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Backlog Review | Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

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It’s time to get the ‘vanias out of my system by cracking my whip in Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night!

Stain Your Vanias

If you had the opportunity to breathe new life into something you hold near and dear to your heart, at the risk of tarnishing your rose tinted glasses, would you take that plunge? What if you could expand upon it and create a successor that hopes to improve upon a formula that is tried and true? Many have attempted this in the past and to varying degrees of success. Even those that parented the very thing that inspired their work. But sometimes, the prospect of creating that new obsession outweighs the uncertainties of its success.

Well my dear backloggers, this time around on The Backlog Odyssey, I take a look at the game that puts 200.6% into everything it does and stains your ‘vanias red, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. So oil up your whip and pay no mind to that group of blood thirsty vampires because it’s time for another Backlog Review!

Whip Cracking Wizard

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is a side scrolling action platformer developed by ArtPlay and released in 2019 for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and PC! When your gaze rests upon Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, I’m sure the first thing that comes to mind is Castlevania, and more specifically Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Well, that’s not entirely unfounded because in many ways, Bloodstained can be considered a spiritual successor to those very games. 

However, it all started when Koji Igarashi, known famously for sticking his fingers in the proverbial Castlevania pie, left Konami. That guy was basically elbow deep in the stuff. Playing roles such as programmer, scenario writer, director, producer – you name it! Seriously, if you played a Castlevania after 1993, you could taste the sweaty knuckle hairs of this whip cracking wizard.

Tangent aside, after leaving Konami, Iga decided he would follow suite with the likes of Keiji Inafune, of Mega Man fame, and attempt to revitalize his digital namesake in the form of a Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds to create a new ‘vania that wasn’t a ‘vania, but felt like a ‘vania. And after close to five years we were finally graced with what all of us Castlevania fans could only have dreamed of, a new “Igavania” Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night! Well, technically it’s prequel Curse of the Moon came a year or so before it, but we can talk about that another time. It was more of a “classic” Castlevania than your typical metroidvania anyways.

The Shape Shifting Hell Hole… I Mean Hold

In Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, you play as Miriam, an orphaned Shardbinder who has the ability to absorb and utilize the crystalized souls of demons. After waking from a decade long coma like slumber, Mariam discovers that her old friend and fellow Shardbinder Gebel, has summoned the demonic and shape shifting castle, Hellhold, in hopes of seeking revenge on the guild of alchemists that cursed them with their undue abilities. 

Now it is up to Miriam to find Gebel and stop him. Either before her affliction completely petrifies her or before he takes his vengeance too far!!

More Than Just Spirit

When playing Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, it’s tough not to compare it to the games that came before it. Games like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night pretty much set the standard for what to look for in a metroidvania. I mean, the term was coined for that game!! With it being a “spiritual successor”, that makes a lot of sense. But that also means that it needed to include all of the things that made those games great. Which is a lot to live up to! It needs to include non-linear, exploration focused gameplay. It needs to include a wide variety of weapons and armor to collect and it needs to teach you abilities that can be used to traverse previously unreachable areas! Oh and it absolutely needs platforming action that’ll make you bite your bottom lip. 

Here’s the thing. Regardless of how skeptical I may have been before I played it, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night lived up to all of my expectations. In fact, I would even say that in many ways (not all), it exceeded those expectations. It expanded upon the systems that made me fall in love with Symphony of the Night by making them more modern. Now instead of just finding new items and equipment, you could craft them. Or you could even cook food to increase your stats permanently. And although I may have been hesitant about the “crystal absorbing” mechanic that was very similar to what was found in Aria of Sorrow or Dawn of Sorrow, it grew on me. I was worried that it would be a bit tedious, but after coming to terms with the whole “gotta catch em all” mentality of collecting each and every demon soul, I was pretty much hooked.

Honestly, the only area where Bloodstained truly floundered, was its visuals. They just didn’t seem to have the same impact as the intensely gothic Castlevania series. But, it could just be that I’m a sucker for the classic 2D style and the beautifully grotesque aesthetics that the franchise is known for. That’s not to say the art direction in Bloodstained is bad, to its credit, it’s amazing! I love how colorful and interesting the world and characters are, but the polygonal graphics just kind of cheapened it for me. Luckily, the talented dev team over at ArtPlay, really knew how to dial in those animations and controls because despite it not being more traditionally 2D, the action and animations flowed smoothly and without a hitch! And all of those criticisms are soon forgotten when you hear the soundtrack, because it would be impossible to not love it! It brings memories of slaying zombies and fighting dracula, and wears its eerie inspirations on its sleeve in the best of ways. That and I don’t think it left my playlist since I finished the game!

A Completionists Dream

If you’re looking for a good way to sink hours into a well crafted experience, then I can’t recommend you check out Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night enough. Even if you have never played a Castlevania in your life, you honestly can’t go wrong with this game. Especially if love action platformers. It has depth, intrigue and buttery smooth action that’ll keep you entertained from beginning to end. And if you’re a completionist like me with a soft spot for farming, there’s plenty of that in there too. Just be sure to wear those bunny ears for extra luck.