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Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Platformer
Developer: Inti Creates
Release Date: July 10, 2020


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Switch Review - 'Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on July 15, 2020 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Bloodstained : Curse of the Moon 2 brings classic 2D action and a dark, 8-bit aesthetic together with modern playability.

Inti Creates is perhaps proving itself to be the expert of reviving NES franchises. It brought back Mega Man from the dead with the amazing Mega Man 9, as well as the superb Blaster Master Zero. This also extends to the long-dead classic Castlevania games with 2018's tie-in game Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon. With Curse of the Moon 2, Inti Creates has proven that the first was no fluke and has given us both an excellent platformer and one of the best Castlevania titles ever made.

While it has characters from Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, Curse of the Moon took place in its own alternate timeline, where friends may be enemies and enemies may be friends. As in the previous game, Curse of the Moon 2 picks up with the wandering samurai Zangetsu traveling the land and slaying demons. That's pretty much the plot. There are some twists and turns, but at its core, this is an old-school game that revolves around killing monsters.

CotM2 retains almost exactly the same gameplay as its predecessor, so it's a Castlevania game that doesn't use the franchise license. For those who've never played them, I'd recommend starting with the first Curse of the Moon to see how you like it. In this 2D platformer, you can attack, jump, and use special subweapons by collecting mana potions to build up your MP bar. Some characters have multiple subweapons that drop from candles, while others only have a singular (but often powerful) one.

As in the previous title, you have access to multiple characters, but CotM2 no longer has a "sacrifice" mechanic. When you meet a character, they will join you. You begin with just one character but can gain up to eight in total and swap between them at will. The characters represent various play styles and tools. When a character dies, he/she becomes unavailable until you finish the stage or use a resurrection spell. You only lose a life when all characters die, so this gives you some flexibility.

The biggest new thing in CotM2 are the three new playable characters, who join the original cast of four. The first is Dominique, the last of the Bloodstained characters to appear in the spin-off. She functions as a spear-wielding magic user who has damage spells and healing spells — including the aforementioned resurrection spells. Her spear basically functions like Shovel Knight's shovel, allowing her to bounce on enemies and propel herself to greater heights. With the additional mobility, she can reach places that nobody else can.

Robert, a gun-wielding soldier, brings to mind Hammer from Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, but he is quite a different character. He has the longest attack range in the game by far, and he can safely snipe enemies from across the stage. However, since he's using regular bullets and not magic weapons, his standard attacks are weaker and slower than most. He can augment his arsenal with subweapons with a variety of uses, and he can go prone to avoid any attack that isn't hugging the floor.

Last but certainly not least is Hachi, the giant suit of magical steampunk armor piloted by Zangetsu's pet corgi. Hachi might sound ridiculous, but it's an absolute brute in practice. The hulking armor is so heavy that it's all but immune to environmental effects like ice. It will even break spikes that it falls onto instead of taking damage. The machine also hits like a pile of bricks and smashes walls and floors (and enemy faces) with ease. Perhaps its most useful skill is its sole subweapon: invincibility. For a modest mana drain, Hachi can become completely immune to almost every damage source in the game, which can transform frustrating areas into total cakewalks, especially since it can be toggled on and off. Unfortunately, he's also a big target, which makes it tough for him to dodge attacks.

The new characters fill in niches that the previous ones didn't, while also granting additional options to reach hidden paths. Robert joins Miriam in being able to crawl through tight spaces, while Dominique can reach high, out-of-the-way areas that are normally Gebel's domain. Hachi is insanely powerful and arguably overpowered in a fun way. Ramming through enemies as a corgi-driven steam robot is immensely satisfying, and I felt that my party suffered more if he died than any other character.

The level design in CotM2 is excellent. Each stage has multiple paths with multiple exits that allow you to find hidden power-ups or locate shorter pathways, assuming you have the characters to do it. More to the point, each stage is designed so that it's impossible to see everything in it until you get all of the characters, which comes extremely late in the game. Instead depending on your group, you may find yourself seeing entirely different versions of what is effectively the same level. It helps avoid the feeling of burnout from replaying the stages multiple times, but some stages did wear out their welcome after the fifth time or so.

The reason you would play the stages so much is that CotM2 has multiple storylines that take you through it multiple times. The first features Zangetsu and the three new characters, the second features a Ghouls and Ghosts-style gimmick, and then there are multiple additional modes you unlock after that, including a Final mode that features freeform level exploration and the entire cast. Each mode has its own adjustments, including bosses with different attack patterns and unique end bosses. You can even take on stages with two players, but that feels more frantic than the polished single-player experience.

CotM2 assumes some familiarity with the previous game, since it has fewer tutorial messages and starts off at a somewhat higher level of difficulty. It has a fine difficulty curve, but it bares its fangs a little bit earlier than Curse of the Moon did. Like the previous game, it also has Veteran and Casual modes, which primarily influence your character's knockback. Casual gives you more control and removes knockback, but don't be afraid to play on Casual if the controls frustrate you too much. It's still a challenging experience — and absolutely not a lesser one.

Curse of the Moon 2 maintains the 8-bit aesthetic that the previous game used, and it does it incredibly well. The game is filled with amazing little touches and adorable sprite animations, alongside surprisingly gruesome boss defeats. (Upon defeat, the first boss of the game rams its head into the wall to try to kill you and explodes in a shower of NES-era viscera.) Everything is crisp, clear, easy to read, and it just looks fantastic for its aesthetic. The music is similarly great, capturing the feel of NES-era Castlevania tunes without feeling like they are copying.

If you liked Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon, then you will like Curse of the Moon 2. It's more of the same, but in the best way: more levels, more characters, a cleaner interface, and lots of balance tweaks to make everyone play a bit better. You should check out Curse of the Moon first, since it's an excellent game on its own, but if you have a hankering for '80s Castlevania action, then Curse of the Moon 2 will give you everything you need.

Score: 8.5/10

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