REVIEW – Although the review score won’t really express it, I think that none of the three major Kickstarter spiritual successors managed to show something outstanding while surpassing the original titles. I think Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night wasn’t capable of defeating the game that inspired it.
We can safely say that Mighty No. 9 was a gigantic flop (with its 3DS and PlayStation Vita ports still nowhere to be found), and then Mega Man 11 swiftly threw Beck and Call into the trash can; Yooka-Laylee, in my opinion, was never able to overcome Banjo-Kazooie. So how did Bloodstain: Ritual of the Night stay behind Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, which first came out on the PS1 in ’97? (I’m going to shorten its name to SotN from now on to save characters!)
So Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (shortened to RotN from now on for the same reason), led by Koji Igarashi, who already was one of the directors of Castlevania: SotN, proved to Konami on Kickstarter that there is still a need for a 2D, side-scrolling Metroidvania-styled Castlevania game, something like SotN was, and that game is still a very good comparison in the genre for a good reason even today. During the development, an 8-bit game teaser, called Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon, came out, which I still recommend today. In the game, we control Miriam, who awakens after several years of alchemic experiments, to gain shards. By that, I don’t mean her breaking her bones but by acquiring shards that contain powerups and abilities – these shards are randomly dropped by enemies for the most part. Her mission is to either save or kill her friend called Gebel, who also had similar treatment to him, but losing his humanity in the process.
From the village hub, you get to go anywhere you want and have the ability to do so, you pick up items from the crates to get pickups and story-related, necessary items, defeat demonic enemies to level up, and with the gained money and items, you can improve your character’s skills, craft perks for the weapons, and so on. The game will eventually abandon the player in a sense, as expected in a Metroidvania, but you can still beat it in about 13-14 hours. Meanwhile, you’ll very likely get used to the Gothic visual style, and while the characters during the cutscenes (with 2D speaking figures – the speaking one gets lit, I don’t know what to hate on them) are not that well-designed, I wouldn’t call them bad.
The graphics work fine for the most part, and the soundtrack, composed by Michiru Yamane (who formerly made music for Castlevania, too), is alright as well, although I have heard better in the Castlevania franchise. (The sound effects are questionable, though – for example, the sound Miriam gives when acquiring a shard…) The voice acting is pretty good, I give RotN that. If you have played Metal Gear Solid, you simply have to know the voice of David Hayter, as he is the voice of Snake. What about the animations? They are okay.
They aren’t perfect but not terrible either. The enemy designs aren’t exactly original everywhere (which is partially why I used this title next to the name of the game at the top of the page), but they work. I don’t find any issue with the combat either: the variety of the weapons in Bloodstained: RotN allows anyone to find the right choice for their playstyle, allowing you to fight those big profile pictures at one point in the plot. The boss fights are also enjoyable.
The platforming is mostly feeling good, but I think it’s common that you either slip off the edge of the platform several times, or you might think you’ll land but then just end up falling flat. I noticed this multiple times with a certain jump at the clock tower. I think you need some really precise moves here and there to progress. I don’t think that’s a good thing in a Castlevania clone! There are other issues, too. For example, you might get stuck. It’s not a problem, but it will expand the game time, making you wander around where to go next. Then, the game might crash on you.
Also, I have heard that there was a glitch with a game update, where the crates that were unopened got opened, and the already opened crates were closed again, containing the same items you already had in them. Now, this an issue because there are items in the crates that are necessary to complete Bloodstained: RotN. On consoles, you might even run into crashes, and if you play on the Switch, good lord, I’m sorry in the name of the devs: the lag is three times worse than on the PC! (I have a source for this claim, right here.)
So let’s just end it with a 7 out of 10. The game could have been better, and Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night had the potential for it, but launching it with bugs was a mistake, and I think it ran into the same scenario as Yooka-Laylee did: it’s good but not better than what inspired it. I’m not saying that RotN is unplayable, but it’s not as good as Castlevania: SotN. For fans, my 7 score is an 8 – I can recommend this game for them because they’ll find everything familiar in a few moments. But, objectively, it’s just a 7/10.
+ Castlevania without much changes: if you know the series’ 2D titles, you’ll find it familiar
+ A deep, well-designed, variable combat system
+ Crafting, most of the soundtrack
– Perhaps the platformer parts aren’t perfect?
– It’s buggy (and even laggy on the Switch…)
– It didn’t try anything revolutionary, which is why the student never surpassed its master
Publisher: 505 Games
Genre: 2D Metroidvania
Release date: June 18, 2019