It has been far too long since I experienced a Castlevania game. It wasn’t until I played Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon that I realised the full meaning of that statement either. Regardless of what Konami wants to do with the ‘Castlevania’ name, this is what the real future of the franchise now looks like. And it’s looking bright.
Let me just say, though, that it’s an increasingly common trend in the games industry. That being where the original creator, (Koji Igarashi in this case), has to fight back for the same individual and creative control they once knew. I won’t digress any further on that point, don’t worry, but it’s great to see a positive outcome in such a mad, fickle world.
Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon Review
So, here we are with Curse of the Moon and the short answer is: it’s essentially everything you might expect and want from a ‘classic’ Castlevania game. What I mostly mean by classic is the absence of the Metroidvania exploration and, to a degree, upgrades we all know and love. That’s not a bad thing at all…
What we have instead are levels, with multiple paths within them, that all nevertheless lead to the same ending point. At the end of the levels are challenging bosses that remind you of how tough video games of the past used to be. You’ll have to fight your way through endless creatures of the night and avoid nasty traps to get there as well.
You might even ‘battle across a bridge’ or ‘through a room’. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.
Fundamentally then, what Iga and the extremely talented Inti Creates have produced here recaptures the magic of the very first 2D Castlevania games from the NES and SNES days. That includes an awesome soundtrack (of course), gorgeous 8-bit graphics and the ability to control four different characters. The latter is an area in which Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse is fondly remembered for.
Four Characters, Eight Stages
In Curse of the Moon, we have the exorcist Zangetsu who fights with a sword, the heroine Miriam who deploys the classic whip, the latest ‘incarnation’ of Dracula called Gebel, (although not officially), who can turn into a bat or summon them from his cape and, lastly, the alchemist Alfred who can use powerful magic. Each of these characters is unlocked at the end of the preliminary stages. All of them have individual life bars too, making things a bit easier.
You’ll be switching between the group to get through the eight stages, although, for a first playthrough, Miriam’s range of attack with her whip is a safe bet. There are also diverging points on each of the levels that can only be accessed through certain character abilities. Finding these points will take you through a variety of scenarios that keep Curse of the Moon feeling fresh.
It wasn’t until I completed the game twice on ‘Veteran’ (Spoilers: there are multiple endings), that I truly started to understand where each character excelled. Basically, the more deaths I endured, the easier it became. Yes, there is certainly a high difficulty to overcome in Veteran (probably not as tough as some of the older Castlevania titles), but purists will most likely love every masochistic second of it.
Veteran Or Casual?
Have no fear though. Players that are new to the series or just want to take a smoother ride are also well looked after with the ‘Casual’ style of play. Casual removes the dreaded knockback from enemies and lives are unlimited. The game asks you whether you want to change the style frequently, encouraging either more challenge or a break from the stress. This is a great implementation.
I can’t say Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon does anything truly new for the series, but sometimes that’s perfectly ok. What it does do, however:
- Recreates the classic games, to brilliant effect
- Continues the dormant legacy of the wonderful Castlevania series
- Makes the wait for Ritual of the Night much harder
For most people, that will definitely be an enticing proposition worthy of their time and money.