Review – Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night was one of my most anticipated games of 2019. I’ve been looking forward to the bloody thing ever since its official Kickstarter reveal back in 2015. The release of the companion prequel Curse of the Moon, as well as my largely positive experience at E3 2018 only made me want Ritual of the Night more and more. Even before I started playing the Switch version of the game, I started reading articles about how broken this port was and how underwhelming it was. I even got a public apology from the publisher and the developers, promising to fix the game’s issues as quickly as possible. I started the game with a bit of skepticism, I’m not going to lie. I’m glad to say that this was in vain. Bloodstained has its fair share of issues, but I ended up loving it.

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Hey, play me some Elton John.

For those who don’t know, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is the brand new title developed by Koji Igarashi, the man behind Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, a game largely responsible for the the birth of the metroidvania genre. Everything you love from the Castlevania games is here: a well-designed map, tons of rooms to explore, secret breakable walls, a fantastic soundtrack, light RPG mechanics, and stupidly challenging boss battles. One major element from one of Igarashi’s best Castlevania games, Order of Ecclesia, is present here: your protagonist can occasionally absorb what looks to be the souls of her enemies and use their abilities as a side weapon. You can even level up these powers by bringing in specific materials to an alchemist.

In Ritual of the Night, variety is the name of the game. You have tons of different weapons to choose from. You can choose to resort on weaker but faster weapons, such as knives, short swords, or kung-fu boots. You can also equip stronger but slower weapons such as axes or claymores. You can even use a whip or a gun. You have lots of different enemy shards to equip, ranging from familiar allies to projectile blasts. The game also features an excellent aiming mechanic with the right stick, making the sole act of shooting an enemy a lot easier than in any previous Castlevania, or most metroidvania titles in general.

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That’s fine. It’s not like I wanted to sleep tonight anyway…

The sound design is great. Michiru Yamane, the same composer behind the magnificent Symphony of the Night soundtrack, did a fantastic job once again with her characteristic blend of gothic, classical, and heavy metal music. The game knows when to be subtle, and knows when to shove a metal blast beat in your face whenever there’s a boss battle. The soundtrack is so good that it more than makes up for the somewhat underwhelming voice acting. With that being said, one voice actor knocks it out of the park whenever he’s onscreen. I’m talking about none other than David Hayter, the same hero who voiced Solid Snake in the Metal Gear Solid games, who voices the character Zangetsu in Ritual of the Night.

I obviously need to point out that Ritual of the Night is not a perfect game. It does have flaws and it’s most certainly the worst performing version of the bunch. It’s not a very pretty game, as its reduced resolution and textural quality lead to an overall blurrier aesthetic. The framerate is also less impressive than in other versions, often sticking at 30fps. Those were the issues I had with the game. I had no problems regarding input lags, chest glitches, or random crashes. The only issue I had that most closely resembled a glitch was a very long loading screen during a transition from a castle area to another. The Switch version of Bloodstained was very playable, both on docked more or on-the-go.

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Oh you…

After countless hours playing the Switch version of Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, I can guarantee that, while there are some issues regarding its visuals, there’s nothing here that I’d call game-breaking or enough to ruin my entire experience with it. This is a fantastic game, a return to form for Koji Igarashi, and proof that yes, hyped Kickstarter games can turn out fine if handled by competent people. Being able to play it on-the-go more than makes up for any visual hindrances or framerate issues I had along the way.

 

Graphics: 6.5

The environment and monster designs are excellent, but the Switch port suffers from lower quality textures and a slightly slower framerate. Nothing in it is game breaking, but it could have been more polished.

Gameplay: 9.0

Your standard post-Symphony Castlevania gameplay, with the addition of an improved aiming system and special attacks for each weapon. There’s also a bit of crafting.

Sound: 8.5

The fantastic soundtrack more than makes up for the occasionally cringy voice acting. David Hayter knocks it out of the park, though.

Fun Factor: 9.0

The Switch port might suffer from inferior textures and framerates, but Bloodstained is still a fantastic return to form for Igarashi, with fantastic level design and gameplay.

Final Verdict: 8.5

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is available now on PS4, Xbox One, PC and Switch.

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night was provided by the publisher.

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