Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night has finally been released, after nearly 5 years in the making. The unholy successor to the classic Castlevania games released by Konami from 1997-2008, Bloodstained joins the ranks of Doom, Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III as one of the most long-awaited games to finally achieve release at last.
And what a game it is! Conceived by Castlevania mastermind Koji Igarashi as the ultimate updated version of his Gothic action-RPG style, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night inherits the mantle of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (and its successors) with the sort of zest and intricacy that fans might never have dared to hope for.
Do you remember Castlevania: Symphony of the Night? I hope you do. It’s not just one of the best action-RPGs of all time, and not just one of the best Metroidvanias of all time, but, without hyperbole, one of the greatest games ever made. It reinvented the Castlevania series single-handedly and spawned 8 further games that would ape its style with varying degrees of success throughout the remainder of the series.
With that legacy in mind, Bloodstained emerges as a game that couldn’t possibly live up to the hype of fans who have waited over 20 years for the true, next-generation successor to Symphony of the Night… except it does. No, really. While fans might be skeptical during the game’s humble beginnings, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is already shaping up to be one of the best games of 2019.
Now, granted, this comes with the caveat that this writer has only played about 9 hours, and 50% of the map of Bloodstained, but if you can juxtapose that with my level of excitement, and the fact that I’ve played 18/30 games of the Castlevania series, I think you’ll agree that we’re not jerking you around here. Unless Bloodstained goes off of a cliff somewhere toward the end, this is absolutely the game you’ve been waiting for.
However, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night isn’t just the inheritor of Symphony of the Night‘s mighty legacy, it also draws from the best feature of one of its successors: Aria of Sorrow. The coolest feature in that iteration of Castlevania was the ability to absorb different abilities and traits from your fallen foes and utilize them to customize your character with unique moves and attacks.
Bloodstained returns this feature and doubles down on it with a truly insane amount of options. There are 8 slots in the game that you can customize into different load-outs for your character, Miriam, and trust me, by the end you’ll be swapping these out liberally. So many of the abilities you find are vital for success in crossing terrain and defeating enemies that you practically have to. Luckily the controllers are mapped out in such a way as to make this a couple of quick button presses away, rather than forcing you to go into the menu for each change.
Further, do you remember how cool it was when Alucard’s appearance would change depending on how you outfitted him in Symphony of the Night? Well, Bloodstained offers customization options that would make the son of Dracula blush. Eye color, hair style, clothes, accessories, fashion and weapons all can be customized, and each option will alter Miriam’s look in real-time. This feature isn’t just fun, it also makes it so no players two Miriam’s will look exactly alike.
Finally, we have to talk about the look of this game. By all that is unholy, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is a gorgeous feast for the eyes. With intricate enemy design, detailed character animations, and dozens of background elements that thoroughly pop as you make your way through each environment, the game never lacks for something new to wow you with.
This knack for beauty extends naturally to the boss design as well. All players need to see is the first boss encounter to take in the kind of splendor and magnificence that is on display for some of these battles. Further, the fact that many of these bosses echo Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon (last year’s prequel game) thematically, they offer increased satisfaction to players who have experienced both games.
Honestly, there is so much in this game to gush about that it would take two full reviews to discuss all of the features, but just as a brief introduction, Bloodstained also features a detailed quest system, cooking mechanics, item creation and optimization, and a whole host of other game-changers for the Metroidvania genre.
Lastly, fans of the legendary Castlevania soundtracks needn’t fear, for the music and soundscape in general, is well up to snuff in Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. Catchy synth tunes and soaring orchestral scores abound, changing things up with each new environment.
For fans of the absolute best Castlevania games, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night and Curse of the Moon are absolutely the games you’ve been waiting for, and if you want more like them, be sure and vote with your wallet. Konami will no doubt be watching the success of these games for future releases in the proper Castlevania series–let’s let them know what we want.