Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night | Review | Switch - Japan-based Nintendo Podcasts, Videos & Reviews!


Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night | Review | Switch

by Michael Brandse 

The Granddaddy of Metroidvania Games is Back!

Right now, the metroidvania genre is healthier than ever, with plenty of indie games using the format. This didn’t use to be so however. Around a decade ago, we basically only had the Metroid and the Castlevania games (hence the name of the genre). When Konami decided to stop making Castlevania games with the metroidvania format and Nintendo decided to capitalize on the Metroid Prime format, the genre was basically dead. At least, until the time indies picked up the genre again. After parting with Konami, Koji Igarashi went indie as well and decided to make a new metroidvania game with the name Bloodstained Ritual of the Night. Does it hold up? Well, read to find out!
First things first. Bloodstained Ritual of the Night is a Castlevania game all but in name. Almost unapologetically so. Many enemies you will find in the game will definitely feel very familiar if you have played even one single Castlevania game. The ever annoying Medusa heads that wave around the screen in annoying patterns? They are called Dullahan Heads now! The ever returning partner of Dracula, Death? Well, she is called Gremory now! The similarities are too many to name them all. This is great, since the original Castlevania had a very solid line-up of recurring enemies. On the other hand, it’s also a weakness, because well, we have seen all of this before.
That basically forms the major weakness of Bloodstained Ritual of the Night. It’s almost too much like Castlevania. Koji Igarashi was finally free from the franchise. He could have done way more now that he wasn’t bound to the setting of Castlevania. Instead, we get yet another oversized castle with all of the familiar trappings. It’s not very original and oftentimes I found myself wondering when I would see something a bit more… creative. That’s not to say the entire game is derivative. There is one particular level where you are racing against the clock on a speeding train. More of that please! That is the stuff I was hoping for! More than just another clock tower full of spikes and turning gears.
Another downside of the game is actually the game it tries to be. Castlevania drew it’s inspirations from monsters and lore everyone knew about. Frankenstein’s monster? The wolfman? Legion? All names likely everyone has heard off, and thanks to Castlevania’s history, also all names that will immediately conjure images in the average Castlevania fan’s head. In comparison, bosses and baddies in Bloodstained don’t leave nearly as strong an impression. In fact, I feel that the spin-off, Curse of the Moon did a much better job of making them memorable. Like Valac, a two-headed dragon. In Curse of the Moon, the entire body is basically a giant mouth. In Ritual of the Night however? Just two heads alternating attacks.
All of this does not mean Ritual of the Night is bad. On the contrary. It’s a really, really good. The gameplay is rock solid and you can see exactly why Castlevania was partly responsible for creating the metroidvania genre to begin with. In the game you play as Miriam and Miriam has a wide variety of weapons she can wield, allowing for plenty of playstyles. Not just that, but all enemies have mostly got their own unique “shard” drops. Shards in this game basically take the place of magic, and come in five different types. While certain shards are definitely better than others, experimentation is key, and this is where the main fun comes from. The game also gains a crafting system, where you can cook (for stat boosts), create weapons, armor and even new shards as well as enhance ones you already have. Despite all of this, the game never feels overly grindy, since luck actually does have a decent impact on drop rates, unlike many earlier Castlevania games.
Presentation wise, the game looks fantastic. Even on the Switch, the power of the Unreal 4 engine is in full display. While the art direction can be a bit hit or miss, the main castle portions all look really good. On a docked Switch, it runs pretty okay as well at what I believe is 30 frames per second. In handheld mode on the other hand, there are areas that lag, and lag a lot. I really hope they manage to patch that out, since it definitely puts a bit of a damper on what is normally a great experience. I also had some crashes, but I feel like that happened because I had the game open for too long, as I tend to put the Switch on standby rather than completely power it off.

In true Castlevania fashion, Michiru Yamane composed the soundtrack. It's really good, even though it’s hard to call this her best work. That being said, having to compete with around 20 years of your own best work is pretty darn hard, and she did a really good job regardless.  

In conclusion, Bloodstained Ritual of the Night is a fantastic game. It could have done with a little bit more creativity, but even then it's a tremendous effort that is a ton of fun to play. It's amazing to see that even after a decade, the foundation of the old Castlevania games is still this strong. If you have any love for the genre, get it. You won't be sorry.

Final Score 8.0

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