capture the tone and setting perfectly
Bad
  • Fan-servicey character design may be off-putting
  • More weapon variety would have been nice
8
Great

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