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Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night captures what Castlevania has been missing for 11 years

This was one of the best games I saw at PAX this year.

bloodstained ritual of the night gameplay
Image: ArtPlay / 505 Games

(Note: I have a horse in this race, I did back Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night on Kickstarter. I’m happy I did.)

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night was one of the best games that I saw at PAX East this year. I say this as am an unabashed super fan of the “Metroidvanias” that carried the Castlevania name from 1997 to 2008. I say this because Koji Igarashi’s Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night captures the magic, atmosphere, and adventure that used to grace Konami’s Castlevania titles. The 30 minutes I got to play the game were some of the best at the entire show.

Right off the bat, it was very clear that the build of the game I played was so much further in development than the one we played two years ago at E3. Immediately upon starting the demo, I was coached on where to go and where not to go on the map. My best guess is that there were incomplete areas on the map, or simply things they didn’t want me to see.

The first enemies I encountered were paintings of people in a gothic style, but the people looked surprisingly modern

It was pointed out that these paintings featured Kickstarter backers that had paid a certain amount. As I encountered more enemies, it was very clear that their inspirations came from their original designs from the Igarashi Castlevania titles. The uncanny familiarity of the enemies and level design was fantastic and felt less like some sort of homage and more so on par or better than his previous work.

After running around the castle for a little bit, I couldn’t help but notice that Miriam really seemed to be a blend of Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow’s Soma Cruz and also Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia‘s Shanoa. Every so often, as I killed demons around the castle, they would release shards that would impale Miriam and she would absorb their power. This system is very similar to Soma’s soul abilities. I was able to play around with them a bit and try out a few things, like summoning a werewolf that would shield me from attacks.

I remembered reading that Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night had a whole bunch of different weapons, so I decided to look for my equipment options

bloodstained gameplay

Image: ArtPlay / 505 Games

I was pleased to find out that not only could Miriam equip a plethora of different weapons, which changed her stance and how she fought, but she could also equip a ton of different equipment that all showed up on her in-game. To my surprise, those demon horns she’s often pictured with are apparently an accessory I ended up switching out for cat ears. It’s very clear that there was a ton of thought that went into making this game memorable and making sure it looked good.

Something that I’ve neglected to touch on during my demo of Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night was the game’s soundtrack. The game’s entire score was composed by the legendary Michiru Yamane. She’s the person responsible for the amazing symphonic rock that was a staple of Igarashi’s Castlevania titles. Sure enough, the music I could hear was just as iconic and got the blood pumping just as much as the first time I heard her work 24 years ago.

My demo ended with a fight with a large demon with dog-viper heads. I didn’t do too well against it and was beaten down fairly thoroughly.  I did find that messing with different weapons improved my chances but I struggled with using abilities. The good thing was that I could tell it wasn’t an issue with game-tuning and was more of an issue with not mastering the game mechanics in 30 minutes.

My takeaway for the demo of Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is that the game is going to be something special. If Igarashi’s Castlevania inspired an entire genre of video games, perhaps Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night will be the game to push Metroidvanias to the next level.

What do you think? Excited to try out Bloodstained? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Longtime games journalist and Florida resident. I'm a Guinness World Record holder, wordsmith extraordinaire, MOBA fan, devoted dad and husband. I'm here to spread the gospel of video games.

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