Koji Igarashi worked on many incredible Metroidvanias so allow me to discuss how his latest offering lives up to his most iconic game.
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night released just a couple of months ago yet Castlevania: Symphony of the Night has been around since 1997. Both are top-notch experiences and a couple of my favourite games of all time. I know; that may be early to say about Bloodstained but I sure loved every second of my playthrough of it. Anyway, I was first introduced to Symphony of the Night shortly after purchasing a PS1 back in 1997 and seeing it in the video store. I was a huge Castlevania fan at the time so I rented that sucker and my mind was completely blown upon playing it. More than 15 years later, I saw that Koji Igarashi was funding a new game on Kickstarter so I gladly dropped a couple hundred dollars down and after I finally played Ritual of the Night, I was very happy that I did. Now that you know a bit of my personal history with these excellent games, let's dive into what makes them so special!
Both of these adventures involve traversing giant castles while fighting hordes of diverse enemies and bosses. However, they both play rather differently. For starters, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night has a much more straightforward setup where you equip weapons, shields, items, and such in each of Alucard's hands then press 2 face buttons to use them. On top of this, you can transform into a wolf, mist, and a bat as well as learn all sorts of fun spells, moves, and secret attacks. It's tight and highly enjoyable stuff. Meanwhile, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night has you acquire Shards from defeated enemies that you can equip to Miriam for boosts and abilities and there are a ton of them to collect. Running around the castle while unleashing all sorts of clever skills simply feels awesome. That being said, I still find the simple yet open-ended formula of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night to be more enjoyable so it wins here.
These can be rather difficult games if you're not familiar with them. First, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night features a huge selection of brutal boss fights and tricky scenarios, especially in the inverted castle. With that in mind, there are many ways to take advantage of situations so you can breeze through even the most difficult parts once you figure out some winning tactics. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night also has ways to ease the challenge yet it remains a super-tough game throughout as nothing will allow you to exploit every single situation. As a result, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night clearly has a more satisfying level of challenge so it wins here.
The castles in these games are full of memorable locales and quirky subtleties that make each world feel alive. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night has the eerie Royal Chapel, epic Clock Tower, and blood-curdling Colosseum and once you're done working through the main castle, you play through it again upside-down with all new colour palettes, enemies, and bosses. Even small parts of the world like the random confessional room or the fact that you can watch a bird family go through the circle of life are simply awe-inspiring.
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night also features a gorgeous world that includes areas like the haunted ship, a beautiful walkway that leads to the castle, and a section that's full of giant versions of enemies. Plus, it has some truly fantastic boss fights that stand out wonderfully. However, it simply can't live up to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night's world as it's not quite as memorable.
Here's an interesting one as Castlevania: Symphony of the Night features 2D visuals while Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is rendered with 3D models and environments. So, this category may be up to if you prefer old-school or modern visuals. For starters, the animation in Symphony of the Night is superb and its pixel-perfect environments are detailed and full of life. Every time I play through it, I'm always amazed at the amount of intricate detail in its graphics. When I first played the alpha of Bloodstained, I wasn't a fan of its visual style at all but after playing the final version, I was impressed with its stand-out models and effects. Even though I appreciate both games for their graphics, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is timeless and as far as I'm concerned, no 2D game has ever looked that good.
Both games include amazing soundtracks and the legendary Michiru Yamane heavily contributed to both. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night features a wide variety of genres with the awesome electric guitar-fueled The Tragic Prince and plenty of catchy orchestral pieces as well as some eerie mood-setting soundscapes that'll make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night features a lot more songs plus a few contributing artists. Its music is rather catchy, too, and a lot of the tunes got stuck in my head for days after playing it. This is definitely a tough one but the variety within Castlevania: Symphony of the Night's music and its consistent level of quality make it have a slight edge in this musical match-up but you really can't go wrong with either.
Well, this was a wonderful trip down memory lane for 2 of my favourite games but if I had to pick an overall winner, it would be...
Winner Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Maybe it's because I just got the prescription for my nostalgia glasses renewed or it's truly the superior game but I absolutely love Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and it remains my favourite game of all time. With that said, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night was certainly a phenomenal effort to dethrone the king of Metroidvanias and I enjoyed my time with it immensely. In the end, if you're a gamer then you owe it to yourself to play both of these amazing experiences.
That's just my opinion. Agree? Disagree? Vote now!