Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is the effective spiritual successor to the Castlevania series, and to some is the long awaited fan desire for new game from Koji Igarashi free from Konami (and their recent actions) following his departure.
With $5.5 million gained from Kickstarter backers, far beyond its initial $500,000 goal, it was the highest-funded video game crowd funded campaign until it was surpassed by Yu Suzuki’s Shenmue III a month later.
The premise of the game focus on a orphan named Miriam, whose skin is slowly turning into crystal due to an alchemist’s curse, resultantly she seeks to stop this curse by finding the summoner Gebel (who also suffers from this curse and is still alive) in his demon-filled castle.
On the surface the game offers a lot of promise, visually the concept art and characters/enemies are stunning and unique. While the idea of Igarashi having free rein in creating a new Metroidvania game is something to hold a fair bit of hope.
So unsurprisingly there has been some talk regarding the game’s recent 3E demo being released to Kickstarter backers, and the simple question of…Is it any good?
Well the quick answer is yes. The demo is of course very short, and does carry a few bugs, but this can be forgiven given its not a beta, just more of a teaser. The actual beta is not due until much later.
First of, the release of this demo was quite rightly timed. With the disappointing, if not outright insulting, release of Mighty No. 9, which for all its hype and budget was very meh. It was bland and forgettable, and by proxy casted doubt on its follow Kickstarter backed spiritual successor games, such as Bloodstained to Castlevania and Yooka-Laylee to Banjo-Kazooie.
Thus wisely, Bloodstained actually offered gameplay to counter doubts, as the demo keeps the promising visual of the concept art (unlike Mighty No. 9, with its cheep pizza styled fire) and handles rather well. Which is were it succeeds again, the game continues with the post-Symphony of the Night styled combat, in that Miriam will gain powers enabled by the crystals on her body after she defeat her enemies, which actually stops the combat from feeling dull, since it has a reward. Yes, it could be argued that rewarding something as simple as combat is patronising, however when you have to fight a collection of demonic tentacle creatures you are going to what something for your troubles, otherwise it feels repetitive for the sake of being repetitive. Once you achieve these aforementioned upgrades, the screen adopts a stained glass window design to alert, and you know what its pretty and appropriate, it doesn’t feel out of place, rather it adds to the game’s gothic quirkiness.
Speaking of the combat, I have to say it flows rather nicely. Its not bogged down nor painfully slow, thus may have to do with its 2.5D presented style in three-dimensional graphics and 2D system movement, but nonetheless playing the game is not a chore. The demo is short yes, but despite that I never felt bored by any feature available to me, if anything I wanted more. Granted that is the point of a demo, but my word it really is ticking all the boxes for me.
Its fun, its pretty and its bloody unique. It provides the necessary nostalgia I wish for with a Castlevania game, whilst still providing me with something new. Yes I am biased as both a fan of Castlevania and of Koji Igarashi in general, but it really doesn’t disappoint.
To put simply, the demo while buggy since its a demo, is bloody grand. It offers just enough fun gameplay so you can familiarise yourself with it, without spoiling it for you and honeslty it just makes me want it more.
I also have to add, that actually playing as Miriam was something I was very much looking forward to. Unfortunately, well written and/or designed female characters are still far and few in between, so I personally found Miriam to be another Bayonetta, in that she is bloody fun to play as. She is a strong lead that doesn’t feel dull, which many lead characters seem to be this day an age, yes the game and Miriam are gothic but they are not hampered by a world of various shades of brown and lead with a bad smokers cough and no personality.
So thank you Koji Igarashi. I look forward to Bloodstained’s final release.
P.S. I advise you watch the Bloodstained Kickstarter Pitch Video, its brilliant.
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