New game offers old-school fun

By Kevin Tucker // Shacknews.com (TNS)

Platform: Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Genre: Action adventure
Publisher: 505 Games
Developer: ArtPlay

It’s been over two decades since I first played Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, and my love for it has only grown through the years. In fact, I consider it to be my favorite game of all time, and I replay it regularly. Naturally, I was thrilled to hear that Koji Igarashi, the creative mind behind Symphony of the Night, was working on a spiritual successor titled Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night.

One of the best things about the Metroidvania genre — or this instance the Igavania genre — is that it follows a very natural, old-school style of play. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night sees players moving about a castle on a two-dimensional plane, and includes the sort of platforming and action-based combat that would be instantly recognizable to video game fans who learned their trade back in the 1980s. There’s something of a plot to be found — a great evil was awakened years ago, and a mysterious castle must be purged of the demons within — but the narrative mainly exists to encourage progression. Instead, the real meat of the experience is in the action.

It’s an old-school format for sure, and yet the game is full of modern touches. There are still enemies to kill, weapons and items to collect, and a massive castle full of secret passages and hidden areas. With that said, and in comparison to the game that inspired it, Ritual of the Night throws in several new features, including the ability to upgrade weapons, craft various recipes to earn stat bonuses, complete quests for villagers, and most notably earn Shards.

Shards are a big part of the game, and they are found everywhere. Almost every enemy in the game has a Shard to drop, and Shards range in utility from offering new offensive or defensive abilities to granting stat bonuses that can be developed or even stacked. Players can collect extra Shards to increase their powers, sell off the ones they don’t want for gold, and can also augment the effective range or spread of abilities by utilizing a variety of items or materials, often ones which are very hard to find.

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is pure fun, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the experience. Diving back into creator Koji Igarashi’s iconic style of gameplay has been deeply nostalgic for me; I even found myself humming old Symphony of the Night tunes after playing the new release for a few hours. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is a prime example of how much fun the Metroidvania genre has to offer, and will undoubtedly serve as a point of comparison for all retro-inspired platformers that follow it.