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This week, Yahtzee reviews Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night.


Transcript Edit

Ah, Castlevania, a series close to my heart for being an excellent series of challenging open-world Gothic platformers and for providing an easy rhyme for WrestleMania when I'm in a rap battle, and no Castlevania is remembered more fondly than Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. "Why are you bringing that up, Yahtz? The video title clearly states that this is a review of Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, which is an entirely separate thing with a whole two different words in the title." Oh, don't be coy; you know damn well this is the Mighty No. 9 thing again, where the original IP is being held prisoner by a parent company who are doing nothing but sitting on it letting off the occasional fart, having tried and failed to stick the series of a big hairy "like God of War, but...", so the original creator behind the series's success - in this case, Koji Igarashi - broke off and went to Kickstarter saying, "Hey, come and fund my new game (wink)! It's a totally new IP (wink)!" And then, of course, it's the Castlevania: Symphony of the Night remake with a finger under its nose, going, "I can't be Castlevania; Castlevania doesn't have a mustache!"

So Bloodstained briefly ties itself in knots coming up with all-new lore to explain why a magical demon hunter - or "Shardbinder", in this case - needs to come fuck up a magically-conjured castle full of monsters that isn't Dracula's castle - even though Dracula is public domain, so surely, it could've been - and after that, things will quickly seem familiar. "Yahtzee, don't you go giving this game no free ride just 'cos you like Symphony of the Night, you fork-tongued sidewinder!" Don't worry, passing cowboy; if Bloodstained were just Symphony with the serial numbers filed off, which it certainly looks like at times, I'd have had to dock points for it being less "innovative new work" than "masturbation exercise".

But actually, Bloodstained is a supercut of all the good ideas in Igarashi's later Castlevanias as well. So from Aria of Sorrow, it takes the soul-collecting mechanic where every single monster grants a unique power or buff. In Aria, this was the kind of genius idea that was obvious in retrospect; most Castlevania games have monster rosters you'd struggle to fit on an average CVS receipt in very small writing, and this game has a gameplay reason to catalog them. Later games tried and failed to improve on it; the glyph-absorbing in Order of Ecclesia was just the same fucking thing with its arms and legs cut off, so fuck it, here it is again.

And from Ecclesia, Bloodstained takes the "helping out villagers" side-quests and several of the plot elements, such as a female main character who somehow manages to be simultaneously under- and overdressed. I remember the first time I saw Miriam, Bloodstained's protagonist, my first thought was, "Are you fucking serious?" Why is she wearing one-third of a breastplate? The devil horns, the rose tattoos, the puffball miniskirt that's, like, one millimeter short of putting camel toe on full display like a frog's head peering over a log? The way she constantly poses like Betty Boop trying to stay upright at a strong wind? She looks like someone opened one of those incredibly pathetic anime girlfriend dress-up simulators and then sat on the keyboard.

And it doesn't stop there. In Symphony of the Night, your equipment list could say that Alucard is wearing a coal miner's helmet and a handlebar mustache, but looking at him in-game, he'd still be his normal, devastatingly handsome anime self 'cos it was all baked-in sprites; well, with the wonderful march of technology, Miriam can now be visibly wearing all those ridiculous accessories, and there are officially no brakes on the "Looking Completely Stupid" train. Kind of kills the dramatic cutscene when you rock up with bunny ears and a piece of bog roll sellotaped to your nose. I think it's perfectly reasonable to not be 100% literal with the niceties of a game like this; I mean, when I pause the game and eat five curries in the middle of a tricky boss fight, this is on the assumption that when I un-pause, Miriam won't have a tummy ache and basmati rice all down her front.

On the whole, though, I don't know how many times I can rephrase, "If you liked Koji Igarashi's Castlevania games, you'll like the shit out of this, 'cos it's all of them smashed together with a very poorly-dressed lady on the front." You go back and forth across not-Dracula's castle in the usual way, growing in power as you kill endless streams of classic Castlevania monsters all holding their fingers under their noses. Sometimes, the critical path is a bit obscure; I'm ashamed to admit I had to look up the way forward more than once, but rest assured, I always made sure to compensate by punching myself in the testicles. Oh, I see; I was supposed to get a water traversal soul from this one random monster that only appears in one room and doesn't even drop it all the time. OOF! "Couldn't you even figure that out, you stupid swollen-testicled fuck?!" But it was fairly smooth sailing on the whole.

The rest of my niggles are little niggles, the least little niggle being that I find the full 3D look to be kind of ugly in ways that crafted 2D pixel art can never be; I've never seen a pixel-art stone wall with slightly misaligned and overstretched textures, or one that mysteriously turns into a barcode when a crack or blood splatter decal is applied to it. Also, I had recurring annoyances with the interface. Why does this game always find it so hard to believe that I want to skip a fucking cutscene? Why do I have to press the "Skip" button, like, five times? This is my third attempt at this boss fight; I have established to my satisfaction that "this ends now". I don't want to just skip the first bit of dialogue and get to the little animation that precedes the second and third bit of dialogue; I want to skip the whole thing and get to the part where I start hitting them with sharp objects and the occasional magically-conjured pig!

Also, whenever I use the shortcut ability to switch to a normally-unused-but-suddenly-necessary traversal power, the game would un-equip my weapon. But I hesitate to mention that because it's a bug, and games being what they are these days, it'll probably get patched out soon in order to make me look like a twat, and for no other reason.

So that's some niggles; them aside, Bloodstained is the exceedingly rare overfunded Kickstarter project that delivers on its promises. It's exactly what you wanted: it's Symphony of the Night again, but bigger and brought up-to-date without changing the fundamental things that you liked about it, albeit with some portraits of very greasy people who ponied up extra cash dotted around the map, the occasional monster modeled after their pet dog, and a "Special Thanks" section in the credits that goes on for three fucking hours.

