If you look at the 2D games of the 1990s, it’s clear that every developer was ready to make the next Mario. There are numerous examples of action platform mascots, most of which have failed on the market. Another popular genre is a one-on-one fight, with Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat taking a quarter of an hour in the arcades and hitting the home console market.
Maybe that’s why the Super Metroid version for the Super Nintendo, released in 1994, was so successful. It was an extensive adventure game in which players had to explore every inch of the world to discover new power-ups and skills, and were asked to return regularly. It has not produced many imitators, partly because the science fiction genre is complicated, but also because it takes a lot of work to create a coherent world full of collectibles.
So as Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, released in 1997, was a relief for the new PlayStation as it combined the game ideologies of Super Metroid with the world of horror. It worked well and resulted in a series of sequels for the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS before Konami abruptly stopped production and the lead developer, IGA, left the company. He went back to what he does best and created the Bloodstain: The ritual of the night. It’s been more than ten years (2008) since I’ve played such a game, and I didn’t realize how much I missed this style of playing. Part of the reason for this is that we seem to hear about a new Metroidvania independent game every few weeks, and while many of these games are very fun, the brand has been somewhat watered down over the years, to the point that when I started playing the game itself, a big smile crawled across my face and I was instantly addicted to finding every inch of the map. For those who have enjoyed previous IGA games, here’s a real treat!
Fans of Metroidvania’s Castlevania style should feel free to pick up the $40 tag and collect blood: Ritual of the night right now – no questions asked. This game is a love letter to the classics with modern graphic updates. There is some really cool and smart background thing where the game temporarily switches to 2.5D view while you climb a tower and move in a spiral. There are a lot of really great views and backgrounds, and a lot of creative enemies to cut out.
Part of what I really like about this game is that it allows the player to decide how they want to approach the fight. There are many types of weapons, from swords and daggers to spears and pistols and even deadly shoes. Depending on your equipment, you’ll be armed with a wide range of techniques, many of which you’ll learn by reading books and learning new combos like fighting games! Above all, I opted for big words with both hands, which allowed me to do maximum damage in the event of an attack, but also to slow down my momentum considerably and to avoid it carefully once it had been discovered.
Of course, you can change weapons at any time and there’s no stock limit, so you can carry as many weapons as you like. The different combat boots are fun because you can actually jump on the heads of the enemies and see how long you can stay in the air by jumping from one to the other. Even better, you earn quick shards as you learn the game, which then allows you to adjust your load and save for the button, so you can change weapons, powers, etc. almost instantly. It’s as easy as you can get into a room, take out a few enemies with weapons, and then switch to melee weapons to take out the tough ones – not to mention the fun.
You play the role of Miriam, a young woman who has the ability to absorb the crystals and gain their strength. When you kill enemies, you have the ability to acquire their special shard, which then gives it attack powers. Its use requires the use of magic, so you can’t send spam to the same attack over and over again. The Magic Meter charges slowly over time, or you can use food or stuff to repair it immediately. There are different types of crystal fragments to collect, and some are passive. To make the game even more exciting, you can have up to 9 of these same shards, making the power even stronger. You can also raise their level by infusion of certain ingredients to give them even more strength, and sometimes even unlock secondary skills. Some are necessary to fully explore the castle and its surroundings. You’ll also get new skills like double-jumping to reach areas you couldn’t reach before.
By killing enemies, you gain experience points for you and your loved ones after you have acquired them. These tools steal and attack enemies or improve your skills. The higher the level, the stronger they become. Your stats increase as you increase Miriam’s level, but you can also get a steady increase in your HP, MP and other attributes by collecting ingredients and creating new food to eat. Almost every monster you kill leaves a loot at some point, which means you can create zones on the farm to provide essential items for your recipes. It can be a lot to remember – I had problems with strawberries because only a certain enemy threw them, and I wanted to make a lot of different dishes. When you eat each dish for the first time, you benefit from a permanent increase in your score. Later parties with the same recipe usually result in filling a few HP bars. Other items can be used to create new weapons, armor, etc. In simple terms: If you fall into the same trap as me, you spend hours collecting loot to make new equipment and food.
If you’re looking for everything in the game, you’ll easily spend over 20 hours exploring and cultivating items and discovering every secret. Often the game doesn’t point you in the right direction, so despite the distortion points, it can be quite difficult to know exactly where to go. A few times during the game, I was completely stunned because it can be difficult to see on the map where there’s a room or secret place where you can use your new power. Luckily, if you’re really confused, there’s YouTube or Google to help you. There are different endings to the game, depending on which part of the map you discover.
Although I would like to give this game a better score, there are serious technical problems that prevent it from becoming a legend. Some of these issues will definitely be fixed in future patches, and if they resolve some blatant issues, I can go back and upgrade the account. I played Bloodstained: Ritual of the night on the switch for this review, as well as on the Xbox One to see some comparisons. In terms of graphics, a more powerful system will certainly benefit from higher and more stable frame rates, additional special effects, higher resolution and simply better overall visual effects. This is more noticeable if you play the Switch version on a TV, but if you play mainly in manual mode, the differences are less pronounced. I didn’t have a problem with the way the game looks on the small screen, but zooming in is less fun – although it’s okay if you only have the switch.
The main problem with the Switch version is the delay in order entry. That is, when you press a button, the screen displays an action that lasts longer than it should. This makes the jumps and platforms much more difficult. Now that I’ve played a few hours of the game, I can tell you that the longer you play, the less problem it is. Your brain somehow compensates for the delay, and that’s not really a breakthrough factor, but it can really be a factor in failure for some players. The developers said they were working on solving this problem, but there is still a problem at this stage. There are also reports of people with gambling problems crashing into them. Ironically, I didn’t see this on the Switch, but it happened to me while playing the Xbox One version. I’ve also noticed other minor flaws, such as weird graphic artifacts or cuts and other oddities that occur in some rooms. Inertia is also common in some areas, because the Switch tries to handle everything that happens. Again, none of this breaks the rules of the game (at least for me), but those who are more sensitive to these technical issues may want to deviate from it for the time being.
Despite these unfortunate technical problems, I had a fantastic time with Bloodstained: The ritual of the night. I had almost forgotten how much fun IGA’s Castlevania games were, and it brought me back to reality in an amazing way. Congratulations to Michiru Yamane and her team for the absolutely fantastic soundtrack. Each region has its own unique song, and they’re all great. Even the voice playing is above average, with talents like David Hayter from Metal Gear Solid.
My advice at this point is that if you plan to play it at home on a TV and you have a PS4, PC or Xbox One, you should use it on those systems because of the better graphics. However, if you want to play in portable mode, the Switch version looks great, but keep in mind that you still have an input delay and slightly more technical problems than the other versions. If you know these warnings, I think you’ll still have a super fun experience!
Spotted blood: The Night Vision Ritual
- Graphs – 7/10
- Sound – 10/10
- Gameplay – 7.5/10
- Late call – 8.5/10
Final thoughts: GRAND
Wait for the blood to start flowing: The ritual of the night was worth it. The Switch version is still a lot of fun to play, but at the time of writing it is marred by a few technical problems that keep the overall score even higher. Those who can ignore these questions will find a captivating adventure game full of mystery and content that most players should offer more than 20 hours of gameplay.
Craig has covered the video game industry since 1995. His work has been published in various media. He is currently editor and employee of Age of Games.
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