It took a while, but Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night has finally arrived. It’s out on PC, PS4 and Nintendo Switch as well, but we tested the Xbox One version.
Originally a Kickstarter project that had massive appeal to Castlevania fans worldwide, it’s been since 2015 that we first heard about Bloodstained. I had some extra personal interest in it as well, since it looked like it could have been one of the Vita’s greatest games of all time – in a period where the Vita was already starting to lose interest among publishers. Alas – the Vita version was axed a few months ago…. but the good news is that, indeed, Bloodstained probably would have been excellent, as it is just that on the Xbox One.
What Bloodstained is not, is a radical new vision of where Castlevania could have been taken. Instead, it’s more of an homage to everything that made games like Symphony of the Night the classics that they are. Even the style of movement, as well as the soundtrack, feel similar. There’s a map system to help you get around, in-game shops to help you boost your loadout and ways to save your progress or whisk away to another area using a teleport. Nothing we haven’t seen before, but nothing that needed fixing either.
Combat is similar too, but Bloodstained emphasizes larger enemies over more numerous smaller ones – and this leads to a bigger emphasis on character development through the upgrades and abilities that these confrontations unlock. You’re not set in your ways as you develop your skills and loadout though – you can create presets that you can quickly shift between, and these change what kind of gear you’re currently equipping. This way, you can quickly swap out agility for strength, just to give you an example.
Puzzle design is a bit hit and miss, but the level design is excellent and evokes tons of good Castlevania memories. It’s also a pretty lengthy adventure, so Bloodstained doesn’t fall into that old trap where an ‘indie’ approach ends up being far shorter than the AAA publisher’s game that inspired it. There’s supposed to be more post-launch content on the way too, though it appears as though this shouldn’t affect the campaign much in terms of content.
Playing the current Xbox One build of Bloodstained does make me wonder how this game would have ever worked on the Playstation Vita without sacrificing too much of its audiovisual presentation. Mild slowdowns and little visual glitches here and there indicate that the game’s in need of a few technical optimizations, so I did get the feeling that perhaps the Vita version was a tad too ambitious an undertaking – but feel free to prove me wrong 😉
Audiovisually, Bloodstained is excellent. I already mentioned the soundtrack, and the visuals are wonderfully moody and detailed. I think the in-game menus look a tad too busy and PS1-like, but I veer more to the action side of things rather than the RPG elements that fuel these menus. If you’re a fan of the classic 2D Castlevania experience, then – besides the small technical issues – there is probably nothing at all that you’re going to dislike here.