Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 Review

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 is a welcome sequel that came as a surprise to me. While I loved the first game, I never thought it picked up enough steam to warrant a brand-new entry. And yet it released and we are all better off for it. CotM 2 does everything its predecessor did and does it better at that. Graphics, sound, gameplay; everything has been refined to culminate in a more favorable experience than the first. This game is amazing!

While taking heavy inspiration from old Castlevania titles, this new inclusion into the series is far and away a greater departure from the source material. It builds on what made the first game great and improves upon almost every aspect. The controls are tight and responsive, and no death feels cheap, rather they made me feel accountable for my mistakes and gave me room for improvement. It is largely based on trial and error, like many games of the early 90s, and in similar fashion it offers a high level of difficulty. You will die, over and over, and over again. In fact, it became so difficult that I had to switch over to casual mode after a while to see the game to its end. The caveat being that in veteran mode, the default difficulty setting, you experience “knock back” when you are hit, meaning that a hit from an enemy can knock you off platforms if you are not careful. With the ante being upped in this game, there are tighter platforming sections than in the first, that require precise movement and timing, and it can all be ripped out from under your feet with a quick misstep or enemy encounter. If you enjoy a challenge, you will love the game for constantly beating you down, but not punishing you to the point where you give up. While checkpoints are spread further apart than I remember them being in Curse of the Moon, CotM 2 rewards perseverance through its difficulty that is sure to satisfy those who are able to make progress.

Curse of the Moon 2 boasts an astounding level of content for a retro-style title. There are multiple different endings to experience depending on the conditions in which you beat the game. I will try to avoid spoiling anything, but if you want to see everything on offer here, you will have to beat the game a total of 13 times. While this is clearly excessive, and I would be lying if I told you I powered through it, it does allow for a great deal of replay value. I believe my first playthrough I clocked in at a little over an hour. Factor in the increasing difficulty of subsequent playthroughs due to the required conditions, I believe this game can keep you occupied for over 15 hours at the very least. Mind you that is only if you wish to see every ending. I believe to a certain extent; the game overstays its welcome. Like I said, I did not sit down to see everything it has to offer, but I did enjoy the time I had with it. I don’t really see myself continuing any time soon; however, it is nice to know that it is still sitting there on my MicroSD should I ever wish to revisit it.

Like I mentioned above, the graphics and sound are more of what we loved from Curse of the Moon, but seemingly handled with more care this time around. It is clear that Inti Creates has taken their experience from development of the first game to really perfect the art. Backgrounds and foregrounds are more vibrant and full of life, and boss battles are exactly what you would expect from the Bloodstained veterans. The music has been crafted with far more intensity during boss fights, and each new song is better than the last. It is really just a great throwback to a forgotten era while kicking it up a notch.

Gameplay is similar to the first installment, however there is new variety in the characters that are introduced this time around. You have the classic Zangetsu, with his demon slaying sword that functions just as it did in the first game. You are given the ability to power up this sword, giving you more combat techniques with every swipe. Then you have the spear wielding Dominique who is able to attack vertically as well as horizontally. She is also able to bounce off enemies and lanterns, allowing her to reach places the other characters cannot. Next you have Robert, a rifleman who is capable of attacking long range, laying prone, and wall jumping. He is rather squishy though and his basic attack doesn’t do nearly as much damage as the rest of the troop. Finally you have Hachi, the mech-riding corgi (as in the dog) that can hover through the air and ground pound enemies and questionably built floors. I found myself using Hachi a lot during boss fights because he really packs a punch, is very functional with his flying ability, and can also become invincible by spending weapon points. Each character is fun in their own right, and I really enjoyed my time with each of them. In addition (and I hope I’m not spoiling too much), you will eventually have access to the characters from the first Bloodstained game, and they play identical to their earlier counterparts.

Overall, Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 is an incredible sequel to an already fantastic game. It improves upon every aspect of the first, and it is evident that the developers put a lot of care into the production of this game. If you’re itching for 8-bit action that looks and plays better than the games it emulates, look no further than CotM 2. I would recommend this game to any retro video game enthusiast. This may be the quintessential retro experience and I say this unabashedly, it is a masterpiece.

