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Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: 505 Games
Developer: Koji Igarashi
Release Date: June 18, 2019


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Switch/PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night'

by Cody Medellin on July 13, 2018 @ 2:00 a.m. PDT

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is a gothic, exploration-focused action platformer, designed by Koji Igarashi, known for his work on Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.

Keiji Inafune and Koji Igarashi have a few similarities between them. Both men are loved by fans because they became the faces to some of gaming's most famous franchises. For the former, that was Mega Man, and the latter is always linked to Castlevania. Both men had fairly popular exits from their parent companies — Capcom and Konami, respectively. Both of them also went to the Kickstarter platform to bring about spiritual sequels to those beloved franchises. The difference is in the result of those crowdfunded games. For Mighty No. 9, the game was so maligned that fans felt the concept and character were done better in a completely different game. For a time, there was the fear that Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night would follow that same trajectory. We put in some time with the beta, and it's safe to say that those fears can be put to rest.

To answer the question almost everyone wants answered, this is essentially Castlevania: Symphony of the Night or Circle of the Moon or any of the other Castlevania titles from the DS and GBA. The levels are sizeable. There's a map that only gets uncovered in blocks when you reach the block. You're heavily encouraged to backtrack. There are save rooms, and combat is as weighted as you want, depending on the weapon you're wielding. The combat feels right, and while the enemies look different, they behave in exactly the same way as enemies from Konami's franchise did. For the most part, the blueprint will feel very familiar to fans of Igarashi's previous games.

For those worried that the change from sprites to polygons would ruin things, that simply isn't the case here. The polygons make the backgrounds livelier and the monsters more grotesque, while also giving your character a ton of detail. The animations could use some more polish to look more fluid, but the collision detection is spot-on. Even at this stage, there aren't any instances of missing jumps because you fell through the floor or got caught up in the environment even though spaces look passable. The look may have changed, but the 2D precision remains, making this trip nostalgic in a good way.

Being a positive carbon copy of previous works is fine, but for those expecting some evolution of the formula, the beta shows that off as well once you find your base camp. There's a shop where you can buy and sell weapons, so getting weapon clones is now a useful endeavor. Conversely, you can also choose to craft your weapons and items and break down those things to make more items or upgrade them. There's also the opportunity to get rewards for completing bounties, like killing a specific amount of a monster type. The good news is that this is all integrated well, so the features never feel tacked on.

About the only thing that may irk some people is the cut scenes. For the most part, the voices used for the scenes are well done, and the music is excellent and well orchestrated. However, the scenes can run on for a very long time to the point where one may feel like they're dragging down the pacing. Luckily, the game allows you to skip them, so you can return to the action rather quickly.

Even in this early state, there's reason to be excited about Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. The base mechanics don't stray much from what's expected, while the additions only strengthen what's there instead of muddying things up. The new presentation meshes well with the mechanics thus far, and if the beta is any indication, this promises to be a long but worthwhile journey for genre fans. Now we just have to hope for a more solid release date than sometime in 2018.

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