Review: Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon (Nintendo Switch)
- Release Date (NA): May 24, 2018
- Release Date (EU): May 24, 2018
- Release Date (JP): May 24, 2018
- Publisher: Artplay Inc
- Developer: Inti Creates
- Genres: Platformer
- ESRB Rating: Everyone 10 and up
- PEGI Rating: Seven years and older
- Also For: Computer, Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One
Single playerLocal MultiplayerOnline MultiplayerCo-operative
What happens when you ask developers of Mega Man games to make a NES Castlevania Clone? Well you can find out playing this game or reading this review!
When I first heard about Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, I had nothing but good expectations about it. "Oh gosh! There is finally a new Castlevania game, it's been so many years since we got a traditional one, Koji Igarashi is the lead producer." So many thoughts come to my mind, not just me but other fans of Castlevania as well. Now we finally have something new to play. What happens when Mr. "Igarashi-san," long time producer of Castlevania games by Konami, gathers a team of developers both classic and modern to make a Castlevania clone. Then forms a Kickstarter that surpassed the pledged goal, prompting them to ask nti Creates, another long time developer of Mega Man games to make a retro NES inspired game based off his main one as a result of said Kickstarter goal? I nearly broke my neck trying to get a closer look at the screen watching the reveal trailer. Well, do you think can they do it? If their past games like Mighty Gunvolt Burst or Blaster Master Zero doesn't already answer your question (which I did review here already,) maybe this review will.
First off, I'm going to be mentioning and comparing this game to Castlevania a lot throughout this review. To start out, I'm a bit disappointed about this part. As a person who likes Inti Creates and knows about their capabilities, there is a lot lacking in the presentation. The story is simple; Zangetsu, a sword master (named after Ichigo's weapon from the Bleach anime) was given the curse of the moon by demons, now he sets out to eradicate them all in order to lift the curse. It is important that you remember that when playing. That's it, even though there is parts where you interact with other characters in the game, is nothing much, just a quick conversation and you are off on your business. It's lacking the type of flare of presentation their previous games has.
If you was to compare their previous game Blaster Master Zero which I already reviewed, they have in game cut scenes that show detailed character pictures. Even if it's not often, it's nice to get something like that. Being able to get a better look at the characters that aren't just small sprites is a good way to keep the player interested in the characters. This is where the game fails in my opinion and is a bad thing. They do however have that stage map of each area you visit just like classic Castlevania. They could have told more of the story or least some character introduction with fancy picture portraits every once in awhile to get the player more interested. There isn't much left to say except to point out there is FOUR endings for this game, so see if you can get them all.
Now this is one of the parts I do like about this game. If you think games can't look good in 8-bit compared to modern ones now, you are wrong. As I always believed, there is more to graphics than just looking good at a surface level. Sometimes you have to go deep to see what I mean if you let me explain. The environments look good with the multi layered parallax scrolling and sometimes large enemies and backgrounds. Bloody spikes, saws, iron maidens, thunderstorms, and more. My favorite things about the game are the animation and the effects. For example, when you hit enemies, they have huge blood splatter; when hitting candles, they break and you can see the pieces fly off the screen. Of course it does when you are cutting things with sharp objects, having details like this just make sense. The animations are fast and smooth, nothing in this game looks slow or choppy. The special effects are really the astonishing part of the game. If you have played Shovel Knight, you might understand because it feels very familiar in all the right ways. I almost thought it was Halloween again.
The disappointing thing is probably the characters them self. As previously stated, they don't have any full scale character portraits to see the characters in better detail, so the whole game your limited to just seeing their small sprites. The monsters on the other hand, including the bosses all look more appealing and interesting. I guess that's how it usually is with these games. While it probably holds true, I wish they paid more attention to the characters and not just everything else. For one thing, you do see them more often and has your attention most of all than anything else in the game.
Now this part got me excited. If you wanted to know why, it is because 8-bit music is still popular today and I love it. The music was done by Inti Creates local legend, Ippo Yamada. Doing music for Mega Man games for long time, I wondered how he can handle the themes of creepy Halloween type stuff like Castlevania, well I'm satisfied cause he did well. He had Michiru Yamane, another local legend for doing Castlevania music and Skull Girls. With those two working together, I had no doubts, how could I otherwise!? There are others like Jake Kaufman who also help with music, but they are probably credited for the main game, not this one. If I learned anything from what happened before, Ippo Yamada composed the 8-bit tracks from Mighty No.9 soundtrack which you can hear in game by option switch. But they also used the same music in Mighty Gunvolt Burst. So my knowledge leads me to believe this is the same process, he composed the 8-bit soundtrack based on the main game's modern one. (Of course I could always be wrong)
Now that I'm done talking about the people on the project, it's time to talk about the audio itself. Plenty of good tunes here, you might find some that out as astonishing. Creepy, brave, courageous, heroic; sound like adjectives to describe people right? This is how I describe the music. Yeah I know, it's an odd way to describe music right? Well they are the words that come to mind. I also like the sound effects because each character has their own voice when they take a hit. Attacking no matter how you do it sounds satisfying; I can't express this enough in text so you'll have to play the game to understand.
