Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night review for PS4, Xbox One, PC, Switch

Platform: PS4
Also On: Xbox One, PC, Switch
Publisher: 505 Games
Developer: ArtPlay
Medium: Blu-ray / Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

While Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is a new IP from developer ArtPlay, everything about the game is designed to evoke PS1-era classic Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, but in the best way possible. Producer Koji Igarashi and the rest of ArtPlay have really done a great job of paying homage to the latter half of the 2D Castlevania library with Bloodstained, while adjusting for modern-era graphics and design. It?s not a flawless experience, the PS4 version that I played had some definite technical issues for instance, but by and large this is the game that I wanted when Bloodstained was originally announced, and it?s been an absolute joy to play through over the past couple of weeks.

Players take control of Miriam, a ?Shardbinder? that has the ability to absorb the shards of various demons she encounters. Much like the ability system from Symphony of the Night, most enemies you encounter can drop shards that give Miriam various abilities. These range from active attacks that?ll deplete your MP bar, or more passive abilities like bonus XP, improved stats, and so on. Defeating enemies will gain experience for Miriam, allowing her to level up and get slightly stronger as you advance through the game. Miriam also has a host of weapons at her disposal, either crafted or found as drops off of enemies or chests, and overall the crafting system is fairly robust with lots of materials and recipes/blueprints to find. Miriam can even craft food, which will replenish her health and provide even more useful stat boosts upon first consumption.

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is designed with a 2D feel in mind, but the characters and environment are rendered in 3D. The early version of Bloodstained looked a little rough, however I feel like the overall design came together pretty well in the finished product. There?s a lot of varied locations to explore, ranging from more traditional Castlevania style locations like underground water filled corridors and tower chambers with large gears to platform off of, to more unique locales like ice caverns and a desert/quicksand location. There?s a lot of hidden passages, power-ups, and even bosses to uncover, and the traditional-style 2D map gets the job done in relation to the exploration this type of game requires. The only time that it can get a little iffy is when you?re in an area that goes for a more 3D style effect, like the Twin Dragon Towers, as the map has a hard time on picking up exactly where you are when you?re twisting around the environment in a circle. It?s not much of an issue to be honest, but the 2D map clearly isn?t designed with a 3D space in mind.

The most important factor coming in to Bloodstained for me was how Miriam would control, and thankfully I think the team at ArtPlay really nailed that aspect. Everything feels great, from Miriam?s jump, double jump, forward slide, and backstep. If you have any experience with Symphony of the Night, you?ll be right at home here. Also, the different types of weapons all feel unique, often with special properties attached, giving you more reason to play around with the different types of weapons you?ll find while playing.

As I mentioned earlier, the only real issue I?ve had with Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, comes from the performance end of things. On the surface this isn?t a game that would appear to be taxing to modern hardware, but there are definite points where the game noticeably struggles to maintain a steady framerate. There?s a boss fight towards the end of the game that drops into single digits consistently, and occasionally the game will freeze up for a few seconds after killing an enemy, in a way that always felt like it was on the verge of crashing. This doesn?t happen often enough to be too distracting, but you?ll likely still encounter these issues here and there.

Despite that, I?d still wholeheartedly suggest picking up Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, especially if you?re a big fan of Koji Igarashi?s previous work. It?s a fantastic callback to those style of games, and goes to show that despite ?Metroidvania? being a fairly popular genre, it?s hard to beat a game designed by the folks responsible for making that genre a thing to begin with.

Note: 505 Games provided us with a Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night PS4 code for review purposes.

Grade: A-