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Review | Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

"Metroidvania is back. Former glory is here just to remind us that great games still exist, but not to copy that recipe. As far as i'm concerned, 10 titles like this can make me happy and I would play them all."

by Foggy, 26-06-2019, Edited by: Jim

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. Does it ring a bell? Now try Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Yeah, sounds about the same. Feels about the same as well. Oh boy, isn't that great? Ah, let’s just start with some info about whatnot. We can say Ritual of the Night is a „Metroidvania“ video game developed by ArtPlay and published by 505 Games. The game's development was led by former Castlevania series producer Koji Igarashi, and is considered as a spiritual successor to the series. Oh yeah, that is why it rings a bell!  It was released for Windows, PS4, Xbox One on 18th June 2019, and Nintendo Switch on 25th June 2019.

Igarashi left Konami in 2014th and fans went crazy requesting another Metroidvania game. Kickstarter + Igarashi + fans money = Bloodstained. Right at the start, I say this was worth every penny and dime that was raised.

What do we have here...A rose? Yep, when you gulp those demons you are bound to grow a rose from your back.

This time story revolves around Mirian, protagonist who has been taken in by the Alchemists' Guild and subjected to experiments with demonically-powered crystals called Shards, granting her incredible power as a "Shardbinder" but causing her body to crystallize over time until she is completely consumed. Another one is Gebel. Then we have Johannes, a student alchemist who will slow corruption on Miriam's body. There was never intention that calling forth demons can result as an ultimate destruction. Who would've guessed heh? Shardbringers were used as a catalyst for that act, leaving Gabel as sole survivor while Miriam falls into an unnatural slumber before she can be sacrificed. Years later she wakes up just to find out that Gebel is the demon leader. Here we go, castle rises, Mirian enters. And the rest is history. It is by all means a typical Castlevania game as we know it, just using a different name.

The Shard collector v.2.666

I played Castlevania: Symphony of the Night quite recently and I remembered why it was one of the all-time best side scrolling RPG's ever made. It featured badass protagonist Alucard and gave us the RPG experience like many other good games - just in 2D scrolling game. This is by all means exactly the same stuff. And no, it's not a copy paste title, it just can't be since the same guy is calling the shots. He can do tons of these and I would never call him a copycat.

How long do we have to wait now for another game like this?

Game starts in a ship, introducing basic mechanics. As in Castlevania, you have a weapon and you cut those demons who gets in your way. What I like the most about SOTN is how much weapons the game had. That got even better here. I can't even name of the types of weapons you can have, and how much weapons are there. I don't even know if I tried half of them or learned all skills from certain ones.  Every type of weapon is different in a way of speed, usability, techniques, strength etc. I loved great swords, they are slow, but they knock the hell out of demons. Every demon you encounter will have a type of weapon that is he weak/weaker to. For example, blunt weapons work great on crystal demons and such. When you hit them, they bounce few meters away from you. On the other hand, using small weapons is great since you can hit many times more. I guess each player can explore all types and use preferred type. There are special weapons as well, like flying sword or ones that have different techniques that can be used. Million different reasons to play this.

It sure killed me first time. Second time, not so much.

Ah, so, you start in a shipwreck level, side-scrolling around, killing demons and jumping to reach more rooms. Right at the start and in first few rooms if you know Castlevania mechanics, you can find breakable walls. Kick them with your weapon to reveal secret room or simply an item. I loved those secrets, makes you swing your sword at every wall just not to miss anything. Usually rewards are great, like HP Max Up, great accessories, armors, weapons…Overall, I enjoyed every level design even though it resembles SOTN so much in every way of its construction. I knew for example that something important is in the upper area where the towers with bells are. Just this time graphics are decent enough which should be the case for game released this year. Could be better of course, but I don’t mind. Some levels even have a 3Dish style.

Well hello mr. Alu...O.D. Yeah, O.D. this time, the book lender. Hint: Try and challenge him.

Let’s go back to that beginning again. And let’s just say Demon Shards. Miriam is simply badass. Almost every demon you come across is a potential Shard drop. What it means is that you absorb a demon power. This time it’s not like in for example SOTN where you carry one special skill and when you collect another it gets replaced. This time you have 5 slots for shards, 2 which will be your attack ones, one for Heal or special grabber skill, or accelerate. On top of that you can equip support shard which can speed up your attacks or raise certain weapon type stats. You get the point. Lastly there is a familiar slot which will follow you and help. Fairy can heal for example. I had the flying sword, he is the most brutal death metal spawn you can get; every now and then he will growl “Die” and swing. Beautiful. Each shard can be leveled by Rank or Grade, boosting its purpose or even granting permanent skill that you can turn on without having shard on you. For Grade you need to collect another shard drop and for Rank you need to Enhance in the village using different items. You can choose across around 100 shards. I love it, love it I say.

Katana in the moonlight. Almost like in Sekiro. Blood is here, just nothing else similar is. Still, a Katana.