So it's come down to this, the most important part. If you gonna make a Castlevania clone, how well will it play? Since this is based on retro NES style, I'll compare it to Castlevania III since it's the closest I can get. Starting with what is the same; you have multiple characters, standard attack and sub weapon attack for each of them, character specific traits, and breakable walls with items. Zangetsu the main character uses a short range sword. Miriam uses a long range whip, can jump higher and slide. Alfred can cast powerful magic spells and beat people with his cane. Gebel can shoot projectiles and turn into a bat and fly. See, just like Castlevania already.
Now for what is different. At the start of the game you have two options for playing the game, veteran and casual. Like they both imply, it's the difficulty setting for the game which has no impact on the outcome or events during the game. Veteran is for those who prefer the retro challenge offering limited lives and being pushed back when taking damage just like the classic, while casual allows unlimited lives and no push back from damage for modern times. The latter is the most thing I remember people complaining about in Castlevania that is nice to see being a choice here and the game has no time limit either. During the game you encounter other characters, how you decide to interact with them determines the ending you get in the game. I won't tell you any more than that. There is even tutorial rooms for each character with signs telling you how each function and test out before continuing. The gameplay is as simplistic as it comes.
Somethings that I can't help but point out is there is power ups. Not like for sub weapons but like Mega Man power ups like increasing maximum life, useful since each character has their own limit of life. Another thing is dying. When you have more than one ally, if you die with one of them, they are unable to use until you either die with the rest of them resulting in losing a life or complete the stage. When this happens, you return to the last room you entered rather than a checkpoint and you also don't recover any life the surviving ones has taken. This got awkward after awhile, but I eventually understand and accepted it. The last thing I want to mention is the title, curse of the moon. It's actually the name of a stage and a feature in the game. During the pause menu you can activate it, what it does is reverse time. That's umm... unique I guess. Basically to explain, it allows you to return to previously completed stages, but you lose your progress including items and allies. if you go back too far. So is exactly like time travel. It even warns you about the dangers of using the curse. I would have just prefer a simple stage select to be unlocked but least it makes sense in the game's world, just not ours. It's a curse!
The way I described the game, it sounds exactly like Castlevania III. It also seem too similar, so you maybe thinking is it worth playing? Well it's not too difficult or even that long depending on which difficulty you choose. At the core, it just seem like a improved game. After playing this game for a entire day, I can see why perhaps it wouldn't interest many people especially people who never heard of Castlevania before mostly cause of lack in presentation. Besides that shortcoming, this isn't the main game. When you go out to eat at a restaurant, you get appetizers served to you before your main course meal. Consider this game the appetizer; but just cause it's small, doesn't mean is not good. It's a solid game if you like retro Castlevania clone; and if this is as close to it as possible by a completely different developer, imagine what the main game is gonna be like. Even if you don't like that it could be too easy or short for experienced players, I think you should try this game especially if you like speed runs. But there is some things that made me a bit disappointed like the presentation. It's important to draw a audience into the game and make them feel like playing it. This is my main concern to the developer.
I am hoping there will be future updates for this game like Inti Creates have done for Mighty Gunvolt Burst and Blaster Master Zero. It's just hard to assume there will be considering this game was result of a Kickstarter goal. This is much like showing appreciation by writing a thank you or love letter for supporters, or cause they had a job to do which is both true. But something about the previous games that seem a bit better than this one almost as if they just wanted to make them for fun I hope I am wrong and they continue to expand the game.
But for how it is now, it just makes me want the main game sooner if this is all we are getting. Isn't that what we all want? To be honest, for a consumer, you may not want to play this game and wait for the main one. There isn't much here to offer for a $9.99 in the current state, unless more content is planned in the future. The only reason to buy this is if you support the developers and appreciate the sentiments for getting something that perhaps was in high demand for years; a new Castlevania game! Cause of fans like you, now we have one and getting another hopefully soon.
+ Special effects & animation
+ Solid gameplay experience with more potential
- Lacks decent presentation
- Short game even for first time players
- May lack challenge for veterans looking for it
The graphics are nice and visually appealing if you like pixel art sprites. Background environments, stages, and even the enemies look well done, but the short coming of the playable characters didn't get much attention. Some more in game cut scene with more story or even some character portraits would have been nice.
The game improved what I think was some consistent problems for me when I play Castlevania games. Playing feels good and fair, almost too fair that most who expected the same level of challenge may be disappointed. To me it isn't always the challenge that makes me enjoy the game, but how fun it is when you play through it.
In the current state, it may only appeal to someone who speed runs games, and a casual gamer who wanted a modern game based on retro Castlevania. The players who expected the difficulty and challenge of the past won't find it here and may disappoint them. To me, it's appealing for the graphics, music and gameplay it has even if it's not much.
out of 10
(not an average)
I feel this game could improve more and hope it does. Presentation and content are perhaps the two main things I hope for, If that happens the appeal could be increased. I know it can be done cause I seen Inti Creates do it before plenty of times. In the end, perhaps I expected too much but still satisfied that I got to play this.