E3 Hands-on – Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
One of my most anticipated appointments during E3 2018 was my hands-on session with 505 Games for Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. The long awaited Kickstarter project lead by the legendary Koji Igarashi, the man behind nearly all Castlevania games starting from Symphony of the Night until his departure from Konami a few years ago.
It has been a long time since Bloodstained‘s announcement and the gaming landscape has been changing ever since. We’ve seen countless Kickstarter projects fail to live up to their promises, such as Keiji Inafune’s disappointing Mighty No. 9 and the abomination that Agony turned out to be. We’ve also started to see a huge amount of Metroidvania-inspired games being released on all consoles to the point of saturation. Suffice to say, the gaming scene in 2018 is very different from the gaming scene when Bloodstained was first announced; I had become extremely skeptical on Kickstarter projects, especially those that have been delayed a few times.
Things started to change after the release of another Bloodstained title a month ago, Curse of the Moon. I was impressed with the level of effort put into what was essentially a secondary stretch goal. A tiny companion game, made solely because of the number of supporters that had decided to back Mr. Igarashi’s project. If such a smaller title could turn out to be that good, one could only wonder the amount of dedication put into the main project. After playing Ritual of the Night at E3 2018, I can safely say, rest assured my friends. This is a good one.
My preview session was presented by IGA himself and was comprised of nearly no talk because the developer wanted us to play the game and feel the magic ourselves. Gameplay-wise, it does feel like a mix between Symphony of the Night (RPG elements, map design, save rooms, etc) and Order of Ecclesia (especially in the way you can acquire abilities by killing monsters). Some small but noticeable modern additions to the old Castlevania formula include cinematic cutscenes, aiming with the right stick, and a simple but effective crafting system. There’s not much to Ritual of the Night that differs it from other post-Symphony Castlevania games, but given the fact this is what we have been promised from the start, there’s no way I can get disappointed with it.
The controls are responsive enough. The game isn’t exactly as fast-paced as, say, Symphony of the Night, but it still runs at 60 frames per second and feels good to play. The soundtrack is completely orchestrated and downright epic. It is being composed by Michiru Yamane, the same composer behind Symphony of the Night. The graphics are my only slight concern. While the game doesn’t look bad at all, it does feature that typical “clearly polygonal with cel-shaded textures” vibe, in the sense that it doesn’t look exactly like a cartoon in a way a Guilty Gear game or The Wind Waker achieve. Those were my only concerns, though. Playing the game, getting to use loads of different weapons, fighting creatively-designed bosses, everything felt just like a classic Castlevania game should.
Despite my issues with the game’s overall visual style, I can’t deny how fun my playtime session with Bloodstained was. Koji Igarashi promised a new Symphony of the Night with some modern gameplay additions and that’s how the game feels and plays like. After countless failed Kickstarter promises from big names in the industry, I’m so glad that Bloodstained has all the potential to live up to its insanely high expectations. This is the Castlevania successor we’ve been waiting for.