Thursday, October 25, 2018

Bloodstained Curse of the Moon Review

After finishing off Momodora last week, I decided to keep the #HorrorGameOct train rolling and jump straight into another Castlevania-inspired 2D platformer, Bloodstained Curse of the Moon. Since this is short game, I finished it off in a single streaming session. Both the stream and the game itself were a total blast! Now that I've laid the demon king to rest, here's my review:

Bloodstained Curse of the Moon is an NES-style 2D platformer from developer Inti Creates. This game was released earlier this year as a prequel to the upcoming Bloodstained Ritual of the Night. Both of these titles come from former Castlevania director, Koji Igarashi, with Curse of the Moon being based on the NES Castlevania titles, and Ritual of the Night being based on the PS1 and Gameboy Advance entries of the series. Wearing its inspiration on its sleeve, Curse of the Moon, features monster-slaying heroes progressing through spooky linear environments such as haunted forests and vampires’ castles.

  • At first glance, Curse of the Moon looks like an NES game, but it features graphical effects than an 8-bit system could never pull off. The color pallet is much broader and backgrounds feature multiple layers of parallax scrolling to give the 2D stages the appearance of depth. Enemy sprites are larger, more detailed, and far more plentiful, than the NES would have been able to render. It makes for a beautiful retro-inspired presentation.
  • Unlike the original Castlevania games, Curse of the Moon features a set of four playable characters than can be swapped in and out on the fly. Each character has unique abilities that can be used for both traversal and combat. Switching to the appropriate character at the right time can provide access to shortcuts through levels and have a substantial effect on the difficulty of boss battles.
  • Curse of the Moon’s difficulty is much more forgiving than the NES Castlevania titles. There are options for Casual and Normal difficulty, with the former choice granting infinite continues and eliminating knock-back (i.e. your character won’t get pushed off a platform if he gets grazed by an enemy). Also, since each of the four player characters has their own HP bar, cycling through them allows you to take a lot more damage before seeing the Game Over screen.
  • This game has some really cool boss designs. The large detailed sprite make them visually distinct and most of them employ a unique mechanic during their battles. Rather than just memorizing patterns, dodging, and attacking, these fights often involve making use of platforming skills and knowing when to switch to the right character.
  • The level designs have some features that stand out from this game's 8-bit inspirations. I appreciated the way that utilizing each characters' special skills could significantly change the route the player takes through a level. I was also impressed with some of the visual set pieces in this game's levels such as the train barreling through the forest in the first stage.
  • While it might not have the iconic tracks like "Vampire Killer" or "Bloody Tears", Curse of the Moon's soundtrack manages to come pretty close to reaching the high bar set by its source of inspiration. Veteran Castlevania composer, Michiru Yamane, hasn't lost her touch! I'm looking forward to listening to her pieces for this game again as well as any orchestral or heavy metal covers that fans arrange.

  • Curse of the Moon is generally less difficult and frustrating than NES platformers, a plus in my book. However, the last stage or two represent a pretty big difficulty spike. Several areas feature instant-kill traps that require some trial and error to traverse. I ended up losing several lives in the last stage due to entering a room with a trap that would activate much faster than I could react if I wasn't already prepared for it. This felt a little cheap.
  • Like the original Castlevania, Curse of the Moon can easily be beaten in a single sitting. While I personally don't consider this to be a negative, as I felt the length was appropriate to the type of game it is, I'm listing this as a con since some players might not feel that a 2-hour game is worth $10.
As someone who has been a fan of the Castlevania series for a long time, I came to this game with a discerning eye and sense of cautious optimism. I was thrilled by the result! Bloodstained Curse of the Moon is an incredibly effective spiritual successor to Konami's horror platformer series that delighted an old-school fan like me and will probably also offer a fun, but manageable, challenge to newcomers as well.

Score: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Completion Time: 1 hour, 58 minutes (Regular ending, Casual difficulty)

If you're curious about the #HorrorGameOct event, be sure to check out this blog post on Chic Pixel.

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