Koji Igarashi (IGA) and his awesome cowboy hat were giving demos of his spiritual successor to the Castlevania franchise — Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. I had the ultimate pleasure of meeting IGA at the show to get a hands-on demo of the new Church level his team had prepared for the it. After playing through the level and taking on its boss Bloodless, I can say without issue that this game’s promise of being a spiritual successor to the Castlevania franchise is beyond legit.
In fact, outside of the modern cel-shaded visuals and polish, the game plays very similarly in all aspects to the very first Castlevania on the NES. I mean that in the best possible way too, especially if you have a nostalgic tie in your heart to the original like I do. Miriam, who is the main character, moves very methodically just like Simon from Castlevania in the NES version of the game, and even has a similar feeling jump motion. She controls just like him actually, so if you’ve played the 8-bit Castlevania you’ll have an idea for how Miriam moves about and attacks. She’s not the most nimble heroine in terms of speed, but she can get around just find thanks to her platforming abilities and combat prowess.
Combat in Bloodstained is best described as the hack-and-slash variety, but Miriam does have magical attacks. In the demo I earned a power that allowed me to shoot fireballs in all directions in addition to my melee attacks. It appears that these powers are permanent, which is different than how Castlevania handled Simon’s pick-ups like the boomerang and holy water. Either way the fireball power came in handy as I jumped my way through the Church level in the demo, which unfolds in the same way as the first Zelda thanks to a level map that shows you potential doors to access the next room of the level. This map is key, because Bloodstained may not have branching paths, but it does have secret rooms to find, as well as exits that may not be obvious until you see them on the map.
I did manage to progress far enough into the Church level demo to square off with its boss. This big bad is called Bloodless, and she has a thing for umbrellas and blood. Tons of blood in fact, as all of her special moves revolve around unleashing gallons of red goo at you from every direction. The challenge of taking her down was no joke. While she exhibited a pattern you could predict, she still was hard to get hits on due to the fact that you jump back when you get hit, so at times it’s hard to get close to lay down some damage. Although, if you time your jumps perfectly you can get an opening, so I found the battle to be somewhat strategic with a mix of button mashing and praying.
Luckily I had saved a bunch of health potions from exploring the level and killing enemies and torches (because we need less torches in the world), so I was able to beat her with just a sliver of life left. Let’s just say the feeling of beating her felt amazing, so like other classic games with challenging gameplay, besting a boss in Bloodstained can give you a high that’s worth repeating.
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is shaping up quite nicely, so hopefully it will hit its wide open 2018 release date for nearly every platform out there (Wii U version cancelled). It looks modern but plays retro. It offers challenging but rewarding gameplay. And it’s produced by a dude who’s cool as fuck, just check out his cowboy hat for confirmation. In all seriousness, if you have been itching for a classic Castlevania type of gameplay experience, it seems that IGA has once again found a great formula for his new IP, so stay tuned for more details on the game as it gets closer to launch.
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