I’ve been looking forward to Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night for a long time. This was my first year at E3, and I can’t believe I finally got to get my hands on the upcoming title from legendary game director Koji Igarashi. While time was limited, there was still a good chunk of gameplay to play through.
There were two bosses in the demo on display, and from what I’ve read one of them was one that has appeared at the end of previous gameplay sections. I chose the beginning ship section since I had never gotten the opportunity to play through it before. The most important thing about Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is how much like Castlevania this passion project truly feels. There were enough things that set it apart, but it quickly became apparent that even without playing any of the demos before it, I was right at home in exploration and combat.
The gameplay section took place on a ship being overrun by monsters. As I traversed I ran into a handful of different enemies, and each of them behaved differently with different attacks and movement patterns. I ended up playing through a portion of the next level too, so uncovered even more enemies in that segment too. In the short time I had to play, it became clear that enemy diversity wouldn’t be a problem.
That being said, I started to think that it might feel too familiar for a new IP. This feeling drifted away though as I explored every nook and cranny of the ship, because I realized it didn’t matter. We aren’t going to get a new classic Castlevania title from Konami (but they seem to be treating Bomberman okay now), so why shouldn’t the father of the series bring that hook back? There was a couple of moments when I was looking for a save room/healing station that I looked at the map and though “that’s a save room” even though I hadn’t explored it. Once I got there, I found my suspicions correct.
There are chests tucked into many of the corners, and breakable walls hide secrets. I uncovered a pistol in one chest that while the normal bullets weren’t very powerful, I found stronger ammunition in another chest that made it worth using. Other chests different kinds of weapons, or maps that uncover the basic layout of the area. These new items and other key collectibles made it worthwhile to explore different rooms in Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, bringing back a feeling of exploration I haven’t had in a long time.
While the visuals weren’t perfect in this alpha demo, there certainly is a lot to love. 2.5D character models and enemies were stylish and attacks and movement were well animated. I felt like controls were tight and responsive, and didn’t feel like I didn’t deserve any damage headed my way. There are also strong abilities that enemies drop. I’m still not sure what exactly they are, but they seem like the cards that used to drop in the Castlevania titles. I actually asked how many different abilities like this there were in the game, and a rep responded saying that they are aiming for all enemies to have one to utilize.
After reaching the end of the ship section, the boss fight I got to battle through while certainly very stylish left me wanting more. Not because I didn’t have fun fighting it, but because I was able to defeat it very quickly and easily. I’m pretty sure this was the first boss fight in the game, so I have a good feeling the difficulty only ramps up after that. I actually did die fighting some basic enemies in the next section while I was experimenting with different weapons.
The environments in both areas were extremely distinct from one another. After fighting my way through a ship, the next section took me through a ravaged town. I ran out of time playing through this portion, but it gave me a good hope for varying areas throughout the rest of Bloodstained. Platforming worked really well both in a vertical plane and horizontal plane against enemies with a few different attacks and abilities to utilize against enemies. A nice added addition I noticed was that all of the platforms blended into the scenery really well. In the ship portion, nets held up platforms made of wood, while the broken-down portions of buildings in the second part made up some of the platforms. It’s a small detail, but still nice to see.
While I’ve been excited for Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night since the beginning, I’ve been cautiously optimistic after the crowd-funding disaster that was Might Number 9. Anyone looking to the latest outing from Koji Igarashi clearly don’t have anything to worry about, and fans itching for a new Castlevania outing don’t need to look any farther. 505 games is on a roll now that they’ve acquired Control, and are also publishing Bloodstained. Have this one on your radar for later this year because the addictive loop of exploration and combat will have players hooked right from the start.
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night will be available later this year for Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch, and Playstation Vita. Preorders are available here.