Without context, Bloodstained: Curse Of The Moon sounds horrendous. A title that offers nothing other than a few words thrown together seemingly on a whim, it may as well just be another under the radar game that comes and goes without anyone realising. With context, however, it’s a sleeper hit that celebrates the industry’s retro side and champions classics of old.
Before we do get into the nitty-gritty, then, it’s only right we talk about Bloodstained’s origins. A successful Kickstarter project back in 2015 made possible thanks to Castlevania producer Koji Igarashi, it achieved such a solid following it smashed through stretch goals as if they were swiss cheese. One of these was Curse Of The Moon. In short, while Ritual Of The Night – the main game – would offer its take on a more up-to-date version of Konami’s legendary series, Curse Of The Moon would be its 8-bit sibling, a concept that, for many, was actually more exciting if we’re being honest. Now it's finally here and, as stated, it’s excellent.
Wearing its inspiration on its sleeve, developer Inti Creates has embraced everything that made Castlevania so popular and run with it. Exploration takes somewhat of a back seat as combat is the main focus here but that’s no bad thing, mainly due to the excellent swapping mechanic that holds everything together. While you star as Zangetsu (who is basically Simon Belmont), it’s not long until you can switch to different characters at the press of a button. Each is entirely different from the other - be that the items they have, the attacks they can dish out or the spells they can summon.
You can try and stick to one should you so wish, but doing so is entirely missing the point. You’re meant to try and survey each situation before understanding how best to combine the foursome and pulling it off during moments of utter madness is incredibly satisfying. That’s not to say it’s easy – it categorically isn’t – but the difficulty is just another way of harking back to the wonderful days of the NES when losing your patience was as normal as pushing start at the title screen.
It’s worth repeating such a sentiment constantly, too, because the brains behind this have thrown themselves in without a second thought. Even the music sounds like it’s ripped straight from any Castlevania, and each level follows a very familiar pattern. This, however, is the intent. It does mean there’s a slight risk of it feeling very ‘been there/done that’, but if you’re into the genre to begin with this will probably please more than it annoys. By that same token, if you’ve never tested the waters but always wanted to, Curse Of The Moon is not a bad way to start. It takes all the ideas and reimagines them wonderfully for a 2018 world.
What should be noted, however, is that this iteration of Bloodstained is not very long if you’re just looking for a one and done. Even with upgrades and multiple paths to take you can probably finish it in about 90 minutes if you know what you’re doing, but this has been taken into consideration. As well as boss fights that will test your gaming prowess – and troll you on more than one occasion when they pretend to be dead – there’s a boss rush mode and the option to increase the challenge and see exactly what you’re made of.
It’s entirely feasible to say people will want to go around for a second time, though, as Curse Of The Moon is so much fun to play. It’s been designed to evoke those emotions you haven’t felt in years and the fact it’s only £8.99 justifies its approach even further. It’s a nostalgia fan’s dream which also serves as a healthy reminder that experiences like this still hold weight in today’s climate. When something is entertaining, you’ve already won half the battle.
Bloodstained: Curse Of The Moon is undoubtedly aimed at a very specific audience, and you’ll know if you’re part of that just by looking at the screenshots. If those, combined with words such as these, make your heart sing, however, it’s definitely worth your time. It’s like Castlevania just decided to come soaring back into all our lives, and how can that ever be a bad thing? Exactly.