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Posted on Jun 28th 2019 at 08:00:00 AM by (Disposed Hero)
Posted under Review, Igarashi, Castlevania, Metroidvania, Action, Adventure, RPG


The wait is finally over! It has been four years since the runaway Kickstarter success Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night obliterated its funding goal and became the most successful video game Kickstarter project, at least until Shenmue III came along and surpassed it shortly after. Spearheaded by former Castlevania producer Koji Igarashi, hopes were high that an experience like Symphony of the Night would be delivered to longtime fans of the series, but after numerous delays and other highly anticipated Kickstarter games failing to live up to expectations, fans started to become skeptical. Does Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night live up to its lofty expectations, or is it just another Kickstarter disappointment?



Developed by ArtPlay with assistance from WayForward and published by 505 Games, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night was released on June 18, 2019 for the PC, PS4, and Xbox One, with the Nintendo Switch version releasing a week later. A sidescrolling action-adventure RPG, it has been met with near unanimous positive reception among fans and critics alike. Following his departure from Konami, longtime Castlevania series producer Koji Igarashi began pitching his idea for a new game to more than 20 different publishers but found that none were receptive. After the success of Keiji Inafune's Mighty No. 9 Kickstarter campaign, Igarashi turned to the crowdfunding platform and was met with overwhelming success, and Bloodstained remains one of the most successful video game projects in the platform's history at over $5.5 million.

After waking from a ten-year slumber, main protagonist Miriam learns that demons are walking the Earth and are being led by her old friend Gebel. As a Shardbinder who is able to absorb and use the powers of these demons, Miriam must venture into Gebel's stronghold and attempt to put a stop to his plans. While the story isn't bad, it is typical fare for this type of game and is fairly predictable and unremarkable overall. However, this is a rare style of game where I feel as if the story is not important and is simply there to get the player from one event to the next, so I suspect that most players won't really mind if it is a bit lackluster. In fact, I generally preferred it when the game was light on exposition because it would interrupt the flow of the gameplay. There are bookshelves scattered throughout the game that contain some backstory in the form of journal entries if you wish to delve into it, and some of the NPCs will offer some extra exposition when talking to them.


Bloodstained's exploration elements borrow heavily from those most notably featured in the Metroid and Castlevania series. You are placed in a large castle and are able to explore at your leisure with certain blocked paths requiring a new upgrade or ability that you unlock at a later point in the game. Some of these upgrades are the common variety that every game has (double-jump), but there are also some unique ones that I don't believe I've seen in this style of game before. There are many hidden paths which can lead to powerups, items, equipment, or even a hidden boss fight. It also pays to strike every piece of wall in hopes that it will crumble away and reveal one of the dozens of the HP, MP, or ammo maximum capacity upgrades in the game.

Combat is again reminiscent of games such as Symphony of the Night and has an overall satisfying feel. Miriam can equip many different weapon types including swords, daggers, whips, greatswords, and guns, each with their own distinct attributes and feel. Different commands can be entered on the controller to execute a variety of different special moves depending on which weapon type is currently equipped, and this also helps differentiate the multitude of weapon types. There are also dozens of different powers that can be absorbed from defeated enemies in the form of Shards, and these include things such as area of effect attacks, directional projectile attacks, summons, passive stat bonuses and elemental resistances, and important progression abilities such as the double jump. Between all of the available weapon types and abilities in the game, there is a myriad of viable options depending on your preferred playstyle. Enemy variety is also impressive with dozens of unique and interesting enemy types.


Boss fights are also varied and impressive.

Miriam can earn experience and level up by defeating enemies, which will in turn increase her stats. Different equipment such as armor and accessories will also affect her stats, and, as an added bonus, any gear that is currently equipped will be visible on Miriam with the exception of main body armor. There is an NPC in the game that can change aspects of Miriam's appearance such as her hairstyle, clothing colors, and eye color. In the 'home base' area of the castle, there are NPCs that serve as shops, and items, equipment, and Shards can also be crafted and upgraded here, and this helps lend the game an extra layer of depth. There are also a couple of NPCs here that will give some basic quests for defeating specific enemy types and retrieving specific items, and while these don't add much to the game, they do give the player some goals to strive for while backtracking through the castle.

Bloodstained has a unique and vibrant art style that looks great and will likely age well over time. The game sports a 2.5D visual style that is quite detailed with a nice layer of depth. Longtime Castlevania series composer Michiru Yamane was recruited to compose the music for Bloodstained and unsurprisingly delivered a great soundtrack. Both the English and Japanese voice acting are solid with names like David Hayter and Ray Chase as part of the cast.


Metal Gear!? Whatchoo talkin' bout!?

Any complaints I have about the game are fairly minor and mostly deal with the game's presentation. Frequent (and sometimes long) load times, glitchy item drops from enemies, some slight graphical issues, and the game appearing to freeze a couple of times during the initial startup are the bulk of what I experienced. While these aren't a big deal on their own, they did combine to make the game feel a bit rushed or unfinished, and hopefully these can be ironed out with future patches. It is also worth noting that many owners of the Switch version are dissatisfied with the port, stating that it displays at a very low resolution and is far less detailed than the other platforms, and it also runs at low and unstable framerates and is prone to crashing and freezing. 505 Games has responded to these complaints and announced that resources have been shifted to improving performance and stability for the Switch release, but it is something to keep in mind for those who are considering purchasing the Switch version.

Although I already had high hopes for Bloodstained, it still far exceeded my expectations and is an absolute must-play for fans of Symphony of the Night and the handheld Castlevania titles that followed it. While the game feels about 95% complete in its current state due to the minor presentation problems, the package delivered here is still excellent, and the promise of forthcoming updates and free downloadable content make Bloodstained a worthwhile purchase and investment for anyone interested in the game. Anybody who was apprehensive about Bloodstained can feel free to purchase the game with confidence. Igarashi definitely delivered on this one!


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Comments
 
I was a kickstarter backer and like many others got a bit annoyed with this over the years...

...But then I started playing the game and all was forgiven. It's great!
 
s.summey1962@gmail.com
 
I just got 99.6% map completion this morning and have started gathering resources for some of the ultimate gear. Such a satisfying game if your favorite Castlevania is SotN. Definitely play it on PC with a controller if at all possible, as load times are nonexistent and the framerate never gets in the way.
 
It is a great game. I had as much fun as I had with SON. It is everything SON was and then some more. I liked the new game ideas with the Reflector Ray, Dimension Shift, and the myriad of weapons, shards and much more make grinding fun. Since Ys Origins and Ys VIII I I didn't have so much fun grinding and levelling up. Visuals and gameplay are excellent.

My only complaint are the glitches from a technical side of view. They are indeed there. Three times the game throw me out and I found myself on the console menu within a second. It happened when I was going back to the first area (the galleon). Thank goodness I saved just secs before, so no frustration here. The other glitches I encountered with two boss fights (the Twin Dragons and the Locomotive, the train engine) I couldn't defeat them although I pummeled them like crazy and hit them probably 5 to ten times more than they should normally take. After the game over screen and I tried again and everything was back to normal, I defeated them with much less hit points after a couple of minutes. Strange.

The game immersed me and I got lost in its universe. I had no other choice than to finish it...and that says a lot about a jaded gamer who needs a very convincing game to go back and back again and experiences a lot of fun.
 
I'm glad to see others around here are also enjoying the game. Thanks for reading, everyone!

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