I have probably said this hundreds of times by now, but I absolutely love how developers these days are truly embracing the retro aesthetics of yesteryear. On top of that, it seems like no other medium can replicate that authentic classic feeling quite like video games. I mean, under the hood, they may use more modern and efficient mechanics, but at the end of the day, if it feels right, then that’s all that matters.
Well, the modern-retro wizards over at Inti Creates, has graced us with another one of their new-age classics, Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2. But will another 2D entry in the Bloodstained franchise quench our thirst after Ritual of the Night, or will it be just the palate cleanser we needed while we wait for a new 3D addition?!
Slice, Slice Baby
The Bloodstained series is a great example of a game franchise that arrived on the scene and instantly grabbed my interest. Not only because it boasted that it was the Castlevania that fans have been wanting for years, but also because it more than delivered on that promise. Especially with the release of the original Curse of the Moon. It gave us all a taste of what Bloodstained had to offer in a bite sized form that perfectly replicated that classic Castlevania feel. Similar to what you would have experienced while playing something like Castlevania 3 on the NES.
Being followed up by the hotly anticipated Ritual of the Night, my confidence in the fact that Iga and his team knew exactly what they were doing was bolstered, and Bloodstained was quickly becoming the Castlevania killer. Or at least it was going to give the coveted franchise a run for its money. So, it was no surprise that I would be jumping on Curse of the Moon 2 when I got the chance. The only question was, would it improve upon its wonderful prequel or would it just be another cash grab to keep the Bloodstained name in the back of our minds?
No More Mr. Knife Guy
Like the original game, Curse of the Moon 2 does a fantastic job of channeling that classic Castlevania gameplay and aesthetics. Then it turns the dial up a few more notches by adding new features by way of the various playable characters, each with their own unique mobility mechanics and skills. However, it’s tough to say if Curse of the Moon 2 improved upon its predecessor. What I mean is, the original Curse of the Moon was already a wonderful game with many of the same features as Curse of the Moon 2. The only real difference between the two being the stages you would play through, the characters you could play as and the bosses you would fight. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing though, because more of a great thing is always great! Especially when it’s executed well.
The only real complaint I ever had with the original Curse of the Moon was that it was a little short. And in that regard, Curse of the Moon 2 improves upon the original greatly. Almost doubling the time to complete a playthrough. Add on the subsequent episodes that further the story, and a few alternate endings, and you’re looking at a solid 10-15 hours of pure classical platforming joy!
A Slash Above the Rest
In the same vein however, if I was forced to change anything about Curse of the Moon 2, it would be to add more variety to your subsequent playthroughs. I say that because, when going through each of the episodes you’ll basically be playing the same stages, fighting the same enemies, and defeating the same bosses. Of course you’ll be given a different set of starting characters after episode one, which opens up a nice variety of alternate paths through the stages. That and the bosses become more aggressive with increasingly challenging attack patterns, but it would have been nice to see new stages with new in stage bosses in the later episodes.
Nonetheless, each episode after the first, does feature a unique final boss, and the final episode does throw in some new areas to explore come on the end. Including a shoot em up stage! Furthermore, my favorite part of Cures of the Moon 2 had to be the boss battles. You could tell the devs put a lot of effort into making them engaging and thrilling to fight. With truly impressive designs, animations and satisfying offensive challenges to overcome. But what I really liked was that although they seemed insurmountable when you first encountered them, once you learn their patterns and how to exploit their weaknesses with your cast of characters, it became a delightful dance of hacking, slashing and dodging.
I think a good gauge to use when determining if a game is good or not, is if you’re still thinking about it after everything is said and done. And Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2, definitely passes that test. Even after 5 or 6 playthroughs I’m still humming along with it’s wonderful soundtrack and seriously considering jumping back in for one last romp with Zangetsu and friends. So, if you’re a fan of action platformers, especially those that take heavy inspiration from the classic 8-bit-vanias of yore, then I don’t think you can go wrong.
If you liked this review then consider checking out the video version below! Not only do you get to hear my dulcet tones, but you can also jam out to the fantastic music and see the amazing gameplay for yourself!!