Given the origins of Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon, a follow-up was not guaranteed. But Inti Creates made one after all, and I’m glad they did. Taking the old saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” to heart, Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 mostly retains the charm and challenge of the original, all while adding its own flavors to the experience.
A new cast of adventurers
Like its predecessor, Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 has you traversing levels as a group of characters that you can switch among at any time. Zangetsu returns from the first game, complete with the same abilities and sub-weapons. Ritual of the Night’s Dominique makes her first appearance in the Curse of the Moon games as well, wielding a giant spear. Lastly, newcomers Robert, a gun-slinging soldier, and good boy Hachi, a Corgi piloting a mech, join the team. How could that not be a good idea?
Each of these characters serves unique roles, helping them stand out among the crowd. Dominique is the most agile of the group, allowing you to jump higher and slide into crawlspaces. She also has a unique ability to heal allies and a rare, powerful ability to revitalize the whole party. Afraid to get up close and personal? Look no farther than Robert, as his ranged attacks may be just what you need. If you’re looking for easier level traversal, Hachi is your dog, as he can both hover across large gaps and destroy or otherwise negate most stage hazards. And while Zangetsu is mostly a cookie-cutter protagonist when it comes to his abilities, if you play in the new co-op mode, you actually get a second Zangetsu to play around with.
Knowing when and how to use each character becomes an important tool for your survival. Losing a character doesn’t result in losing a continue unless they’re your only remaining character. Instead, dying sets you back at the beginning of the room, but without the use of the lost character. Even so, their absence means you can’t take advantage of their abilities, which can make certain rooms or boss fights increasingly difficult or eliminate access to certain pathways.
One major improvement Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 brings over the first is how its story is structured. In the first game, you were able to shape the story based on how you reacted to each of your companions in the first few stages. Though this gave you the freedom to play how you wanted, it could be very easy to skip over some of these paths if you never realized you could kill off your compatriots.
Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2, on the other hand, breaks its story down into episodes, and accessing them is more straightforward. Completion of one episode typically unlocks the next one (though with a bit of exploration, you can actually skip one), so you won’t have to worry about missing anything. Playing through these back to back can be a little exhausting, since you’re mostly going through the same set of levels in each episode, but different pathways and revamped bosses spice things up. The big exception to this is the final episode, which throws the entire formula on its head by adding even more characters into the mix.
Another area in which Curse of the Moon 2 shines is its level design. Each of the game’s eight stages span diverse environments from murky swamps to fiery caves to icy villages. What strikes me even more though are the actual layouts. The first time through each stage, your path is largely set. On subsequent episodes though, you’ll be able to take advantage of branching paths, often with the added benefit of a power-up, such as increased health or weapon points. Regardless of path, every enemy and obstacle feels fairly placed. That isn’t to say they don’t often provide a challenge to navigate around, but I never really felt like it was unfair, even on Veteran mode (basically “Normal” mode to Casual mode’s “Easy”). That is — until I got to a few of the bosses.
The big baddies
For the most part, Curse of the Moon 2 provides an excellent variety in enemies, both in design and challenge. A few bosses feel reminiscent of bosses from the first, but they are ultimately different enough to feel distinct. And as aforementioned, the bosses add new attacks to change up their patterns in later episodes, keeping up the entertainment in what could otherwise be a series of repetitive encounters.
Given the quality of most boss fights, it’s pretty noticeable when one lags behind. Such is the case with the sarcophagus boss in Stage 6. Every time I got to this fight, I knew I was going to leave pretty frustrated. This fight can be incredibly hectic, with projectiles flying in multiple directions across the screen. You can always attack them to clear a path, but trying to do so while climbing randomly spawning towers to get to the appropriate height to attack the boss can be incredibly rough, especially once the number of projectiles increases in Episode 2. This fight was the only time I thought about quitting, as it felt incredibly cheap, especially with characters receiving knockback upon taking damage on Veteran mode. Luckily, this is just one blight on an otherwise great title.
If you’re familiar with Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon, you’ll feel right at home with its sequel. It’s more or less the same great experience you’ve come to expect, with a few surprises thrown in for good measure. The new characters feel great to play as, and if you want to partner with a friend, the new co-op mode allows you to do so. Level designs make full use of their respective abilities, keeping the action from getting stale on subsequent playthroughs. If I have one major complaint, it’s that one of the bosses felt rather cheap, especially in Episode 2. With a bit of strategy and skill, you can persevere, but likely not without a few moments of pure frustration. We may not have needed Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2, but now that it’s here, it’s sure to become a staple of my library.