BLOODSTAINED: RITUAL OF THE NIGHT (WayForward Technologies/Dico/ArtPlay505 Games – X1/PS4/Switch/PC – June 18, 2019) – It’s been a long road traveled for Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. The game got its initial start as one of the most popular Kickstarter campaigns back in 2015. Now, just over four years later, it’s set to make its appearance at E3 2019 one last time before it releases later this month. And players are in for one hell of a time before Koji Igarashi’s spiritual successor to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night arrives from 505 Games.
The last we saw of the game was earlier this year at PAX East 2019, when we saw a closer-to-release build of it. And it’s certainly shaping together pretty nicely with a smoother 2.5-D build, with beautiful visuals that bring its 18th century world to life. It revolves around a woman by the name of Miriam who finds herself fighting a world of demons, though the story isn’t as clearcut as you might think. As you might guess, some other characters also join the fray, including the playable Zangetsu, voiced by none other than David Hayter. This samurai means serious business, and promises to be, ahem, a cut above.
Thus far, Bloodstained has tight, concentrated gameplay working for it, something that classic Castlevania fans will be right at home with. The side-scrolling gameplay feels like classic Iga, though we also have WayForward, the developers of the Shantae series, to thank as well. They did some tweaking with the game so that it feels more concentrated, particularly with its combat and its exploration. Bloodstained feels like it has a heavy balance of being able to find neat little secrets and items, while at the same time keeping its beautiful, haunting themes in check. It never once meanders into the territory of the uninteresting, and the game rewards players as a result.
There are also hidden areas to find, with walls that you can destroy with ease, as well as other little nods that Castlevania fans are sure to appreciate. And, of course, some bosses will keep players on their toes, stacking as tall as the screen, but easily defeatable once you figure out a pattern and tackle their weak spots.
One benefit that Bloodstained offers over its older brethren is its presentation. The visuals are really popping to life, thanks to the design between Igarashi’s team and WayForward, and even on the Switch, the game looks like it’s a shining example of a 2.5-D game. On top of that, Michiru Yamane’s soundtrack is as classic as it’s ever been, based on what we’ve heard thus far. This will no doubt be a real summer treat once it’s released in a few weeks.
505 Games is sure to have a near-final build- if not a complete version- of this game somewhere in its show space next week. So if you’re headed to the event, be sure to stop by and give Iga a high-five. Just be careful to see if he’s got a whip in hand first. Once a Castlevania-style director, always a Castlevania-style director. Bloodstained is the proof of that, even with its brilliantly fresh ideas.