Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night took a lot longer than most people imagined when the game popped up on Kickstarter back in 2015. After a wildly successful campaign on the crowdfunding platform, and funding reaching $5.5 million, the work began on creating a game Konami should’ve been developing, and while it took a bit longer than expected, we’re now playing the finished product of four years in development. Finally playing the finished product over the last week or so, I’ve come to believe that this wait was worth it, and the game is a successful product. Thankfully, with former Castlevania producer, Koji Igarashi returning to the series and working on a spiritual successor proves to be a winning formula.
While you won’t find Alucard or Simon here, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night follows protagonist Miriam, a young woman and product of alchemic experimentation when she was a child. The Alchemist’s Guild implanted demonic crystals into her body, giving her the ability to assimilate a demon’s power and use it as her own; but at a cost of losing control if she absorbs too much power from a demon. Miriam is after Gebel, another person experimented on by The Alchemist’s Guild, as he seeks to bring demons to the world.
A long, long night
A lot of what made the Castlevania series great is here. Classic and old-school gameplay design mixed with straightforward action and exploration in a massive demonic castle. Hidden doors and entrances, and the ability to explore the entirety of the castle once the brief opening tutorial mission completes, most of your time is spent pressing forward.
As it were, Miriam is adept at combat, partly thanks to her demonic powers but her prowess with a variety of weapons including whips, maces, swords, daggers, and guns. The combat and magic system comes across as convoluted at first, but eventually, the implementation becomes clear and offers a wealth of ways for you to develop your own powerful Miriam.
Good to see you again
Serving as the greatest hits of the Castlevania series, die-hard fans might notice things like Miriam’s powers stemming from similar abilities found in Aria of Sorrow. Or that the castle is reminiscent of Symphony of the Night. It’s clear this is everything one would love about Castlevania without being tied to the series. Even the music, which was composed by Michiru Yamane, the composer of several Castlevania games to deliver another brilliant soundtrack that compliments the atmosphere perfectly.
From the start, you see familiar mechanics like save rooms, teleports, maps, and so on. I don’t blame Igarashi in mimicking what works for him with Bloodstained because the game is a blast to play, jank and all.
Whip it good
Combat is what stood out for me the most because of rewarding and variable things became the more I played. Starting off with Kung-Fu Shoes and then getting my first whip to put a huge smile on my face the moment the crack of the weapon echoed in the hallways of the castle. Each weapon uses its own style and can be further enhanced with special moves found in books around the map. Some weapons like a greatsword hit hard but swing slow, or a dagger that strikes fast but is weak. This is all before even mentioning the shards Miriam can absorb throughout the entire campaign. Over 100 various types of shards offer a myriad of choices and provide depth to enemy encounters. Strike an opponent with a fire blast or call upon a flying demon pig to serve Miriam – it’s an impressive amount of flexibility in battle.
And if that isn’t enough, crafting rewards those who use the system. As enemies drop items, Miriam crafts not only new items but various dishes that provide boosts. Some give permanent stat buffs the first time you eat them and often help in a pinch when fighting a boss who might be more than you can handle. Eating every food type benefits Miriam as she explores the castle, finding the required components of a recipe and returning to make that dish.
If you find yourself overwhelmed by exploration you can take on quests that are found within the hub area of Bloodstained. There are three quest types, and none are particularly deep but offer rewards.
A big complaint Kickstarter backers (and fans in general) fell on the dull graphics. The developers took this to heart and went back and improved nearly every aspect of Bloodstained, going so far as to release trailers showcasing the improved enhancements they did. Overall, I’m thoroughly impressed by how well ArtPlay and 505 Games turned around on this, and honestly, it’s better off now than what we’ve seen in previews.
I didn’t encounter anything game-breaking (even though a nasty bug was found) but I did notice an occasional dialogue box missing words in the text. An early one that stood out was in the hub and an NPC was explaining a mechanic and the word shopping was spoken but on screen was missing. A bit of jank sprinkled through the various environments, too but nothing that prevented progress.
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night took its time but was worth the wait. Aside from a recent Castlevania collection from Konami, the series is in limbo. Thankfully, we have Igarashi and his team working on delivering what people want more. Bloodstained isn’t perfect but does an admiral job to deliver more content than I expected. As a Castlevania fan, this is exactly what I want (but I’d take a Lords of Shadow remaster) and commend the developers on releasing a wholly-engaging and fun romp through a demonic castle.
[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.]
- Excellent characters
- Combat is a blast and full of customization
- Great map layout and fun to explore the castle
- Catchy, reminiscent tunes Michiru Yamane
- Some minor glitches