There’s a fair bit of assumption that if you’re reading this, or you’re interested in playing Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, that you’re familiar with the Castlevania franchise (most notably: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night), and Koji “Iga” Igarashi’s work. Either that, or you’re familiar with the whole “Metroidvania” style of gameplay, which, for those not familiar with the term, refers to how both Metroid and the Castlevania franchises features a large interconnected world level/map, that has certain parts inaccessible until you’ve earned a certain skill or item to be able to access that certain area.
So, the big question here is: is Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night a worthy successor to Symphony of the Night? Is it a good enough action game that can stand on its own legs? The short answer is yes, but there’s a lot more to it than just that, since there are certain elements that might not sit well with certain gamers, though that in itself is subjective.
Mistress of the Night
In Ritual of the Night, you star as Miriam, a Shardbinder that falls into a deep sleep, but is suddenly awakened at just the right moment when a castle appears threatening to wipe out all of humanity. The game’s main protagonist is Gebel, another Shardbiner, and Miriam’s friend, though there seems to be more to it than meets the eye. The story itself is your typical Japanese video game tale, which in itself isn’t bad. But do expect your traditional twist and turns (though a bit predictable) to add spice to the story, which also spills over to the gameplay in a good way.
While the story won’t win any awards, the soundtrack might. Featuring work by NoisyCroak, it blends classical video game tunes with modern beats, and the result is fantastic. I’m not one that appreciates video game soundtracks often, and it’s a testament to how fantastic Ritual of the Night’s musical score is that I remember it fondly.
However, the same can’t be said for the game’s visuals and performance. While the game itself looks beautiful enough, some might see it as too plain given how 2D action games have upped the ante on how gorgeous the overall graphics, design and animations are. That said, it doesn’t look bad — far from it, it’s just that don’t expect a gargantuan leap from the Metroidvania games of old, which is sad to say given we’re in 2019.
What might be more disappointing is the game’s performance. I played Ritual of the Night on a PS4 Pro, and encountered numerous game glitches like item pickups not registering, frame rate issues (particularly if there’s too many happening on the screen at once), and other technical issues. I want to point out too that I’ve experienced controller issues playing with my SCUF and other modded controllers. I’ve test five so far, and encountered issues with all of them, though not sure if it’s a game issue or just my controllers acting up (which I doubt since can play other games OK).
Gameplay Is Queen!
Regardless of its technical shortcomings, Ritual of the Night brings the gameplay in spades. From the moment it starts, you’re catapulted right into the action. While there is an early tutorial period, there’s minimal hand-holding, which is refreshing, and the action doesn’t relent.
Prepare to experiment on different shard abilities which range from calling in bats, a flying pig (yes, really) and the like, to choosing which directional ability you prefer (Welcome Company FTW!). There are a ton of gameplay options that can make or break your experience, and in how you tackle sections and bosses. Thankfully, there’s a quick shortcut feature that lets you switch from one loadout to another in one button click (and believe me, you’ll need it), though I did experience technical issues with that as well, wherein loadouts didn’t save properly and so on.
Complementing shards are weapons, armor pieces, character accessories that augment your character’s overall stats. While your character levels up and increases her base stats, your main damage, armor, etc. boosts will come from the equipment that you find while playing, or whatever it is you craft.
Yes, the game has a pretty good crafting system that has you collecting shards, various ingredients and more, in order to craft weapons, armors, and even food that give permanent stat boosts! Even after completing the game, I don’t think I’ve eaten half of the meals the game has.
This ingredient harvesting mechanic makes killing enemies multiple times whenever you “reset” a section by leaving and re-entering a whole lot easier to take, since chances they will drop something that you can use to craft something useful. In my playthrough, I’ve yet to craft some of the legendary weapons and armors since I don’t have the ingredients needed to craft their base versions. It adds a layer of replayability to the game, which isn’t a surprise since Iga’s other titles implemented the same thing,
If there’s one thing I can complain about in Ritual of the Night, it’s how obscure some of the stuff in the game is. Without going into spoilers, let’s just say that a good chunk of the game (and the ending) can’t be access without doing something a little out of left field. Thankfully for me, I knew people who already finished it, whom I asked on what to do next specifically since the game doesn’t tell you.
Now, before anyone gets annoyed on how gamers these days want everything spoon-fed, I’ve been gaming since the NES days, and I know how games back then relied on obscure gameplay mechanics and whatnot, and we gamers relied on gaming magazines to know more about ’em.
While some might appreciate this, it’s not really conducive to someone who wants to finish the game on their own. Aside from a super quick reference to a few things, you’ll be left scratching your head on what to do. I know past Iga-developed games did this as well, so it’s mostly a matter of people knowing what to expect, but I still say that at this day and age, gamers should be given everything they need to know in order to finish a game they bought, no?
Symphony of Blood
If you’re a fan of Iga’s past works,then Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is a no-brainer purchase. Now, if you were looking (or hoping) for a worthy action-adventure game, and haven’t played any of Iga’s past works, Ritual of the Night stil won’t disappoint, though it might not have the same bite.
Aside from technical issues, and how vague the game is in some areas, everything in Ritual of the Night will remind you why titles like Symphony of the Night are held in such high regard. Ritual of the Night offers non-stop action, an in-depth crafting system that will have you exploring the castle deeper and deeper to know more, and of course, that old familiar Metroidvania hook is still there. All in all, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is one ritual you wouldn’t want to miss
Overall Score: 9/10
- Fantastic Metroidvania gameplay
- Musical score is topnotch
- Nice blend of action-adventure elements with RPG mechanics
- Offers a ton of different ways to play through the game
- Technical issues like framerate stutters, item glitches and so on
- Vague game progression might not sit well with others
Review code provided by the publisher. Spent over 18 hours jumping, running and killing everything in the castle to get to the secret area. Played on PS4 Pro. You can read MP1st’s review and scoring policy right here.