Castlevania Born Anew

By: Devonte Griffiths

Game: Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows                                                                                                                          Price: $39.99
Rating: T for Teen

The impact of Metroidvania-style games has been apparent over the last few years of gaming with colossal hits like Hollow Knight, Guacamelee, and Axiom Verge being heavily influenced by this gaming sub-genre. With Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night being made by one of the pioneers of the genre, it easily stands on its own as a worthy successor to the Castlevania series.

The story has never really been the primary appeal of a Castlevania game and this game doesn’t stray far from the story template of its predecessors. The game takes place in 18th century England where a group of alchemists perform dangerous experiments on humans in order to summon demons. Ten years later, an evil man named Gebel swears revenge on these alchemists and starts his plans to destroy all of England. Miriam is awakened from her deep slumber in order to stop Gebel’s plan. The story is incredibly straightforward with little twists or grand surprises simply because it doesn’t need them. For the most part, the story acts as an excuse.

The gameplay contains an amalgamation of the central features from the Castlevania series, playing out like a greatest hits collection of the series’ past. The levels are vast and open-ended with hidden collectables and alternate pathways, akin to Symphony of the Night. Upon defeating specific enemies, you can steal and use their abilities, a mechanic lifted from Aria and Dawn of Sorrow. Additionally, Miriam can also upgrade these abilities to either change or enhance their properties. There are also side quests you can encounter inside the castle that grant unique rewards.

Despite sharing many similarities with the Castlevania series, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night does separate itself in a few ways. This game abandons the luscious pixel graphics of Castlevania’s past in favor of a more 2.5D aesthetic. It uses 3D models on a 2D plane to try to have the best of both worlds. Though the models don’t look incredible, they allow for more creative levels like exploring a spiraling tower from multiple angles. The use of 3D models also allows for full player customization of Miriam with a cavalcade of clothes and accessories that allow the player to make her look exactly how they want her to.

Another way that this game stands out from its predecessors is how it sounds. The sound effects are crisp and distinct which goes well with the soundtrack. The music is composed brilliantly with transitions between somber gothic tunes and triumphant battle symphonies, which add to the game. The game’s acting comes from accomplished voice-over actors such as David Hayter, Kari Wahlgren and Erica Lindbeck. Combined with the visuals, the audio provides a new yet familiar experience for the player. The game is quite lengthy taking around 13 hours to complete, if you’re focusing entirely on the story, which definitely makes it worth the money. That play time can be extended by several hours if the player searches for collectables and secret challenges. Though the game is great, it is mainly made for Castlevania veterans or people already well-versed in the nuances of Metroidvanias. The game is not very welcoming to newcomers. Despite all that, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is a worthy spiritual successor to the Castlevania series.