The wait is finally over for so many crowdfunding fans. All the support the Bloodstained franchise received through the years has come to fruition. Its retro-style adventure, Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon, was an excellent rendition of the 8-bit gaming era. Meanwhile, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is a Metroidvania at heart and a very entertaining 2D action sidescroller with gorgeous 3D background elements at its surface. This title comes from the hand of Castlevania’s Koji Igarashi, ArtPlay, and 505 Games.
Rarely do I play a game until the clock hits 2 a.m., but Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is one that made me forget to watch my cellphone every 10 minutes.
Miriam, crystals, and deception
The protagonist of the story is named Miriam, a Shardbinder. Shardbinders can acquire and absorb demonic abilities and energy in their bodies. Most of them were sacrificed during an evil ritual to summon demons into the world. Only Miriam and her friend Gebel survived, though Miriam fell under a spell of heavy sleep that saved her from performing the ritual. Ten years later, Miriam wakes up and has to get rid of the giant castle and demons that have appeared, seemingly because of Gebel going rogue.
The story has a lot of good plot twists and is entertaining. You can see some twists from a mile ahead. Still, the way Bloodstained paces its story keeps you coming for more. There are also small sidequests to keep you entertained if you want to rest from the main storyline.
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is not full-priced, but there’s so much content and complexity to it that its $39.99 retail price is surprising. The game has a unique look to it. It is almost impossible not to feel that you’re playing a great remake of some stellar ’90s game. This is how a solid Metroidvania is made. Returning to previous areas with new power-ups always feel enticing instead of being a chore.
Platforming feels a little off sometimes. It is somewhat cumbersome to get across some sections of the game because it feels like Miriam weighs 300 pounds as gravity pulls her back fast. This mechanic is not a problem that will ruin the experience; it is more akin to the old retro games, and you get used to it pretty fast.
Addictive, oh so addictive gameplay
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night‘s gameplay is nothing short of addictive. It keeps you coming for more action every time! The game uses a shard mechanic for power-ups. Every demon you kill has the chance of dropping a unique shard. If a monster you kill drops a shard, it will bind with Miriam and allow her to use that particular demon’s power.
Some of these shards are direct attacks. Others allow summoning for demons or familiars (spirits that help you). Others still allow passive skills such as elemental resistance, and some allow permanent upgrades such as double jumping or swimming. Even bosses drop these shards, making it necessary for you to get specific abilities to open new areas or discover secrets in previously visited ones. This system makes it fun to keep on slaying the myriad of demons scattered in the various regions of the game.
Along with the shard system, you also have alchemy from Johannes. This alchemist will allow you to upgrade shards and craft weapons; moreover, you can prepare meals and craft items instead of buying them from the store. Upgrading shards and familiars is terrific! For most shards, upgrading means a dramatic change. These changes make the game entertaining at all times; you always have a new “toy” to play with. Shards will allow you to go full berserk mode or play more defensively if you wish. Weapons and guns also have fascinating effects. As you progress, you find new and better gear. As well, you can deconstruct some old equipment and create some curious weapons through alchemy.
Easy to understand, hard to master
There is a learning curve in the game, but considering the number of elements and depth of the mechanics Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night possesses, it is fairly easy to manage. In other words, understanding the system is never a chore as the game allows you to experiment freely and gives you enough hints to make it understandable. You can decide what matters to you and go for it. If you want to focus on powerful shards and a frontal approach, you can do that. As well, if you’re going for a more defensive style of gameplay, you can do so. It is easy to get the upgrade and level up system, but it is still challenging and fun to find what gameplay style suits you best.
Lost? No problem!
The game will not carry your hand through it. You get a few hints of what you need to do, and that’s it. It has different endings depending on how you tackle the whole story. For instance, it is flexible enough that I was able to reach Gebel early on, but fighting him that early gave me an unfavorable ending with tons of loose ends.
I did get lost a couple of times. Fortunately, if you get lost or don’t find the way to your next objective, you will get cryptic yet discernible tips from NPCs around you to point you in the right direction. There’s a lot of dialogue in this game, and thankfully, it is all voice acted and amusing to hear. Thus, even when you talk repeatedly to some NPCs, their dialogue will change. One NPC even told me “staying late tonight” once my clock was over the midnight mark.
Compared to other platforms, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night looks significantly worse on Nintendo Switch. When seeing a side-by-side comparison the difference is obvious. That being said, the game isn’t unplayable.
- The Nintendo Switch version runs at 720p docked, 540p in handheld mode. The Xbox One, PS4, and PS4 Pro versions run at 1080p (Xbox One X and PC at 4K).
- One thing many are worried about is the input lag in the Switch version. However, I never noticed any serious input issues. Keep in mind that I played it almost exclusively docked.
- The graphics take a hit overall and the lower resolution on Switch doesn’t help. To be frank, the game can be ugly in spots. Luckily, the game’s strengths aren’t in its visuals (on any platform).
- The most notable area that’s a huge downgrade graphically on Switch is the opening ship section. The glossy/shiny water was completely removed and the rain is less dense. Otherwise, the game remains largely intact.
- The frame rate can be shaky at times, but I didn’t experience anything too jarring. However, the load times between areas can get annoying if you’re jumping up to higher ground.
Keep in mind, 505 Games, the publisher behind Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, recently updated fans on the Nintendo Switch version of the game. They plan to get things running more smoothly. Whether or not future updates will enhance the graphics of the Metroidvania is unknown.
The ritual of the night
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night demonstrates a lot of dedication and passion for Metroidvanias. It is a fantastic rendition of the genre. Even with some predictable plot moments and a platforming learning curve, it manages to be one of my favorite games of this year. The gameplay is tremendously well-crafted, and the addictive factor is through the roof. The style and art direction are complemented with old-fashioned ’90s-style timeless tunes that never bore or disappoint. Miriam and her adventure are a must if you have a Nintendo Switch. Playing Bloodstained has become my ritual of the night.
A review code was provided by the publisher.
Switch differences section written by Brett Medlock