A Review of Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night has had a storied development. Starting out as a kickstarter campaign headed my Koji “Iga” Igarashi in response to his firing from Konami. His intent was to bring back the “Metroidvania” genre, a genre he had essentially created himself alongside the Yoshio Sakamoto, director of Super Metroid. His contribution to this genre was Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, a complete reworking of the Castlevania formula from oppressively difficult, single-map obstacle course that it originally popularized into the sprawling exploration and puzzle solving franchise that it would soon become.

The kickstarter campaign was a RAMPANT success, overshooting it’s initial $500,000 goal by five MILLION dollars in the 30 days of its campaign, not to mention the ‘slacker backers’ that contributed after the campaign was finished. With the $5M overshoot, the intent ballooned from a relatively simple metroidvania game to the most ambitious project Iga had ever attempted: The largest castle Iga has ever designed, three playable characters, asynchronous online multiplayer, local co-op, a prequel title in the style of the older Castlevania titles and even more features than I could list in a reasonable article. But being a Kickstarter campaign in an age after Mighty Number 9, there was a lot of concern that this incredibly ambitious project would turn out to be a massive flop. So did this absurd beast of a title manage to live up to its predecessors?

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night SHATTERS expectations. A fluid combat system that includes all the aspects of the Castlevania series, from the initial input-based combat system of Symphony of the Night, to the massive spell roster obtained from killing enemies of later titles in the series, alongside a truly staggering number of weapon choices. Alongside these returning mechanics are newcomers to the series, with crafting and cooking that allows the player to increase their stats and create new weapons and armor from the pieces of their enemies. This allows players to customize their character more than any other Castlevania title in history.

And make no mistake, this IS a Castlevania game in all but name. The same enemies with a new coat of paint, the same mechanics, overt references to the Castlevania series (There is a boss that is literally just a dead Belmont). The only thing that sets this game apart from the Castlevania series is that the generic medieval theme of the world has been honed very specifically to a french renaissance inspired variant, with all of the beautiful scenery and staggering architecture that comes with it. This is a truly beautiful addition to the Metroidvania genre.

Alongside this beautiful aesthetic is a well crafted story; while narratives have never been the strongest point of Castlevania games, the narrative in Bloodstained is actually interesting. Characters have interesting motivations and histories and while Zangetsu unfortunately gets a predictably grim-dark story arc, the rest of the characters in the game are fully three-dimensional people. This is followed up with an unexpected twist in the ‘third act’ that subverts player expectations (that the game perfectly maintains through the journal mechanics).

That said, the game is not without its flaws. Like many kickstarted games, there are a variety of bugs, glitches, and issues that weren’t ironed out before release. Players have reported doors taking them from one room to an unconnected room three rooms away, the first post-release patch closed and opened random chests that could lead to players being unable to finish the game, it’s possible to clip through the floor in a way that forces you to reload from your last save point… Work is underway to fix these issues, but their existence can still be game-breaking. Alongside these issues, certain vital items required for progression are in some truly BULLSHIT places or require chance to obtain without any real hint telling you that you need them. This has always been a minor issue in Metroidvania games, but in Bloodstained they are amplified. Not to mention that many kickstarter promises, such as the Rogue-like dungeon, the multiplayer variants, and the alternate characters are all unavailable at launch. These have been promised to appear in a future patch of the game, but it is a shame that they weren’t available at launch.

The final verdict of Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is that the game is 100% worth the price of entry in spite of the issues. The bugs are quickly being patched out, but the kickstarter promises are slow to roll out; these issues are less frustrating than the placement of unknown necessities in the game, but those are less of a bug and more of a feature. If you’re someone who wants a numeric representation of quality, this game easily gets a 9.9/10. It isn’t perfect, but it’s DAMN close.

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Dani Kirkham

Dani Kirkham

A writer and storytelling writing about: Mental Health, Video Games, Tabletop Games, Short Stories, all written as blog posts or articles