A couple of years after the first 8-bit spin-off, we now have a sequel to the very cool Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon so unsheathe your blade and let's get ready to slay some demons with a few new friends at our side.
Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 follows a very similar formula to the first game and its core gameplay is nearly identical. Just like its predecessor, you can swap to 4 characters on the fly, there are permanent upgrades to be found, you can play through multiple times with cool alterations in place, there's both Veteran and Casual difficulty settings, and the visuals and music are undeniably and authentically retro. With that being said, this follow-up does an excellent job of feeling like a sequel by expanding upon what the previous game offered. For starters, there's a whole new group of allies. Although you still primarily play as Zangetsu, you can switch to the spear-wielding healer Dominique, the gunslinging Robert, and a corgi who pilots a mech named Hachi. Yes, you read that right. Each character has their own set of core skills, attributes, and sub-weapons so constantly switching between them makes for one varied formula.
Just like the original, the gameplay has a genuine retro feel which is sure to provide plenty of nostalgia for anyone who has played the classic Castlevania games which is great but the characters also move rather stiffly which may perplex more modern gamers who are spoiled with streamlined indie games. Although I loved this retro feel most of the time, there are some situations where the stiff jumps specifically made for much frustration. There's nothing more annoying than missing a ledge because you slightly undershot a jump, especially considering you can't control yourself while in mid-air. However, it does make the gameplay a lot more rewarding.
As I mentioned, Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 looks and sounds like an 8-bit NES game and it does so in a fantastically authentic fashion. The graphics are pixel-perfect and will definitely bring you back to gaming in the late '80s and early '90s. On top of that, the chiptune music is catchy and sets the tone for each stage perfectly. I also enjoyed the gratifying sound effects and many of them sound like they're lifted from a Mega Man game. Also, one enemy spawns with a sound effect that's reminiscent of an original Game Boy starting up which I'm not sure was intentional but it's awesome nonetheless. Overall, Curse of the Moon 2 is retro through and through.
The main campaign of Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 consists of 8 stages and after you complete it, you can play through again with new pathways unlocked, more aggressive enemies and bosses, and other surprising alterations. This is a lot like the first game's Nightmare mode although there are more than 2 modes here. Each playthrough is referred to as a new Episode and they differ enough to compel you to complete all of them. The stages themselves incorporate branching paths, some of which are shortcuts that are usually tricky to reach and will force you to do things like down-thrust Dominique's spear to leap off enemies with perfect timing. Meanwhile, you can enjoy the entire experience with a friend via a new co-op mode which is great if you have a friend who digs games like this.
Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 is an incredible game and a fitting follow-up to the original. However, it retains the issue of having to memorize certain hazards and boss attacks which can be very annoying. I thoroughly don't enjoy being forced to replay segments more than once because I couldn't predict that danger was imminent during the first attempt. Instead, I wish the developers telegraphed certain stage hazards and boss attacks more obviously because being surprised by them can be infuriating, especially when you lose your favourite character as a result. With that in mind; finally overcoming these challenges can be super-satisfying stuff.
Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 is a worthy successor to the original and I'm very happy that Inti Creates and Koji Igarashi decided to make this sequel. With a cool co-op mode and a wonderful new cast of playable characters, it's one fun retro-inspired game.
- + Tight retro gameplay with a variety of enjoyable characters to play as
- + Awesome 8-bit visuals, music, and effects
- + Lots of replay value / cool co-op mode
- - Surprise hazards and non-telegraphed boss attacks can be frustrating
- - The stiff movement makes some particularly tricky jumps quite annoying