Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon (PC) Review

By Gabriel Jones 30.05.2018

Review for Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon on PC

With revenge in his heart, Zangetsu has set out on a journey to the Dark Emperor's castle. As a demon-slayer, his skill with the blade is unmatched, but no amount of training is enough to prepare him for what forces of pure malice are capable of. These fiends have already laid waste to the surrounding lands, and they didn't leave any survivors. That's all the more reason not to show them any mercy. Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon chronicles the tale of Zangetsu, the allies he met, and the monsters he slayed.

This critic, like many others in their mid-to-late thirties, grew up during the days of Castlevania and Ninja Gaiden. The countless mental scars, from medusa heads and birds knocking vampire hunters and ninjas off of cliffs over and over again, have never quite healed. After all of those years spent dancing in the hellfire, one would presume that a permanent vacation is in order. Modern videogames offer all of the joy, yet none of the pain. They pamper gamers with frequent checkpoints, generous healing items, and almost complete lack of instant-death. Why, it would be perfectly alright to continue playing those and never have to deal with the stress of old action games ever again. Funny thing is there's still a small yet dedicated crowd that won't settle for sunshine, unless they get plenty of rain.

Call it nostalgia, call it masochism, or call it whichever word sounds the most appealing, but the truth has to be told: this critic isn't happy unless there's a chance of getting some new scars. Hence the need for games like Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon. Decidedly old-school in its approach, this action-platformer features eight stages with branching paths, four playable characters, and a satisfyingly unforgiving level of difficulty.

Screenshot for Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon on PC

Upon starting a new game, the player must decide on whether they are going to play on the veteran or casual setting. First off, there's absolutely nothing wrong with going with the casual setting on a first play-through. It offers many conveniences, like unlimited lives, reduced damage, and no knockback when getting hit. Also, the setting doesn't determine whether or not achievements can be unlocked. Nobody is shamed for choosing the path of least resistance. However, there are some aspects that don't change; for example, mid-air control is impossible. Every jump is a commitment, even if it comes up short and leads to an early demise.

From the first stage onwards, veterans of the NES era will note this game's penchant for tucking away sub-weapons and other useful goodies in suspicious floating objects. They will also witness the myriad of fiends that either pace back and forth, or charge at any do-gooders that happen to stroll by. The bosses, creative in design and execution, rely strictly on pattern-based attacks. All throughout the adventure there is this sense of familiarity, but never to the point where it feels like a mere clone.

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon is better described as an amalgamation. It lifts various elements from a multitude of similar efforts, and then uses them to craft its own identity. After defeating the first boss, Zangetsu is introduced to Miriam, who also wishes to destroy the evil that plagues the land. At this point, the player can choose to recruit her, gaining her prowess with the whip, as well as her ability to slide through narrow crevices and jump fairly high. Aside from everything else, it's basically an extra health meter, which drastically increases the chances of survival. It's possible to kill her and take her soul. This unlocks a new skill that makes Zangetsu a little more formidable. Ignoring Miriam entirely is also an option, although it nets the main character absolutely no benefits.

Screenshot for Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon on PC

There are two other companions whose fates are also left up to the player, and they significantly affect how the game works. Alfred makes use of a variety of elemental-themed spells, while Gebel turns into a bat and flies around. These abilities unlock numerous alternate paths throughout each stage, offering new and different challenges to contend with. A plethora of treasures are either hidden inside of walls or tucked away in hard-to-reach locations. Some even offer permanent benefits, such as health upgrades or increased damage. However, depending on the decisions made at certain key points, these alternate paths and bonuses might not be available. This feature, when coupled with the "veteran or casual" setting, creates a level of difficulty that is very fluid. This adventure can be a walk in the (demon-filled) park, or it can be relentlessly brutal.

All of the playable characters offer very distinct play-styles, and their strengths and weaknesses are appropriately pronounced. Alfred has some awesome spells to play around with, but outside of that he's an old man with a stick. Gebel can fly past a lot of nasty platforming sections, at the expense of having access to sub-weapons. Miriam is more versatile than Zangetsu and has better reach, although she lacks the all-important "main character" status. Indeed, if it weren't for his allies or the abilities found within their souls, Zangetsu would have a lot of problems getting much of anything done. The diverse and interesting cast, along with the branching paths, helps to keep every play-through fresh.

Screenshot for Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon on PC

While this is designed to be an appropriate challenge for any level of skill, there are times where it just doesn't go far enough. Some of the stages feel almost clinical in terms of enemy placement and design. Now, this might seem like an odd criticism, so time to look a little deeper. Even back in the '80s, Castlevania's notoriously high difficulty was well-documented. Among the most infamous portions of the adventure was the hallway leading to the boss of Stage 5. Through the simple combination of medusa heads and axe armours in an otherwise empty hall, Konami was able to create a nightmare.

For a more modern example, consider Dark Souls. Remember the legendary archers of Anor Londo? That's essentially the modern day equivalent. The secret to making a game ruthlessly hard isn't always a matter of complex AI algorithms or filling the screen with millions of bullets. Sometimes all it takes is having one enemy too many. Inti Creates' latest never reaches that point. In every scenario, there are always a sufficient number of enemies, and never one too many. In Stage 6, there's even a hallway with its own version of medusa heads and axe armours, but it just isn't the same.

Screenshot for Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon on PC

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

As far as throwbacks go, Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon is a worthwhile venture. It captures the essence of yesteryear's classics, while offering numerous options to comfort an audience that might be unfamiliar with that time period. The game is also quite entertaining, and the replay-value is quite high. Still, it is not possible to shake the feeling that something is missing. It's as if the developer decided the safe choice was the right one, and left all of the risk-taking up to the player. Will this game be remembered in thirty years? Only time will tell.

Developer

Inti Creates

Publisher

Inti Creates

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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