The classic video game series “Castlevania” is back — well, unofficially.
When “Castlevania” released on the Nintendo Entertainment System all the way back in 1986, it revolutionized the action-platformer genre. It’s critical and commercial acclaim led to a slew of sequels and, due to its similarities with Nintendo’s “Metroid” series, created its own genre: Metroidvania.
Although it is one of the most influential game series of all time, recent years have not been kind to the series. The series publisher and owner, Konami, turned its focus away from video games, which led many of their popular games with a little-to-no chance of getting further releases.
When the final “Castlevania” game released to a middling reception in 2014, it seemed as if all hope was lost for a continuation of the popular vampire hunting series — that is, until former “Castlevania” series producer Koji Igarashi, known online as Iga, launched a Kickstarter campaign in 2015 for a game that look strangely similar to “Castlevania.”
That game was “Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night” and, four years after the success of its Kickstarter campaign, the game has finally released.
In the early 19th century, a group known as the Alchemist’s Guild fused people with demonic forces, creating the powerful Shardbinders. When the industrial revolution began to threaten their existence, however, the guild used the Shardbinders to summon hordes of demons to earth. This process killed all but two of the Shardbinders: Gebel and Miriam.
Ten years have passed since the defeat of the guild by the Church. When Gebel begins to summon demons once more, it is up to Miriam to find and stop him.
While I can’t say I was particularly blown away by the story, I did enjoy it. The game is fully voice-acted, which is a feat for any game, especially an indie Metroidvania. The voice acting added to my enjoyment of the game and made me more invested in the characters and story.
This story is complemented by a beautiful art style. While the game doesn’t have the best graphics I’ve ever seen, it covers for that with a stunning gothic style that was a joy to look at.
The game features a large map full of challenging monsters to fight. Even while playing on the normal difficulty, I still found myself constantly dying at the hands of every sort of foul beast imaginable, whether it was early or late in the game.
This kind of difficulty leads to a very rewarding gameplay experience; there’s nothing more satisfying then finally taking down a boss you’ve been trying to beat for the past hour.
“Bloodstained” is more customizable than I thought it would be. The game features 12 different weapon types ranging from whips to guns. This allows the player to find which type they like best or switch weapons on the fly to deal with different enemies.
On top of this, there are a huge number of shards you can collect over the course of the game which allow you to harness demonic power. These range from shooting a fireball to summoning a giant tentacle monster.
The game also features a crafting system. Sometimes when a monster is killed, it will drop an item that can be used to craft weapons and items to help you along your journey.
“Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night” is one of the best Metroidvania games I have ever played. And that’s saying something, as the Metroidvania genre is currently one of the most popular in gaming.
All these aspects of the game come together to make something truly special. While “Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night” might not actually be the newest “Castlevania” game, it might as well be. Fans of the series that have waited years for a return to form will not be disappointed.
Game Reviewed on a PlayStation 4 Pro. Review code provided by 505 Games.