PhantomZ2 journeys off into the depths of Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon for Nintendo Switch. Can he recommend this title as a newcomer of the Igavania genre?
An Igavania is a gothic, exploration-focused action platformer. Players may recognize this more commonly referred to as Castlevania. But, as time has moved on and the main producer, Koji Igarashi, went on his own with Art-Play and Inti Creates – the goal is to now capture the essence of the genre and refuel it with Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. But, before we can move onto that game, as it is doing well into its Kickstarter, Inti Creates has developed Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon, a spin-off title of the planned series. But, as someone who has never played a Castlevania game before, can I recommend this title as a game worthwhile for newcomers to the genres, as well as veterans? I’m PhantomZ2 and it’s time to plunge through Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon.
Although previously planned to be a 10-year prequel story of Bloodstained: Ritual of The Night, Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon is a spin-off title that follows the journey of Zangetsu, a sword-wielding exorcist that was given the moon’s curse by demons. As he swore to hunt down and kill every last demon, one night he sensed the presence of a great and powerful demon. As he heads forward in his journey to hunter her down, he encounters several others he can turn into allies: Miriam, a Shardbinder that can summon demons at will. Alfred, an alchemist, and Gebel, a Shardbinder like Miriam that wishes to get revenge by killing demons. From that point on, the story is simple until the ending, or endings.
In Curse of the Moon, depending on how players interact with their allies, there are different endings to be achieved. If players decide to partner with each ally, they’ll get the normal ending. There are different endings based upon how many allies are kept, if you decide to ignore one, or if you decide to go it all alone. And some endings unlock new modes in which some have their own endings.
This did catch me off guard, as the story of the game isn’t always presented or brought up until an ending or when the playthrough is started. However, it did keep me interested as it led as a way to emphasize playing the game again in different ways. Which is why I don’t want to spoil the details of each ending, as they are the main driving force of encouraging multiple playthroughs.
The gameplay within the first half of the game is very welcoming, for players new and old to the genre, and will rack up in difficulty towards the end game. As this is a 2D game, the movement is from left to right, but when it comes to stairs, pressing up or down on the control stick or d-pad to ascend and descend. You can jump with the B button, use a character’s main weapon with Y, and their Sub-Weapon with X. In order to use the sub-weapon, magic bottles found by breaking lanterns or killing enemies will increase weapon points. Lanterns of different colors can drop different weapons that only some characters use, However, with the more allies gained – the more the gameplay develops from Zangetsu’s basic abilities, thus allowing for more strategic ways to take shortcuts aside from damage boosting or finding secret rooms.
Miriam uses her whip to attack, which has longer range than Zangetsu’s basic stabbing. She can slide when holding down and pressing B, and she has a higher jump. Alfred has lower health, can strike overhead with his wand, and can only use alchemy spells. Gebel’s basic attack sends 3 bats upwards, but his only sub-weapon is a bat form. This form does use weapon points but allows him to fly in all directions and attack when pressing Y. Cycling through characters can be done by using the L and R buttons, but I personally preferred using Miriam and Gebel, as they have the most movement options. But, Alfred can get a lightning spell that locks on to enemies and constantly attacks them, this can completely decimate bosses and even the final boss. But, it’s best not to get too attached to one specific character – as when that character dies, they’re not allowed to be used until you die with every other character as well – thus taking a Life.
This can also become very annoying, as there are two difficulties to switch between at any time: Veteran and Casual. Casual allows players to take hits without being blown back and have infinite lives. Veteran adds lives and every time damage is taken, characters will stagger backward a bit. Even if one character dies during casual, you’ll still need to die with all of the other characters in order to regain access. This does help by still showing some challenge for the player, but there are some specific issues where players can be blindsided and lose a character – or one specific instance where part of a room is destroyed and you’ll need to kill yourself in order for it to reappear.
There are an assortment of enemies to plunge weapons into, and there are 8 levels within the game – each sporting their own boss. Although the first 4 bosses are well designed, they aren’t difficult. It isn’t until Andrealphus that patience will become more important within boss battles. With each final attack on the boss, comes their desperate attack – where they’ll deal one last bit of damage, but it can’t kill you. As this did add tension to the battle towards the very end, I learned that it won’t in the wrong way. Since I decided to instead kill all of the allies that I met, the final boss changed where to Zangetsu has to do a special attack. To perform this attack you have to press the Y button, but there is nothing that conveys that. So when I thought her desperate attack glitched out and I tried killing myself by constantly running into it – I didn’t die, so I instead jumped off the cliff and killed myself.
Now in relation to the endings, they also unlock special modes. Beat the game with all allies, will unlock Nightmare mode – a playthrough of the normal run with just the allies, but with a 9th level and new final boss. If all allies kill are killed, you’ll unlock Boss Rush mode and Ultimate mode – a normal run of the game, but with Zangetsu keeping the special abilities he would gain after killing his allies. If players ever feel like changing the ending they want to achieve, that’s where the Curse of the Moon comes in. When pausing the game, players can activate the Curse – which will allow them to essentially reset their progress and go back to a past level again, to not only replay the stage but change the choices they’ve made.
Seeing amazing pixel art or 8-bit styled art has always been mesmerizing to me, and Curse of the Moon takes full advantage of its art-style. Settings of each level are well designed to give off a horror and gothic atmosphere, the bosses are very unique in design – with Bathin being my personal favorite. For a game so styled in a dark atmosphere, it makes full use of a variety of color palettes that made me appreciate the details with every room I entered. The same could be said for the music, as it also fits the atmosphere of each level and the overall tone of the game. The only issue I had was that I wish each boss had their own unique boss theme. Before each battle begins, they have a unique tune that introduces them – although I love the boss battle theme as it is, a unique battle theme based off of each tune would have been even more amazing.
Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon, is an amazing 2D Igavania. Even as someone who has never played a Castlevania-esque game, I was able to easily become interested in the genre and I think players of new and old could enjoy this title. Hopefully, the issues I’ve addressed could be addressed in a later patch of the game, but even without that, I can say that Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon earns 4 stars out of 5.