Long story short, demons from Hell in Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night have been summoned and it’s up to a girl named Miriam to destroy the force behind the evil. She has the ability to absorb shards from the demons, gaining their powers. It’s similar to the concept of the Kirby franchise. The genre is a Metroidvania style and a spiritual successor to Symphony of the Night. As you explore a castle, you fight bosses that leave behind shards that will grant you access to explore even further. There are a ton of weapons and powers to obtain, and the castle is quite large. Miriam has access to a store which allows her to upgrade and craft weapons and powers, as well as food. Besides exploring the maze of a castle, you will be destroying demons. Use all kinds of weapons and powers, each that can be upgraded. There was a prequel of sorts developed before this game, a shorter one with graphics that are more retro, Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon. You can try it first if you’d like to explore the backstory. It’s pretty decent but Ritual of the Night blows it and every other Metroidvania game out of the water.
Here’s what I liked:
Everything You’d Ever Want — I heard this game took a long time to get developed, and I can see why. There are so many systems at work that provide an excellent choice of options. There are hundreds of items to find. Your character is very customizable, even allowing you to change hairstyles and the color of your skin. Items will also allow you to change your character’s appearance, such as cute bunny ears or a rainbow scarf. You can craft weapons and armor, cook food, dismantle things for parts, and farm enemies for useful materials. Besides the mass amount of weapons, you’ll also be able to choose what powers to use through the collection of shards. These shards are gained through destroying enemies and there’s a handful you can craft and earn from bosses. These special abilities are all very unique. My favorite power is a rotating spear that does severe damage in the direction you’re facing. There are different categories of shards too, so you can really mix and match the abilities you enjoy using. I can’t even begin to explain how well this all works, nor how exciting it is to try out the new ones you acquire. You can favorite certain builds and change them on the fly. In so many games I have wished for certain features to be included but Bloodstained has everything one could hope for.
Story — If you were ever a fan of Castlevania, you might know what to expect. A story that spans generations of historic events with an endless amount of evil that rises and must be stopped. You’ll meet characters that are brave and enemies that are relentless. As you may expect, there is a plot twist that you likely won’t see coming. I usually love to get to the action right away and typically speed through dialogue that I am not interested in. Yet I read every word, soaking in the excellent story. One of my favorite parts is about a bookkeeper of the library who lends you books that provide an increase in various stats. I don’t want to give anything away but, later on, there is a secret you discover and it’s awesome. This can easily be a new franchise and I’m very hopeful there will be sequels or spin-offs.
Special Effects — From splintering raindrops to blazing fires, there are a lot of gorgeous things to look at throughout the castle that you’re exploring. Your powers look especially appealing, summoning extravagant magic that tears the enemy apart. There are no recycled effects, every power seems to have unique animations. Once you’re even farther into the game, you’ll discover a great speed shard that allows you to travel extremely fast. There is a purple effect that surrounds you and it looks spectacular. As the industry has evolved, graphics are pushed to the extreme and it seems easier for video games to look great. The trailer for the game shows a side-by-side comparison between what they started with and what they finished with. Oh boy, is it a real improvement. The finished product is spectacular and is the best-looking side scrolling action adventure I have personally played.
Character Development — Starting off, your character is very basic. You can do a normal attack and have some pretty weak weapons. The more you play, the more powerful you become. You’ll eventually wield dangerous weapons and learn techniques that serve as a combo. You’ll upgrade your shards, enhancing both the ranks and grades. You’ll become stronger and stronger, allowing you to speed through monster-infested hallways with ease. As you create and eat food, you’ll receive a one-time bonus effect to your characters stats. Everything you seem to do eventually increases some kind of stat, be it finding items or killing enough monsters to earn shards. It’s a sheer joy to become a killing machine that has a seemingly endless arsenal of magic and weapons.
Here’s what I didn’t like:
A Few Easy Fixes — Oddly, there are only a few things that could use some improvement but there are already plans to fix them. One of them is picking up items. Sometimes they’ll get stuck in the geometry of the environment. If you kill an enemy and they were in a wall or very low to the ground, the pickup will become impossible to gather. This is going to be fixed in a patch. There is no way to play with friends which wasn’t a big deal at all because I love a singleplayer experience. However, they have plans to add support which hopefully will mean we’ll be able to slay enemies together. The only real thing I can think of that probably won’t be adjusted is the crafting. My only issue was crafting was usually a mystery. You couldn’t really just know where certain things were found. One example is black pepper. I needed it for a few recipes to craft food but could not find any enemy that dropped them. Later I figured out it is obtained in a random chest in a specific area. It didn’t ruin my experience but I do wish there was a system that told you what ingredients are found in chests. If you’re stuck, you can always search online. There are tons of pages dedicated to giving you the information you seek.
If someone asked me right now, what my favorite game of the year was it would be Bloodstained, hands down. Even after completing it, I still felt an addiction to find every single item and upgrade all abilities. I can play for hours and not get bored. It has everything you could imagine a platformer to have. I played on normal and have a feeling I’ll start a new game plus on a harder difficulty. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is easily going to be a favorite for many people. I am beyond impressed with the production value as well as the combat and excellent story. I can’t express how much I recommend this to everyone. It’s an experience you won’t want to miss.
Score: Must Buy
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night was published by 505 Games and developed by ArtPlay on Xbox One. It was released on June 18, 2019, for $39.99. A copy was purchased without hesitation for review purposes.