With the Castlevania video game series being shelved due to Konami’s ineptitude, there has been a flood of titles released in the past few years to help fill the void. There is no telling when Konami will pull their head out of the sand and revive some of their most beloved franchises, but it is ironic that a former series producer – Koji Igarashi – has created a title that can be considered a worthy successor to the Castlevania franchise.
Bloodstained Ritual of the Night is everything one could want in a modern day Castlevania title. A large and complex map, unique puzzles, vibrant enemy design, and varied combat. Players will control Miriam, a shardbinder who upon defeating enemies has the chance of consuming their essence in the form of shards, these will in turn grant her special abilities unique to that enemy. Not every shard is useful though, but luckily you’ll be able to sell them for currency if they don’t suit your needs.
Enemies will also drop crafting materials at different rarities and these are important for acquiring the best weapons and equipment. Quite a bit of farming is required however, so be prepared to kill the same enemy over and over again to get that one piece you’ll need to craft the rarest items in the game. Each piece of equipment has various stat buffs and every weapon has hidden techniques that can be uncovered by finding books littered throughout the castle.
The map in Bloodstained features a number of unique environments each with their own puzzles that will require different abilities to navigate. There are hidden rooms everywhere, some with unique rewards, others with unique enemy encounters, so exploration is something that players should heavily consider. As you gain abilities during the game, areas that were originally unreachable are now open to the player. Backtracking tends to be a staple in the metroidvania genre and Bloodstained is no different.
Bosses are a real highlight and will require the use of weapon skills, timely dodges, and magic to overcome. Some bosses have multiple stages and regardless of the gear you currently gave equipped, will cut right through you if you’re someone who plays reckless. It is generous that you are allowed to pause and heal as that will allow you to reassess your strategy. While there are patterns to follow, some bosses can throw the kitchen sink at you, giving you no time to breathe and little room to maneuver.
If you happen to play Bloodstained for the narrative, you might end up disappointed. It’s a rather by the numbers tale about one person’s mission to rid evil from the world. There are a few twists, some that will even result in a surprise game over, but for the most part, there is nothing too shocking. The characters are fairly one-dimensional and their interactions are limited, which is a shame as the voice acting is pretty strong. David Hayter in particular, Solid Snake from the Metal Gear Solid series, is a definite highlight.
Outside of a few stiff animations, this is a pretty strong looking game. The different locations all look fantastic and some of the different enemy designs will surprise you. Miriam looks great and you’re able to modify her appearance with certain items found throughout the game. The framerate, for the most part, is pretty consistent throughout, but I did run into a few sections where there was a lot going on and the game slowed down significantly. Luckily, this wasn’t a persistent issue as this game does require precision timing in certain levels.
Bloodstained is a welcome addition to the metroidvania genre even if it doesn’t break any new ground. It starts off relatively simple, but the challenge begins to increase as you progress through the map. There is a significant amount of depth that one playthrough may not be enough. This happens to be a title that is perfect for speed running especially once you get the different mechanical down. If you happen to want to scratch your Castlevania itch, then Bloodstained is the perfect title to satisfy that urge. It’s easily one of the stronger titles of 2019.