HomeReviewsGame ReviewsGetsuFumaDen Undying Moon Review: a roguelite with a retro charm

GetsuFumaDen Undying Moon Review: a roguelite with a retro charm

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GetsuFumaDen Undying moon is a game that seems to come from the distant past. charming but sadly imperfect.


It’s hard to imagine how Konami came to the decision to want resurrect a title like GetsuFumaDen, choosing from the IP deck in the pits for years a work that had never arrived in the West before. Only one chapter dated 1987 exclusively for Famicom, the same age as Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest with which it shares more than one structural element, but sinking its teeth into Japanese folklore rather than Eastern European folklore and giving life to a horizontally scrolling action-platform (with individual levels arranged on an explorable world map) with a particularly suggestive (if you want to recover Simon’s Quest, we suggest you read our review of Castlevania Anniversary Collection).

Yet Konami has managed to bring the aforementioned game back to life thanks to the Deluxe Edition of Undying Moon, which includes a port of the original M2 title (and obviously not translated into English but still visually understandable) with which to fill a gap of 35 years. The fact is that finally a second chapter has arrived, announced as a bolt from the blue a few Directs ago after the aborted attempt on PlayStation 2; and the GetsuFumaDen contemporary looks like a ukiyo-e on Unreal Engine that abandons rice paper to give life and interactivity to the “images of the floating world”, reworked in a macabre key to tell a world where demons have taken over commanded by the powerful Ryukotsuki, before which only Fuma can stand as a hero, one reincarnation after another.

Nice to see, but …

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From the very first moment of gameplay there are no particular doubts about which was the inspiration that prompted Konami and GuruGuru to bring GestuFumaDen to 2022.

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The Motion Twin’s Dead Cells relives from the very first game screen, the elegant room of a villa from the Edo period with various parchments hanging from the wind, ready to symbolize the objects and weapons that we will find during our adventure, just like the ampoules that hang from the ceiling of the cell in the now very popular French roguelite (if you like, our Dead Cells review is here for you). A familiarity that continues in the arrangement of the commands on the controller and in the combat system, with two primary weapons (swords, clubs, spears, brass knuckles …), as many secondary weapons (bows, arquebuses, magic bracelets …), a button dedicated to parry and one to roll dodge (including invincibility frames). This in itself is never a problem, the game of genre is based on tracing; what we must ask ourselves is whether this leads to an improvement / variation of the formula or to its involution. Unfortunately, in this case we are talking about the second possibility, where the Konami title suffers from a heaviness and a general lack of cleaning that rust and Potential hack ‘n slash gameplay pops up. The very elegant and elaborate animations seem unsuitable for the type of action the work wants to stage, demanding a speed of execution that Fuma cannot afford and pushing the user to compensate by often playing in advance once the patterns are understood. , always transmitting a feeling of tangible “detachment” between input and reaction.

Added to this is an annoying on-screen confusion caused by a series of questionable graphics choices. The backdrops are beautiful, there is no doubt, it is one of the greatest strengths of Undying Moon, but the level of detail that shines so much in the screenshots you find around here transforms, in motion, into a tangible problem of legibility that starts from chromatic choices incapable of sufficiently detach background and action plan. The scarce 30fps that move the Switch version we tested also make scrolling even more indigestible, precisely on a visual level, transmitting a physically unpleasant sensation. I’m even more sorry because there is a sincere and particular care for what is the scenographic aspect in general.

A “heavy” roguelite

The limited procedural level design does a decent job with stages that are always recognizable where each run however changes the arrangement of certain rooms and demons, stimulating exploration with labyrinthine architectures that hide fundamental chests in their crevices to recover collectibles and new weapons to increase their potential during the game.

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GetsuFumaDen tries here to have its say with excessive structural complexity which leads to a farming where the progression gets bogged down and begins to spin. Money is collected to buy already complete weapons at the shops of elegant and disturbing ladies, (many) various materials to unlock new weapons (of which the blueprints must be found first) and to upgrade those already in possession permanently, of which 2 will come later randomly chosen by the game to be collected in the mansion at the start of the game, before crossing the portal to the underworld again. Then there are two different types of magatama (the classic curved pearls imbued with mystical powers), green and yellow, one to improve the physical stats of Fuma (Training), the other to unlock new skills (Mastery). As if that were not enough, the souls are added that, if absorbed, they improve, for the run in progress, primary, secondary weapon, health or insert a healing potion to the supply; if accumulated, they create 3 soul memories every 5 collections, to be associated with the materials to forge the above weapons.

Too much stuff. All managed through a series of somewhat confusing menus, to which is added the effort in actually gathering the necessary resources (and large quantities are required obviously given randomly), always poised on the game over. Because it is a moment to lose everything that has been collected, unlike other roguelites where the most precious resources (those that unlock permanent upgrades so to speak, such as magatama) survive death, unless you unlock a specific ability that holds them back a percentage.

And that can push you to play it safe, lock a bit, focus on farming, and freeze resources in some bland games. An upgrade system much more suited to a pure linear progression action-RPG which consequently clashes with the clearly recursive and immediate nature with which one thinks today of the roguelite.

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Let me be clear, it would not even be an invalidating feature in itself, it is a game design choice that gets callus over the hours, while remaining a definitely baroque progression and countercurrent with respect to the general streamlining that the genre is experiencing; however, it is a series of contributing causes that do not allow GestuFumaDen to express its potential. Because if the control system is imprecise the pleasure of the gameplay suffersif the eye is tired you do not enjoy the inspired artistic direction, if to have a satisfactory build you have to go around mechanically, without drawing particular taste from it, then you get heavy and the experience loses grit, drive, bite.

This despite the interesting ideas are not lacking, with a tasty management of the berserk that increases the demonic strength of Fuma as long as it continues to exterminate enemies without suffering damage, capable of giving a lot of satisfaction once you get the hang of the fight; but also single spectacular moments, among which the boss fights certainly stand out, aesthetically crazy and very substantial to fight, as well as, for example, the marine stage inspired by The Great Wave of Kanagawa, with the tsunami that hits the action plan, similar to Certain levels of Donkey Kong Country Returns but painted and beautifully animated. To this must also be added one top notch soundtrack albeit with some bizarre choices, where during the action typical sounds of the Japanese musical tradition prevail, punctuated by very powerful taiko, and then turn to the metal of certain boss fights (there may be) or to reggae (in short) of the shops, throwing a little ‘of everything in the pile.


GetsuFumaDen Undying Moon

Nintendo Switch Analyzed Version: The premises were there, the artistic direction is probably one of the most impacting and evocative views in 2D in recent years, but GetsuFumaDen: Undying Moon gets lost in the execution. It would like to be an alternative to Dead Cells but it fails to replicate neither the precision nor the taste of the Motion Twin combat system, to restrain itself in a heavy, baroque roguelite progression, where farming risks taking over the desire to jump into action and take risks, with a pace much more similar to a pure action-RPG, which fights with gameplay however quite intuitive and in itself somewhat repetitive. Some interesting ideas give him back a bit of personality, as well as the splendid boss fights and certain spectacular scenographies partially ruined by a rough technical sector (at least on Switch), but the feeling is that an indecisive job has come out, which he has lost. given its goal by deciding to be a barely enough roguelite rather than a (potentially) great 2D action-RPG. However, it remains an interesting operation and with its own dignity, especially due to the fact that it is an IP that has arrived in the West for the first time in 35 years, which is always a moment of discovery and curiosity.

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