As we all know by now, Konami sucks and has cemented itself as one of, if not THE most hated game company on the planet. Formerly the home of a myriad of popular gaming franchises, the company now seems hellbent on ruining the careers of it’s once most valued creators and cranking out mobile games and pachinko machines for the Japanese market. This has led a wave of aforementioned creators to bail on the company including the likes of Hideo Kojima and Koji Igarashi (IGA), the man that is the topic of today’s review. IGA left Konami a number of years ago to help found a new company called Artplay and helmed a successful Kickstarter for their first game entitled Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night – a 2.5D modern “spiritual successor” to his popular Castlevania series.
It’s been a few years since IGA did his Kickstarter, and we’re finally seeing some of the fruits of the labor that he and his team have been putting into the title. Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon is actually the result of a stretch goal from the main title that was expanded into a full-fledged game. This isn’t really something new for crowdfunded games, and honestly games in general nowadays, as a lot of production companies have been churning out small, usually cellphone related, games as a marketing tool for their releases. The difference between this and a lot of those promotional games is that this is a FULL-ON 8 bit game that was crafted to help build the world around the Bloodstained franchise and set the scene for the main game.
On the night of the full moon, demons called forth by evil alchemists emerge from a land beyond ours and ravage the earth, becoming a threat that spells the end of mankind as we know it. On this night, one man, a warrior from the east, arrives to exterminate the demon threat for the sake of both his friends and the survival of the human race. However, to destroy the demons once and for all, he must find solace and support in unusual allies…
COTM is, in a lot of ways, similar to the NES classic Castlevania 3 (which also has a solid Netflix show based on it) in that it is level-based instead of the sprawling castle that we are used to in more modern “Metroidvania games” and has switchable characters. Each character has strengths and weaknesses and learning how to properly employ them in battle is the key to getting through this game easily. Granted, there is an easy mode if that doesn’t help.
First up we have Zangetsu, a warrior from the East who wields the legendary sword Zangetsuto, in his battle to remove all deminds from the earth. He is eventually aided by Miriam, a character that was introduced to us as the main protagonist of the upcoming Ritual of the Night. Miriam suffers from a curse that is slowly turning her into a stained glass window. Miriam wields a whip in classic ‘Vania fashion and can jump higher than Zangetsu and slide under walls in some cases.
The next character obtained is named Alfred. He is an Alchemist said to be searching for an ancient tome called the Liber Logaeth. Since alchemists have been touted as the chief evil of this world, it will be interesting to see how his story pans out in the larger game. Alfred is very weak but can wield powerful magic including this awesome electricity spell that will lay waste to any boss if you mange to keep it on you to that point.
Finally, Zangetsu meets a man named Gebel who is allegedly the progenitor of the crystallizing curse who harbors deep hatred for both humans and alchemists. he can shoot stuff out of his hands and turn into a bat to help avoid annoying platforming sections. At least that’s what I did! According to all the press stuff, Gebel appears to be the main villain of the follow-up game, so seeing him here as a “hero” is interesting.
Like I stated earlier, this isn’t some quick cash-in cellphone game. This is a full featured game with multiple difficulties and multiple endings that open up after you clear the game forcing you to play again to see the true ending. There are eight full levels, with the final three being pretty long, and a boss for each and every level. I currently have only finished the game once, so I cannot comment on additional modes past that. The graphics and music are also very good and really help this game stand out.
All in all this is a GREAT retro game – it’s not gratuitously hard like the recent Mega Man sequels or super short like I assumed it would be. This is a full fledged game that seems like I could have been playing it on the NES 30 years ago. If this is the quality to expect from this series, I am very excited to see the follow-up and hope there will be a new franchise coming from this.
I got the game for free as I donated to the Kickstarter, but it appears to sell for $9.99 which is a good price for such a quality game. Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon is available on just about everything, so if your looking for a new Castlevania styled game, look no further.