It still feels awkward booting up a game and seeing the bright-red and white Konami splash screen. After the Japanese publisher’s very public and very messy falling out with Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima, their reputation has remained more than a little stained in the gaming community. There have been a handful of game releases from Konami since that 2015 fiasco, but they’ve mostly been… unexciting. A handful of re-releases and a couple of sour attempts at continuing franchises – Metal Gear Survive and Contra: Rogue Corps – make up Konami’s output over the last few years.
Now, Konami is going to bat with another classic revival in the form of GetsuFumaDen: Undying Moon, and it’s probably their most impressive one yet.
The original Getsu Fūma Den was an NES sidescroller from 1987, pretty similar in style and feel to the early Castlevania games. Instead of sticking with that formula, GetsuFumaDen: Undying Moon puts a roguelite twist on things. At this point there are so many different kinds of approaches to the rogue-adjacent genre, but it’s incredibly easy to pin down where GetsuFumaDen: Undying Moon draws inspiration from. If you liked Dead Cells, you’re gonna like this game just as much.
Runs see you diving into procedurally generated stages to expel demonic threats while you gather new primary weapons, helpful ranged sub-weapons, and a variety of different currencies you can use to buy items and upgrades.
At a base level, before even digging into the roguelite details of the game, GetsuFumaDen: Undying Moon is a blast. The entire game is rendered with gorgeous ukiyo-e inspired 3D visuals that make characters and environments look like they’ve just popped out of an inky 17th century Japanese painting. It’s paired with traditional Japanese music and solid sound design that really help elevate the experience beyond being just another side-scrolling roguelike.
The attack animations are what really make the game shine. Just the simple act of battling monsters, no matter what weapon you’re using, is always insanely satisfying. The flurry of strikes with dual blades or the meaty impact of a gauntlet punch never get old, especially in the middle of a hectic boss battle.
While the gameplay experience is pretty engaging, the roguelike meta-game aspect of GetsuFumaDen: Undying Moon that could use some work. As you progress through a run, you’ll collect multiple currencies you can use to buy character and weapon upgrades. There are two key issues here, though. The first is that it can be a mind-numbing grind to actually gather enough resources to buy these upgrades – the cost of even the beginning ones is staggering – and you lose all of your resources upon death, so you’ll never be able to consistently save up resources from failed runs.
Once you do get a feel for the grind, though, the other issue rears its head. very few of these upgrades are actually interesting or exciting. Many of them boil down to stat boosts and damage modifiers rather than giving you access to strikingly new ways to play or build your character.
These issues aren’t game breakers by any means. With 5 stages and dozens of weapons to find, GetsuFumaDen: Undying Moon is already packed full of content that makes just completing a single run-through feel fulfilling and engaging. As a game meant to be replayed numerous times, there’s definitely work that needs to be done in justifying that kind of replayability. Upgrades aren’t exciting, resources are hard to come by, and levels tend to lack surprises or secrets.
Still, if Konami can work on improving those aspects of the game while it’s still in Early Access, this might just be the next great roguelite.