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Game Review #386: Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: WoodmanFLG

Developer: ArtPlay

Publisher: 505 Games

Category: Metroidvania, what else?

Release Date: 6.25.2019

Price (at time of review): $39.99

Buy Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

Buy Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night from Amazon here.

The King Returns

Sometimes, a company is content with just sitting on an IP, or maybe they just keep making bad decisions with it and decide to shelve it. Sometimes, the series was so influential that it developed what turned into a genre, and sometimes, the fans of that IP are insanely fanatical and loyal to said game. Castlevania and Konami are the ones to speak of here, with Koji Igarashi helming the most influential of its entries, and the Metroidvania genre. After Konami essentially shelved Castlevania once its mix of God of War and Shadow of the Colossus-influenced entries—the Castlevania: Lords of Shadow entries—failed to meet expectations in sales, and in the eyes of the fans as well.

Koji decided to give the fans what they wanted in the form of a Kickstarter for Bloodstained! If the fans wanted it, he gave us the option to tell him we did, with our money. This was a WILDLY popular Kickstarter that absolutely smashed its goal, and well beyond what it asked for initially. Gaining over 64,000 individual backers, and raising over $5.5 Million, Bloodstained stands as one of the biggest successes a game has had on Kickstarter.

As the stretch goals started to be met, Bloodstained started to look HUGE! With another game being released in the form of Bloodstained: Circle of the Moon—which is a love letter to the CLASSIC Castlevania games, and an awesome experience on its own—more bosses, co-op, extra characters, and more started coming down the line, and it seemed that us Castlevania fans had something to look forward to. Something that took quite some time to deliver. I was a $150-tier backer, if you didn’t already guess, so I ponied up for this one! I am, after all, the resident maniac for Metroidvania titles on the JPSM team. It took about four years, but, in June, we finally got what we were waiting for in the form of the base game of Bloodstained: Ritual of The Night, and, after all of this, it was exactly what we all paid for; but does it hold up against all of the new front-runners of the genre? Let's delve into Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night!

Symphony of the Dawn of Ecclesia

This game, at its core, is an amalgamation of all the good things learned throughout the length of the series. This game stars Miriam, a Shardbinder capable of absorbing demonic power and using it to her advantage. This plays out, from a gameplay perspective, as being similar to Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow’s soul system, with each of the game’s MANY demons having a demonic shard in its drop table that you have a chance to take into your body and gain its power. This manifests as a few different kinds of shards that you can use.

First, you have the basic shard, which is just a button press to take effect—this will have you casting spells, throwing shuriken, and summoning all manner of creatures to assist you in defeating your foes. You also have directional shards, of which you can control the trajectory more directly with your right stick—this will have you summoning shields, throwing bones, summoning giant rotating blades, and then some. You will also get shards that are more subtle buffs or effects, which will have you moving quickly, or summoning a stained-glass fist that will let you move things around! The second to last kind of shard is a Familiar Shard, which will summon a constant ally for you that will attack, cast spells, protect you, and more, depending on the familiar! You can have a fairy, a silver knight, a demonic book, and more, and it's awesome. The last kind of shard is a passive-effect shard that will increase your stats, your attack with certain kinds of weapons, and more! There is actually one more kind of shard that provides constant effects that you can turn on or off, but those are more progression abilities than things you will actively take notice of. You can gain duplicates of shards to increase their power, or use items to increase their grade, generally increasing their effectiveness. This lends itself to let a HUGE variety of playstyles find exactly what they want.

All this just on the shards, and not even a word on the weapons? These are another HUGE part of your gameplay, and they will often work with your shards to round out your offense. Hosting everything from knives to guns, with things like whips, spears, and greatswords in between, Miriam is a master of weapon-based combat—and quite the kicker as well! Tons of weapons have unique special abilities you can use by using Street Fighter-like inputs that lend more personality and use to the weapons. Will you maximize damage and attack speed, putting yourself in danger to output the most damage you can with a fast attacking dagger, or will you hit a beautiful medium of damage and range by using a whip? It is up to you, and you can use shards to help cover your weaknesses that come with your weapon choice!

On a farm in 18th-Century England

This game features a TON of items—like, good lord, there are a lot of items! Thankfully, we have a lot of demons to kill and chests to open in order to get them. Pretty much every enemy in this giant evil castle has a big drop list, with a few different things. Weapons, food, crafting ingredients, and more, in addition to demonic shards, will have you always picking up new things, and returning to old areas to find a demon that has an item you need for a new recipe or weapon.

Speaking of crafting, it is a welcome addition to the Metroidvania formula—ESPECIALLY the food! I absolutely loved trying to make every recipe I could, because the first time you ate a dish, it would grant you permanent stat buffs, including things like your MP regeneration or your EXP gain! My character was REALLY buff from food effects by the end of the game, and it was a huge help. I could see it being very important in harder difficulty modes especially. As you adventure around the castle, you will find recipe books in chests that will unlock more food recipes and more item crafting.

You will be able to make weapons, armor, and accessories that Miriam will use to augment her stats further and make you stronger. A nice little effect is that most accessories will give a visual change in Miriam, some of them being kind of funny, if not a little out of place. Of course, you will also have your various HP and MP restoration items, and things that will heal status effects, of course. Between all of this, you will have a constant stream of new items to help you figure out how to best kill the demons inhabiting the castle, what new items you can craft, and what new food you can create. This satisfying loop keeps every new item exciting, as it expands the realm of possibilities that you can create in the game, while giving you more and more options for gameplay!

Wrapping Up

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night does exactly what it sets out to do, and what we all wanted. It’s a game that has the best parts of many Castlevania games, all wrapped up into one fantastic package. I think, even against all the other Metroidvania games that have carved out their own niche nowadays, Bloodstained holds up by executing the ‘vania experience extremely well. The shard system is great, as is all the crafting and equipment. The world is fun to exist in, and the story moves the action along nicely.

Honestly, my only complaint is that the Switch port is a little rough in terms of frame rate and graphics, but it did not sour my experience at all. This game has TONS of DLC planned due to the wild success of the Kickstarter, including but not limited to things like whole new characters, and even co-op play! I can’t wait to keep revisiting this game as more content comes, and I have to say, seeing my name in the credits was quite the feeling! I had so much fun with this game that I didn’t put it down for a week. I’ve 100%’d the game on normal now, and I am looking into doing a nightmare run soon to really push myself! This game has so much content and so much love poured into it that, if you have any love for the genre, you are doing yourself a disservice to not play this game! I give Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night a strong 10/10. Don’t miss out on this game!

Score: 10/10

Buy Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

Buy Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night from Amazon here.

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