Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon Review (PC, Switch, PS4, Xbox One, Vita, 3DS)

Click here to view the Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon description page for screenshots and more information.

Review by Cowboy Yojimbo (February 2019)

   Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon is a retro-style action game and Castlevania tribute from Koji Igarashi (known for his work on Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and onward) and a bloody fine one at that. Igarashi and his team are out to bring Castlevania back in all its candle-lit glory (just under a different name) and it’s not being coy at all about what it is. If you are a fan, Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon will surely satisfy that itch. Curse of the Moon is actually a stretch goal from the crowd funding of the team’s upcoming game, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. While Ritual of the Night is a more modern take, reminiscent of the “metroid-vania” titles in the series, Curse of the Moon is a tribute to the original titles, most specifically Castlevania 3. The gothic aesthetic, creatures of horror, deadly platforming, and sweeping soundtrack are all here.

   You play as Zangetsu, a demon slayer on a mission that will take him and three new companions, through the grounds and halls of a perilous, dark castle. Curse of the Moon takes what really worked with the older titles and polishes it. The game will take you across eight levels, each with alternate routes, and its own unique environmental hazards & enemies. You can switch between your four characters instantly. Each have their own attacks, sub-weapons, abilities and health bar. One has good range and can slide through small passages, another is weaker, but with great defensive magic, and another can fly across gaps and attack enemies above you. Keeping all four alive during a level will allow you to take advantage of shorter or easier routes to the end where a creative boss fight awaits you. The character system creates an emphasis on team-work, that really shines in the boss battles as you develop strategies based on around when to swap out characters and what sub-weapons are best. Characters can also be killed or “sacrificed” to gain a new ability.      

   Difficulty wise, the game is similar to old Castlevania titles with its enemy hit knock-back, and tricky jumps, but as a whole much more forgiving. Swapping characters with their own health allows you to suffer more damage before you lose a life, and the game’s enemy placement allows for more breathing room while still being challenging. There is even a “casual” difficulty that can be activated anytime offering infinite lives and no knock-back if you feel the need. While it may lack the difficulty of the older Castlevania titles, it is not without challenge. There are even multiple unlockable modes and the option to only recruit the characters you want or none at all, if you so choose. All of this made me enjoy my replays more and more. Though I must say, some sections can be really terrible if a certain character happens to be dead.    

Visually, the game is channelling the NES aesthetic and nails it in both its style and its colour palette. Level design is beautiful and acts as a sort of “Greatest Hits” of the series with a grand library, old train, decadent hall, a dilapidated ship, and much more. The whole game feels really authentic and not phoned in at all. If you value that classic NES experience, and the Castlevania series, you will enjoy Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon and the classic soul it keeps burning long into the dark night.

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