So I hope Bloodstained realizes what it has done; all we needed was a few more disappointing fuck-ups, a few more Mighty No. 9s, Yooka-Laylees, Broken Ages, and maybe we could've all been completely soured to the Kickstarted retro callback. "Oh, maybe it isn't healthy to never want to leave our youthful comfort zones," we could've all said. "Maybe we should be open to new thoughts and ideas, for just as the gene pool requires variance, so too does art need a diversity of new concepts to avoid stagnation and producing nothing but the cultural equivalent of harelips and webbed toes." And you fucked that up, Bloodstained, by proving the system can actually work, and now it's going to be Kickstarted remakes of Custer's Revenge as far as the eye can see. If you want a picture of the future, imagine General Custer's lovingly-rendered shiny bell-end slapping a human face - forever.

Addenda Edit

  • Absorbed the soul of a saltwater crab: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
  • If my dog was a Castlevania monster he'd be a water elemental driven to walk the earth forever ensuring that everyone's hands are sufficiently moist
  • Still waiting on that Kickstarted remake of Redneck Rampage

Screenshots Edit

ZP - Bloodstained RotN screenshot 1

A magically-conjured castle full of monsters that isn't Dracula's castle - even though Dracula is public domain, so surely, it could've been...

ZP - Bloodstained RotN screenshot 2

This is on the assumption that when I un-pause, Miriam won't have a tummy ache and basmati rice all down her front.

ZP - Bloodstained RotN screenshot 3

Albeit with some portraits of very greasy people who ponied up extra cash dotted around the map.

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
Q4 Halo 3 · Tabula Rasa · The Orange Box · Super Paper Mario · Medal of Honor: Airborne · The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass · Clive Barker's Jericho · F.E.A.R. Perseus Mandate · Assassin's Creed · Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock · Mass Effect
2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
Q2 Army of Two · No More Heroes · Condemned 2: Bloodshot · Super Smash Bros. Brawl · God of War: Chains of Olympus · Mailbag Showdown · Grand Theft Auto IV · Painkiller · The World Ends With You · The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion · Haze · Metal Gear Solid 4
Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
Q4 Mercenaries 2: World in Flames · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed · S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Clear Sky · Silent Hill: Homecoming · Saints Row 2 · Dead Space · Fable II · Fallout 3 · Guitar Hero: World Tour · Mirror's Edge · Left 4 Dead · Sonic Unleashed · The Year in Review - 2008 · Prince of Persia
2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
Q3 The Sims 3 · Ghostbusters: The Video Game · Overlord 2 · Red Faction Guerrilla · Wii Sports Resort · Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood · The Conduit · Silent Hill 2 · 2.5-D Hoedown · Tales of Monkey Island · Wolfenstein · Batman: Arkham Asylum · Beatles Rock Band & Guitar Hero 5 · Darkest of Days
Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2018
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017 · Strafe
Q3 Get Even · Hollow Knight / Dead Cells · Fifth Console Generation · The End is Nigh, and Yonder: Cloud Catcher Chronicles · Pyre · Splatoon 2 · Hellblade · Agents of Mayhem · Sonic Mania · Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle · Destiny 2 · Metroid: Samus Returns
Q4 Knack 2 and SteamWorld Dig 2 · Cuphead · Hob and A Hat in Time · Middle-earth: Shadow of War · The Evil Within 2 · Super Mario Odyssey · Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus · Assassin's Creed Origins · Sonic Forces · Star Wars Battlefront II · Hand of Fate 2 · South Park: The Fractured but Whole
2018
Q1 Top 5 of 2017 · Okami HD · PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds · Fortnite and Dusk · Doki Doki Literature Club! · The Inpatient and Doom VFR · Monster Hunter World · Subnautica · Kingdom Come: Deliverance · Metal Gear Survive · Hot Coffee · Hunt Down The Freeman · Ghost of a Tale
Q2 A Way Out · Far Cry 5 · Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom · Extinction and Attack on Titan 2 · God of War 4 · Yakuza 6: The Song of Life · Silent Hill 4: The Room · Conan Exiles · House Flipper and FAR: Lone Sails · Detroit Become Human · Agony · E3 2018 · Vampyr
Q3 Jurassic World Evolution · Resident Evil 4 · Totally Accurate Battlegrounds and Moonlighter · The Crew 2 · Octopath Traveler · Observer · Chasm and This Is the Police 2 · We Happy Few · Unavowed · Guacamelee! 2 and Not Tonight · Shenmue · Marvel's Spider-Man · Shadow of the Tomb Raider
Q4 Dragon Quest XI · Star Control: Origins · Star Control: Origins · Assassin's Creed Odyssey · Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 · Return of the Obra Dinn · The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories · Red Dead Redemption 2 · Call of Cthulhu · Fallout 76 · Hitman 2 and Killer7 · Darksiders III · Just Cause 4
2019
Q1 Top 5 of 2018 · Super Smash Bros. Ultimate · Gris and Ashen · Katamari Damacy Reroll · Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes · Resident Evil 2 · Kingdom Hearts III · Metro Exodus · Far Cry New Dawn · Anthem · Crackdown 3 · Left Alive · Devil May Cry 5
Q2 The Division 2 · Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice · Unheard and Outward · Yoshi's Crafted World · Mortal Kombat 11 · Katana Zero · Days Gone · Close to the Sun · Rage 2 · Observation · A Plague Tale: Innocence · E3 2019 · Blood: Fresh Supply
Q3 Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night · Judgment · The Sinking City · My Friend Pedro and Sea of Solitude · Acclaim Entertainment Hall of Shame · Wolfenstein: Youngblood · Horace
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