Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon was announced barely 2 weeks ago at Bitsummit and is part of the kickstarter campaign goal for Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. The kickstarter for Ritual of the Night ended on May 14th 2018 and has a release window of 2018. However, to wet our appetites Inti Creates dropped a surprise for fans, announcing that the 8-bit throwback game Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon will be coming out on May 24th 2018. Curse of the Moon is without a doubt one of the best love-letters to 2D action games of the late 80’s early 90’s, and any fans of Castlevania need to jump on this as soon as possible.
The game starts off with players taking control of Zangetsu, the Samurai Sword-wielding protagonist of the game. As you progress through the game and defeat bosses in each of the stages, you will free and unlock new characters. There are 3 additional characters players can use and each character can be switched on the fly; Miriam, who wields a whip which has much longer reach than Zangetsu’s sword, Gebel, who can summon dark energy in the form of Bats to attack enemies and can also morph into a bat to traverse otherwise inaccessible areas by other characters, and Alfred, an alchemist wielding a Rod-like weapon whose abilities far outweigh his physical attacks.
Each character has their main weapon and their sub weapons which use up weapon points. Zangetsu, for example, has 3 different abilities that use weapon points. Magic charms create a bubble-like effect on the ground that damage anything coming in contact with them, his ball and chain weapon attacks in an upward diagonal motion allowing you to hit enemies usually out of reach and then a buff of sorts that increases his attack power for a short duration. Utilizing each of the characters abilities is key to traversing the stages. Each character has their own health bar and can be switched out on the fly. If a character dies you will start from a checkpoint and only once all characters are dead will you lose a life and restart from a certain checkpoint in the stage.
While this system is great fun to use, it also makes the game quite easy to get through and lowers any challenge there may be. If a character is low on health switch out to a full health character and continue the journey. This is more apparent in boss fights as later in the game you effectively have 4 health bars to defeat the boss and they can easily be tanked due to this. Bosses will also have one final mega attack when they are defeated which may take out a character low on health for players not paying attention.
While I am a little disappointed in the character sprites, the rest of the game is gorgeous. The old school 8-bit style always brings back those nostalgic moments of playing these games as a kid. Enemies and levels look amazing and have a great design to them but the stand out of the game is the boss designs. Bosses look amazing and while none of them are particularly difficult, they are enjoyable and put a smile on my face each time I faced one.
The game starts with only a normal mode with more difficulties being unlocked after beating the game. In addition to this, you can play with either the casual or veteran. In casual mode you will have infinite lives to get through the game and enemy attacks will not knock you back. Any players of old will certainly have memories of being hit by an attack and being knocked into a pit falling to their death - Curse of the Moon will help you relive those memories.
I thoroughly enjoyed myself throughout the 2 hour or so campaign and once beating the game, I immediately started again on a more difficult level which also adds a few changes to the game as bosses will have additional attacks and patterns. There is also a “hidden” boss only seen in nightmare difficulty and is one of my favourites - it’s a truly epic fight. With its accessible gameplay and cheap price point, at the time of writing the game is currently R130 on the Nintendo eStore. I cannot recommend this enough to fans of the genre and people that want that nostalgic feeling without the frustration.
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Inti Creates & ArtPlay
PS4, Xbox One, Switch
24 May 2018
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