Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night – Review

Developer: ArtPlay
Publisher: 505 Games
Producer: Koji Igarashi
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Windows
Release dates: June 18 (PS4, XB1, Windows)
June 25 (Nintendo Switch)
Genre: Platform, action, RPG

Hey there J1 fans, Devildriver1313 here and I invite you to join me “On the Next Level!” Before Resident Evil, before Silent Hill, before Dead Rising, there was a series in the gaming world that introduced us to fighting monsters, killing zombies and surviving the horrors of the dark world we were thrust into. Castlevania took gamers to the gothic world of the supernatural when it launched in 1987 on the NES. Published by Konami and created by Koji Igarashi, the game series challenged gamers’ whit and skill as they use various items and weapons to fight against nearly every manner of creature from the mythical to the legendary and gave us one of the best iterations of the legendary Count Vlad Tepes Dracula. Sadly, the Castlevania has fallen on hard times. The last released title, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, was a dismal failure and Koji Igarashi departed from Konami soon after. Since leaving, Igarashi has been trying to put himself back on top as a developer, creating his own company and working with 505 Studios to bring back the glory days of Castlevania by reinventing it. In 2015, Koji Igarashi created a Kickstarter page for his new project that would be the spiritual successor to his beloved series – Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. Having succeeded and exceeding its crowdfunding goal, could this be the game that Castlevania fans having been waiting for since Symphony of the Night?

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night opens on the story of Miriam, an orphaned girl who awakens after ten years of slumber to combat the darkness encroaching the land. She is one of two survivors of horrible alchemic experiments performed by the church. Her body has been infused with crystalized demon energy created through alchemy that is slowing eating away at her body. The ordeal put her in a ten year coma, awakening to find her condition temporarily halted by an alchemist named Johannes who was against the guild’s act to summon demons to their world, though his treatment can be averted should Miriam assimilate too many crystal shards from defeated demons. To prevent the outbreak of demons and end the curse while retaining her humanity, Miriam ventures into Demon Castle to confront Gebel, another of the alchemists’ magi-crystal experiments who lost his humanity and summoned the demons to change the world.

The iconic whip from the Castlevania games makes an appearance in Bloodstained.

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night takes its gameplay and namesake from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, which has been regarded as one of the greatest video games ever made. Players takes control of Miriam as they explore the Demon Castle, using her powers to combat the monsters that dwell within. Gameplay takes place on a 2.5D plane, 3D characters and background set in a 2D plane. Bloodstained’s RPG elements allows further customization of Miriam than Symphony of the Night did for Alucard. Miriam collects various weapons and armor from fallen enemies to increase her stats such as strength, intelligence, vitality, etc. She can also collect items to replenish her health, remove negative effects such as poisons and curses and increase her intelligence to enhance her magic. What makes Miriam truly unique is her ability to absorb Magi-Crystal. These shards of crystalized demonic energy grant her various magic abilities. Miriam can shoot fire from her hands, launch bouncing orbs of water, summon giant tentacles and summon the spirit of her defeated foes to her aid. Her magic is limited to the amount of magic points (MP) she has. Collecting Mana Roses will replenish a portion of her MP. Leveling up will increase the overall amount of MP Miriam has. Players can dominate their enemies with the proper use of Miriam’s abilities, turning the tide of combat in their favor. This opens the door to various new attacks and strategies. But that is not the limit of what you can do with Miriam. Miriam’s magic attacks can be further enhanced by collecting Magi-Crystals of the same type. While this seems like a good idea, one must be careful. The crystallization of Miriam’s body may have been slowed but collecting and absorbing too many of these crystals will begin to affect her. For example, the power of her fire attacks may be enhanced with the increased number of the same crystal type, however, Miriam’s movement may be restricted as a result. This is where careful planning comes into play. Luckily, Miriam can sell off her extra crystals to prevent this.

In the game. Miriam will encounter other characters who will help her in her quest. Johannes, the man who saved Miriam from the church, can use his alchemic skills to create various weapons, armor, items and other useful tools with materials that Miriam brings him. Once the item is completed, it will be made available in the shop set up by Dominique, another member of the church who also aids Miriam. Here, Miriam can sell any extra shards she has collected for currency which can be used to purchase other items.

Early on, the first in-game boss Vepar looked muddy and unfinished. Her design was improved to make her look beautifully terrifying.

Bloodstained is graphically impressive. Early on, fans waiting for the game’s release commented on how Bloodstained looked, called it “unfinished” and “muddy.” Koji Igarashi fired back and improved upon his creation, making every detail from the highlights of Miriam’s hair to the haunting atmosphere of the Demon Castle pop. The light from the sconces hanging on the walls and ledges highlight the finer details within the castle’s architecture, making them clearly visible even in the background. Breakable objects, such as torches and candelabras, fall away from Miriam when she strikes them as opposed to simply vanishing. Hitting these objects with a weighty weapon such as a mage with send the fragments flying further. Igarashi also bumped up the details on the character models as well. For example, the first boss Vepar of Bloodstained is a giant sea creature that resembles a woman. Early on, she looked very cartoonish with very little depth to her design. The character felt unfinished to fans. Igarashi, taking fan reactions into account, fixed her. Vepar now looks like the terrifying sea monster she is meant to be. Her water like body ripples with waves and swirls, and her face has more depth as opposed to before where it felt flat and lifeless. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was not only known for its amazing graphics, it was also noted for its music which drew influences from classical, heavy metal and jazz. That is thanks to Michiru Yamane, who reunites with Igarashi as the composer for Bloodstained. Yamane has a talent for using music to set the mood of each area Miriam enters. The Demon Castle has a classical ballroom theme to complement its Victorian gothic architecture. Entering the castle’s Garden of Silence, the music changes to a relaxing tone.

Absorbing crystals grants Miriam new magic powers; however, absorbing too many of them will slowly crystalize her body.

Mega Man creator Heiji Inafune broke away from Capcom to develop Mighty No.9 which was supposed to be the successor to Mega Man. Sadly, Mighty No.9 ended up being exactly what it looked like – another Mega Man game. That is not the case with Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is a solid game that calls back to the days of Castlevania. However, with the amount of content it has, it is more than just a Symphony of the Night clone. Koji Igarashi wanted to create a game that was both familiar to long time Castlevania fans while introducing elements to have Bloodstained and Miriam stand out on their own. After the failure of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, it seems that going back to basics was the best move. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night brings the old and new together in a game that will please gamers and show that not all good games have to be three dimensional.

Check out my gameplay video for Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

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