It's been a long wait yet Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is finally here so as a huge Castlevania fan, here's my review.
Back when it launched on Kickstarter, I immediately put my money down to get Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night funded and I'm glad that I did. Aside from getting giddy from watching the backers credits roll, the game itself definitely did not disappoint. Heck, I've spent dozens of hours playing it since launch and even completed the map 100.00%. So, what is Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night? To put it simply, it feels like a mix of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and Aria / Dawn of Sorrow with 3D graphics.
If this sounds like your kind of game then what are you doing reading this review? Play it already! However, if you need a little more information then that's what I'm here for so allow me to elaborate. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night stars Miriam who is a Shardbinder which means that she can utilize demonic Shards in order to unleash various spells and abilities. It's her job to infiltrate the recently raised castle Hellhold to stop a war against humanity from hordes of invading demons which are seemingly led by her friend and mentor Gebel. If this sounds like Alucard trying to save humanity from his father then you'll know what to expect when it comes to story.
As I mentioned, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night features 3D visuals. Although I prefer the detailed pixel-perfect graphics of 2D games, especially in the classic Castlevania games, I'm very impressed with the visuals on display here. The character models are detailed and their animations are smooth, there are plenty of flashy effects, and the environments are quite intricate and immersive. That being said, I didn't find the environments to be particularly memorable because unlike Symphony of the Night, the distinct areas don't have much mood or personality. The same can be said for most of the regular enemies. There are some stand-out foes like hulking demon cats and dogs, Shovel Knight, face-melting metal guitarists, and dragons. Plus, the bosses are fantastic and include a stained glass monster, a two-headed dragon that you fight on the side of a tower, and a giant gambler who steals your money to fuel his life meter.
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night's music is awesome, too. Castlevania veteran composer Michiru Yamane contributes many unforgettable tracks and she's joined by Keisuke Ito, Ryusuke Fujioka, Atsuhiro Ishizuna, and Ippo Yamada of Inti Creates fame. The soundtrack not only fits the game world beautifully but it's also great to listen to on its own so needless to say, I'm glad that I own it.
On to what matters most: gameplay! Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night has you control Miriam who absorbs enemy Shards just like Soma Cruz in Aria of Sorrow. The core gameplay is as you'd expect since you basically run and jump around the castle while hacking and slashing at enemies and utilizing an array of enjoyable abilities. The sense of exploration is spot-on and finding secrets is a joy whether it's stat boosts hidden in breakable walls or an entire 8-bit bonus level. It's highly rewarding stuff that you'll find difficult to put down.
One of the most engaging aspects of Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is its character growth and customization options. As you defeat enemies, you'll gain experience points and level up and you'll also exchange your equipment pieces for stronger stuff as you progress. Aside from these basics, you can equip passive and active Shards. The passive ones include a slot that offers unique boosts as well as a selectable familiar while the active ones let you unleash conjure abilities with the tap of a button, directional spells that you can aim with the right stick, and manipulative magic that you can use by holding a shoulder button. All of this may sound complex but it handles surprisingly intuitively and the fact that you can define loadouts that you can swap to on the fly is incredibly convenient.
On top of all this, there are a handful of NPCs that you can complete quests for to earn additional goodies. Whether you're delivering certain items, battling specific enemies, or finding a dude who keeps getting lost in the castle; it's rather satisfying to help these folks out. Another cool system is the food mechanic which allows you to find, cook, and eat food. You get a permanent stat boost the first time you consume a unique food item so trying to collect them all is very rewarding. Finally, there's a huge Archives menu that tracks enemies, items, Shards, and such so trying to fill that out adds a ton of replay value to an already lengthy game.
Before wrapping this up, I just wanted to mention a few issues that I encountered with Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. Keep in mind, I tested these using the latest patch as of writing this and still had problems. Basically, many things simply don't appear at times which is strange. For example, map walls for some sections of the castle merely disappear on occasion and some passive abilities stop showing their effects sometimes thus making you think that it's not currently in effect for some reason. Also, the loadout shortcut menu kept unequipping my weapon which was quite irritating. That being said, none of these annoyances are all that substantial.
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night carries on the tradition of classic Igavania games in a masterful way. As a long-time fan of the genre, I personally can't wait for additional DLC as well as the inevitable sequel.
- + Tight Metroidvania gameplay with awesome boss fights and fun exploration
- + Gorgeous 3D visuals and music
- + Loads of replay value and items to collect
- - For the most part, the environments and enemies are unmemorable
- - Some minor bugs and other issues