Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

Symphony of the Night was the game that had everything. Quick combat, exploration, aesthetic style, RPG elements without merciless grind, and a variety of combat styles to tinker with. It is rightfully remembered as one half of the games that have an entire genre named after them, to the degree where even if you haven’t played either if we say ‘metroidvania’ any gamer knows exactly what we’re talking about. Now, imagine being the developer to make that game, and be able to continue making more of them on a whim, yet leave the genre alone following your great success. I suppose we should be thankful after Survive and Contra, Konami did not want to make it.

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, is the game that you would expect if the creative mind of Symphony made another metroidvania. That’s basically this review in a nutshell- this game is spot on in every way.

This is what happens when someone who knows how to make games, and loves making games, makes a game. I absolutely loved Symphony of the Night, and there have been great metroidvania games from a multitude of companies, and even Konami’s trio of DS games captured the feel and were good follow ups.

But this game isn’t good, it’s not even great- it’s perfect. It follows up in a way that feels more like a natural progression of the franchise than the actual games that were actual progressions of the franchise were.

The character models are gorgeous; the various effects of shard magic and weapons are varied and pretty without being overwhelming; the three dimensional background and two dimensional foreground flow perfectly together, rather than creating clutter or an overabundance of noise. The background often tells a story and is full of easter eggs, and monster models range from threatening dragons and demons to somewhat more adorable kitties.

If there’s one phrase that comes to mind it is attention to detail, and not just for graphics and the scenery but for every aspect of the game. There are so many small things that add to the game’s flavour, things that are in there just to make you smile or remind you of something- the sort of things someone who loves making games puts into a game because they realize the people playing the game love playing games and aren’t just wallets.

Between weaponry and shards, which are effectively a mix of magic and skills of various types, there are so many ways to approach both platforming and combat in the game that in the forty hours it took to get a platinum, time I enjoyed so much I was actually disappointed I was done and ready to ask for Bloodstained 2- that I didn’t even explore them all. Various weapon types within weapon types, such as a whip that acts like a whip, and another stronger whip that homes in on nearby foes, or various types of ammunition for your gun that add damage, status effects or even spread to your shots. Shards that give you familiars, passive boosts, and a vast library of damaging spells and weapon combos; most importantly they aren’t just different types of attacks but can change your overall mobility or fighting style which is a crucial difference between an action platformer and a standard RPG.

I would frequently discover something I hadn’t bothered using would be far more convenient for certain foes that were a pain to fight, and switching up your strategy regularly can make the game both more enjoyable and easy. The game’s selection of weapons and shards increased at a natural rate, so at no point did I feel overwhelmed, but also without going out of my way to farm or grind I never felt utterly stalled for too long.

At the very end, there was some grinding to do mostly because I did go for the completionist trophies but it is very unnecessary for beating the game itself. If you over grind early on, let’s just say the shards and equipment you can get by the end of the game with a bit of time will be absolute overkill, though there are two additional difficulties in NG+ if you’d like to test your skill further. It’s a massive area to explore using the abilities you pick up along the way, everything you’d expect in the genre- I go back to what I said at the start, if you know Symphony this game feels like the ps4 version.

And I didn’t even want to complete everything out of a need to complete it, like in an Ubisoft game where I go up and down streets for hours trying to find the collectable because I get a plus something to this stat once I find x of them- no, I get a new shard, it pops up in a colourful and sinister way, and now I can summon a rat and I want to see what the rat can do.

It summons a rat… that’s what it does, perhaps not the most exciting example there.

Both combat and traversing the massive castle become easier the more abilities you get, you get stronger by everything you do, everything you craft, everything you absorb from foes, every little secret you find in the nooks and crannies of the map and even what you eat.

For completionists, it has one of the most straight forward and easy to use compendiums for finding materials and where to farm them, to the point where I was preferring using the in game compendium over the internet for locating what I needed when trying to craft something. Now there’s something I don’t get to talk about often, a game where you can find information about the game, in the game. It sounds like common sense, but for some reason it’s not to the point where I can bring it up in a review as something positive to set it apart.

Make the information available easily, and make it complete- that’s all you need to do, this isn’t rocket surgery.

The story, voice acting and NPCs are… appropriate. And I mean just that, this isn’t Shakespeare, it captures a lot of the almost campy nature of a franchise that got its name by taking the place vampires come from and adding a castle to it… because the game takes place in a castle. It’s on the nose, makes fun of itself and is intentionally cliché. I can’t find fault in that because NPC interaction and deep story are not really a part of the genre as a whole- but if there is a place one may find fault it’d be here.

I found it amusing, I loved the game from start to finish, I’m just so happy that Igarashi saw what we wanted, and gave us what we wanted, instead of leaving Konami to make a game that takes boring delivery quests from MMOs and adds extreme micro management into such tasks as inventory

management and… walking? That nobody asked for and then assumed his name was going to make us lap it up, which to a degree was the case so I guess mission accomplished.

No, he gave us a good game, we wanted, we’ve wanted for years- again it feels like common sense to realize that a game that did well, got critical acclaim, and has been requested for years would have a market. But then again I don’t see the appeal of throwing my money into a pachinko machine with the intent of going bankrupt so I guess I’ll never get Konami.

This is one of the must buy games for the ps4 if you like adventure platformers, RPGs, metroidvanias- it’s definitely one of the best games of this generation and it does an amazing job of appealing to both my retro loving side and my love of seeing progress and things get better over time.

So when’s the pachinko version? I mean, when does Bloodstained 2 come out?

~~Alex Cumming~~

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