Holy crap it’s a new classic Castlevania! Well, actually it’s not really a Castlevania game but a spiritual successor. This is Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon, a prequel game of the kickstarted Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night developed by Inti Creates and overseen by IGA the director of legendary game Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and of course the director of Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night.
I have been waiting for a game like this for over a decade, settling for Castlevania romhacks and perhaps some indie games in the meantime. Inti Creates is responsible for some great games like the Mega Man Zero series and the Gunvolt games, but they also worked on Mighty nr.9….. eeks….
I played the game in normal mode and nightmare mode partly at first but now I have done 100% of the game and can give you a complete score review.
Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon puts you in charge of Zangetsu, a cursed man on a path of killing all demons as revenge for placing him under this curse. This one night he senses an especially strong demon so naturally he embarks on a journey to slay him. As he fights through hordes of monsters and jumps between platforms he meets more companion who share his goal of slaying the great demon.
With a total of 4 characters with various strong and weak points it is your job to figure out how to utilize each characters moveset and identify where when to use a use them. Zangetsu is your strong vanilla character but the other characters have special moves that can take you to shortcuts; Miriam can jump high and slide, Alfred can use magic and Gebel can turn into a bat and fly.
Of course we also have sub-weapons similar to the ones we are used to from earlier Castlevania games and the level design makes sure you will need them. For example we get items that work exactly like the holy water, cross and the dagger plus much more.
By now you might have figured out that this game is very similar and most likely inspired by one of my favorite games of all time, Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse. Gebel plays basically like Alucard in Castlevania III and Alfred plays like Sypha.
The controls are like a hybrid of the Dracula’s Curse controls and the Rondo of Blood Controls. You and jump, but you cannot turn back a la Mega Man, but like in Rondo of Blood you can turn around mid air but just to attack. You can also jump and land in the stairs like in Rondo of Blood, but you cannot jump while ascending/descending the stairs like in Super Castlevania IV.
The Nintendo Switch joy cons are fine for games like this, I have played the Mega Man Legacy Collection, and the Wonder Boy 3 remake and the joy cons perform just fine.
Enemies and level design are also like a hybrid of those two games as you have multiple paths in each stage, although they always lead down to the same boss on a linear path.
Speaking of bosses, they are just absolutely amazing! They sprites are huge, and their design in completely off the chains cool. They have extremely innovative ways of attacking but they have a pretty simple pattern you should learn in three tries at maximum.
This is a point that bothered me the most about my first run of the game; Despite the fantastic authentic Castlevania controls, good level design and the great bosses etc the game is just too easy. I breezed through the game in 1h30m and that included short breaks so I was a bit disappointed but thankfully it was not over yet.
SPOILERS for unlockable extra modes!!!
But after that I unlocked a Nightmare mode which has all the cast minus Zangetsu plus tougher bosses. You go through all the same stages except only the final stage and final boss is different which is really cool.
Then, if you really want to increase the difficulty you kill your companions instead of talking to them. In that case you get extra abilities for Zangetsu like a crescent moon aerial slash, a dash and a double jump. This mode is plenty challenging in the later stages at least.
But the true hardcore classic way of playing the game however is not killing your allies and steal their abilities but to ignore them and go through the game as vanilla Zangetsu only. This mode is pretty hardcore and reminds of earlier classicvania difficulty levels. After that you get Ultimate mode(All characters, nightmare mode bosses, all Zangetsu abilities unlocked plus a charge attack slash) and boss rush mode.
All these different ways of playing the game and all the different endings add great replayability to just a 10$ game. Still, the fact that I had already seen all the stages in the game before the game got to an interesting level of challenge was a bit disappointing.
One big difference from Castlevania III is the fact that when you die, you will spawn in the same area and be able to play as the other characters and you will not lose an extra life until all four characters are dead. When you lose a life(all 4 character die) you get sent to a checkpoint which is not so bad and losing all extra lives will send you to the beginning of the stage. Beating a boss with only one or characters alive can be tough so losing those characters will hurt your later chances.
Zangetsu only mode game get pretty rough because everytime you die you cannot rely on the other characters and spawn in the same area, so you get sent way back to a checkpoint.
Graphically, Bloostained: Curse of the Moon looks like an authentic NES Castlevania horror game. Sure there are some sprites in the game the NES might not have handled and perhaps the NES could not have handled all the colors at once but it truly looks like a sequel of Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse and perhaps a prequel to Rondo of Blood.
I am not a big fan of indie games with what I call “fake retro” graphics where the sprites look super pixelated without really looking like NES or Master system games. Bloostained: Curse of the Moon does this perfectly and is a festival for the eyes of the NES and Castlevania fanboy.
The music in this game is also pretty big. Although not composed by former Castlevania composer heavy hitters like Michiru Yamane this game has some amazing tunes. It might not live up to the NES originals but it sure tries only to maybe come up a bit short.
Overall, Bloostained: Curse of the Moon is a fantastic spiritual successor to the NES Castlevania games and it scratches that old classic Castlevania itch so really well with the exception that your first playthrough of the game is way too easy and therefore short.
The controls, environment, level design, extra modes, multiple paths, boss fights, graphics and music is all at a level of excellency worthy of great praise.
This is the complete review of the game, and I stand by my earlier score except that I have to bump up the lasting appeal by 0,5 and repeated listens of the OST makes me want to draw 0,5 from the music in return…
Lasting appeal 8,5
Is it fun? 9
Overall 9 an awesome game