Bloodstained is pure RPG. It’s not by any means a turn based one, its action based side-scroller where you collect EXP and have HP, MP and all that. Leveling up you are one step closer to bigger demons and greater shards.  There is not much except the basic mechanics of character development, but different weapons, their skills, shards and equipment will make you happy enough to love it and appreciate the system in general. Breaking up candle holder grant money or MP replenish as it was in metroidvania games.

In real life i want to collect shards from demons as well. So i can equip Luck plus when i need it

Your safe point is the village where survivors are. Some of those are there to give you a hard time with their quests. Quests are simple and there are few types, like killing certain monsters, collecting equipment or cooking food. And one more, let’s say a secret one. Nothing extra, not much added value other than 100% the game and getting good items. If you get stuck, you can talk with people, often they leave a hint. There is a shop where you buy potions and useful stuff, equipment etc. Next to it, there is Craft shop where you – craft! If you have recipe that is. Collecting them opens new crafting entries. You can also prepare food which will grant you permanent status boost for first time eating them. Neat. You can also, like mentioned, enhance shard rank. And lastly, everything you own can be dismantled combining with one item that you can buy. Endless possibilities, let me tell you that.

Feel that level up. It's even more neat when you kill the beast 10 times bigger than you.

Among skills you get, there is double jump which I love, even though it’s a bit weaker than in SOTN. To have decent jump you need to craft new shard. Skills like sucking blood from enemies that blood when you cut with bleeding weapon will heal you and help you reach new areas by drinking gallon of blood from the pool, invert gravity will invert the whole level so you can walk on the roof, accelerate will grant you flash speed…Oh, there is so much neat stuff in there. Piece by piece you will collect all those and always think where to next. Sometimes it’s hard to find a way, but since with almost every new boss skill you can reach new areas it will make your replay fun and worthwhile. 

I prefer defense over looks. You have no idea how silly I look during some games. Also, hair is important.

Bosses are decent, some will present a challenge and kill you. It’s good to plan and buy healing items, equip good shard skill, jump around a bit to learn the pattern. I did not find much challenge on Normal mode, but some boss got me killed. I guess if you want real challenge try Hard or above. Still, Normal difficulty will not be boring by any means. When they poison you there is not much time if you are low on health and far away from teleport point or safe room. I loved the fights and animations, even stories around bosses, but I expected maybe a bit of diversity. Usually you can jump over the enemy, make few strikes, repeat.

Castlestained: Symphony of the Blood

There are few endings as well. Killing certain boss without having needed equipment will end the game and grant you bad ending. It’s worthwhile checking that as it will not mess with your save, simply you will be back to the last save point. Reward is seeing how the story ends when you do not do the right thing. In the end, everything will lead you towards the real ending so it’s good to grasp all there is along the way.

Just swiming in my own blood, don't mind me.

I miss more animations, cinematics and deeper story. It’s not that story is bad, I just see more potential in there. I hope they can move into that direction. They did great job with changing visuals with many many equipment, like head armors, scarfs and weapons. That is how you do micro management in the game, no micro transactions nor anything similar. All there is you can earn in timely manner. Maybe they can cross breed with writter of Legend of Heroes and deliver mind blowing story. Or Persona 5, oh, just remembering that one makes me blush.

Everyone likes to have their own moon. He is not going to like what is coming.

Right, now let’s talk negative. This will be short. I like everything. Maybe I disliked the speed of Miriam until late in the game when you get Accelerate skill. Other issues are just bugs. Kill enemy, expect a drop, you see one, it gets stuck on the air. Flying enemies are bound to bug the thing they drop. And no no, it’s not when they spit on you, it’s when you need to harvest the kill. They should really fix that. Less than 1% drop get stuck, just gets on the nerves. Map is also buggy in some moments, for example looking at some revealed part sometimes loses border.  It was never a blocker, but polish those bugs. I felt sometimes that I hit enemy but I keep on missing. Maybe wider hit area would be good, they do punch you more easily than you do them.

Fun times with Zangetsu. He is a cool dude.

I’m so glad that old school games are still alive. This game is here to make it worth it. I remember Castlevania SOTN blew my mind, but I never expected this can stand right next to it. Still, I prefer Alucard, nothing gets close to that guy. But Bloodstained climbed up as decent follow up. Oh, remember about Normal not being a challenge? Yeah, there is Boss Rush mode and Speed Run mode. I expect some good videos soon. From me, I enjoyed the game and I don’t want to spoil it with breaking another TV which I did on YS Origin. Also there should be a new game plus mode. That I will try in some time, 40hours in few days is enough to leave the game alone and to smell good in my mind. If you really like side scrollers and this type of games, there is nothing that you should allow not to buy Bloodstained. Praise the sun!

"Remind yourself why was the Castlevania one of the best in its genre. You can remind yourself with reading the title, or by playing the game. My advise is - both."
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