I had seen a trailer of Bloodstained – Ritual of the Night and was interested in its blatant Castlevania-ness, but I didn’t really follow it all that closely, as I hadn’t yet realized that it was the product of Koji Igarashi, the guy who helped create almost every major Castlevania game since the fucking ultimate Symphony of the Night. Apparently this Bloodstained, Curse of the Moon, is just a taste of whats yet to come. This is the result of a Kickstarter stretch goal from back when Ritual of the Night got backed (which I completely missed out on).
Most people (most old people anyway) will immediately see the resemblance to Castlevania 3 here, with the very Belmont looking not-Belmont, the very Alucard looking not-Alucard, and even the not-Sypha mage-y guy (though there’s no Grant DeNasty analogue). Naturally, each has their own set of attacks and abilities that’ll let you approach enemies and the environment in very different ways. I tended to use Miriam a lot for her long distance whip attack and high jump, but not-Alucard‘s fireballs and not-Sypha‘s various spells come in pretty hand pretty often too. Oddly enough, the not-Belmont character is probably the worst of the bunch. His standard attack has a very short range, his sub-weapons aren’t always very effective, and he doesn’t really have any other useful special abilities. Oh well.
Other than the character switching though, it really more closely resembles the 16-bit games in the series than the 8-bit ones. There are a lot of branching alternate paths through levels, though they all ultimately lead to the same conclusions. It is nice to have options though, especially when the game kind of relies on you playing through it multiple times. Curse of the Moon is very short, clocking in at only 2-3 hours, but it has many different endings and a few extra game modes that can be unlocked. For example, if you recruit all three extra characters and beat the game, you’ll unlock Nightmare Mode which you’ll start with the three extras, minus not-Belmont, and have to beat the game all over again, but this time with an extra final level and set of bosses. It turns out that you can also ignore the extra characters if you wish, or even kill them and steal their power (which unlocks the even nastier Ultimate Mode where you have to replay as solo not-Belmont).
There’s several other endings as well, though only two of them unlock other game modes, and a Boss Rush mode too. Between all these different modes and replays the game can keep you busy for a decent amount of time depending on how persistent you are. Beating it four times was enough for me, but that took a good 9 hours or so altogether, and that’s not a bad amount of time at all for the price. Curse of the Moon sure seems to be a good omen for Ritual of the Night too. If this is any indication of what’s to come, then it seems that Castlevania has been resurrected once again, just under a different name, and that’s really all there is to say about Bloodstained. If you like Castlevania, you’ll like this. If not? GET LOST, HEATHEN!