June Mejos, a high school student, magical girl, and protagonist in June Mejos and the Moonlit Curse, went out into the night, expecting another routine patrol like so many before it. There did seem to be more Nightmares than usual, but even that was still perfectly manageable. But all of a sudden, things took a drastic turn for the worse as a strange temple appeared above the city, and the moon shifted, giving off an eerie light!
In other words, things got weird and fast. Especially compared to the relatively basic threat June dealt with in A Change of Heart: A Magical Girl Adventure (review), running, jumping and smacking pesky Nightmares. Or how about the turn-based battles at the museum in Within Her HeArt (review)? Ah, the good old days. No flying through the air, dodging enemy fire while trying to land a few of her own and maintaining a proper groovy upgraded weapon to make everything that much easier.
That’s not to say I disliked the gameplay in June Mejos and the Moonlit Curse or the story because, like both previous entries, this was a genuinely enjoyable Basin Lake Magical Girls title. On easy difficulty, anyway. There are bound to be some out there who can breeze through the game on hard, but I am nowhere near skilled or experienced enough with the bullet hell genre to survive that. Even more so, since cranking up the difficulty means taking a hit resets your weapon to its most basic form, on top of the power level decreasing. On easy, only the latter happens. While that can still seem punishing, at least you get to keep that extraordinary laser beam, curved bullets, or whatever else you’ve acquired from fallen foes. Provided you’re quick enough to grab each of those before they fly off-screen, forever out of reach.
Speaking of which, I like how so many aspects harken back to classic genre entries, from the aforementioned item collecting to how June speaks up whenever the player picks something up; it doesn’t matter if it’s health, a new weapon, a shield boost, or a powerup – she’s pretty vocal about any acquisitions. It’s such a neat little addition. Another clever little detail that caught my eye was how HUD elements move from the top to the bottom of the screen and vice versa, depending on June’s position, to avoid obscuring the view. Again, such a tiny thing, yet it does help quite a bit in the thick of things.
Now, while I’d like to talk about the story in great detail, I feel there’s not enough to do so without simply spoiling something important. So, how about the incredible music once again provided by Facemelting Solos? The overall quality of June Mejos and the Moonlit Curse is undeniably excellent, with pixellated visuals, challenging side-scrolling bullet hell gameplay, and a rather interesting story. But the music is a big part of the experience too. It even changes during cutscenes/dialogue and boss fights rather than simply providing each level with its own score and calling it a day.
On a somewhat related note, since I’m reviewing this one several years after its original release, the title has seen quite a few changes and additions, the biggest of which is of course… B-Side stages! I tried my best to conquer these for the review, but much like hard difficulty, the challenge was just too much. Way too much. I did enjoy how differently they played, however, Camilla’s stamina (health) constantly draining and the only way to replenish it is to defeat enemies and collect their Nightmare Essence. Oh, shooting also drains her stamina. Yeah. Those looking for a challenge, well, there it is!
Meanwhile, I’ll stick to June’s side of things, blasting away at Nightmares and upgrading her weapon in strange and fascinating ways as she inches ever closer to figuring out what the deal is with that floating temple in June Mejos and the Moonlit Curse. A game I can wholeheartedly recommend – even for those who aren’t overly fond of the bullet hell genre. Trust me, it’s not all that challenging on easy, and who knows, with a bit of practice, hard can potentially be conquered, too. Not by me though. I’ve had my fun, and now it’s time to find out what happens in Paisley’s Heart: A Magical Girl Origin Story, the sequel to Within Her HeArt.
June Mejos and the Moonlit Curse is available on itch.io and Newgrounds for free.