Sound: 5/5

Gameplay: 5/5

Story: 3/5

Graphics: 5/5

Replay Value: 5/5

Total: 23/25 or 92/100

My Top 5 Games of 2019

The year 2020 is just around the corner and we get that much closer to Skynet’s inevitable rise to power. Before that happens though, we can all be actively entertained by its precursor. 2019 was a good year for gaming, no matter what the naysayers preach. Some of my new favorite games were released this year and I am waiting in anticipation for 2020 to knock it out of the park. That being said, it’s good to sometimes take a look back, ignoring what’s ahead, in celebration of all that has transpired in this short year. The following is a list of MY top 5 games of 2019. I have only included the games that I have actually played and am intentionally ignoring many of the great games that I know are contenders for game of the year. It is only because I have not played them and thus cannot speak to their worth, but that does not mean they do not belong on a top 5 list. They just don’t belong on (again) MY top 5 list.

5. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

This is one of the two games featured on this list that I have yet to publish a review on. The colorful, anime-style graphics were enticing, and after playing Curse of the Moon I couldn’t turn this one down. The sheer scale of the boss fights alone make it feel larger than life. The controls were very responsive as well, providing ample maneuvers to slay enemies in style. This Metroidvania is far from my favorite of all time, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t have a great time with it. While it may not be game of the year worthy, Bloodstained excels in more than one area of interest and I would love to see more games within this franchise. It holds the final slot in my top 5 if for no other reason than the steep challenge it presented. The difficulty common of games from the early 90’s has been lost in more modern titles, but if you’re searching for a 2D sidescroller in the style of old Castlevania games, look no further than Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night.

4. Control

I was going back and forth on whether this game belongs at the number 4 position, wrestling with Bloodstained. Both games are incredible, but this one ends up winning out by a fraction. The gameplay was engaging, the story was fantastically weird, and the game was littered with atmospheric tension throughout. It was fun going back and completing all the sidequests long after the main story was completed, and the gameplay never became stale. This is in part due to the abilities you acquire in the game. You can levitate, create shields out of rubble, and just throw your enemies around like you’re on the dark side of the force. This may be controversial and will probably not make a lot of people’s top 5 lists, but it made mine. It would have scored better on the list if it wasn’t plagued with slow-down bugs every time you closed the menu and made for a blurry mess sometimes. For more information about the game and why I liked it so much, you can read my full review HERE.

3. Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair

I bought this game with the full intention of writing a review for it to be featured on this blog, however I simply never got around to it as life consumed my free time. The Impossible Lair took the characters from the first adventure and reworked the entire gameplay style. No longer is it a 3D collectathon, but a 2D platformer not unlike the Donkey Kong Country games. It plays out very much like those Super Nintendo titles while adding a fun and engaging hub world to tie all the levels together in a top-down adventure. It has quickly become one of my favorite platformers to grace the Xbox One in many years. If you haven’t already picked this game up, do it. You will not regret this purchase.

2. Monster Hunter: World (Iceborne)

While I acknowledge the newest iteration of Monster Hunter released in 2018, I still consider that Iceborne could very well be a game on its own. To view my full review of this expansion you can click HERE. This new DLC takes Monster Hunter: World and really ups the ante on what’s to be expected from Capcom and this franchise. With a whole new area to explore and many new monsters to hunt, this game resides at the very top of the iceberg. The added difficulty provides a greater experience for veteran hunters, and the prerequisite of having to beat the base game before jumping in assures that the player will be ready for it. While I understand it is not technically a game that was released this year, Iceborne adds enough new stuff to maintain a spot on this list. It is truly an incredible experience.

1. Resident Evil 2

I played the hell out of this game and my full review can be found HERE. This is one of the few games of 2019 that I actually got around to reviewing. The reason it holds the number 1 spot on my list is because of one key video game component. Atmosphere. Resident Evil 2 was spine-chilling, from it’s updated, realistic visuals, to its soundtrack, to Mr. X busting down doors; this is probably the most scared I have been while playing a video game. As I mentioned in my review, the constant pursuit from the Titan is incredibly scary, giving me a gut-wrenching feeling of terror whenever I heard his footsteps in the distance. This feeling never left me, only becoming tolerable as the game progressed. The gameplay is fantastic, the puzzles are fun, and the characters come to life (quite literally, after death) throughout this 8 hour battle with the undead. A nominee for Game of the Year, in my experience it’s deserving of that title.

So, that was my top 5 games of 2019. What do you guys think? I know there are a lot of great games omitted due to not having played every release this year, but from what I have played, I think the quality of each game is reflected above. What is your top 5 games of 2019? Agree with something on this list? Disagree with my horrible opinions? Let me know in the comment section below.

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon Review

The result of a crowdfunding promise, Curse of the Moon is a love affair between retro-style gameplay and modern capabilities that is sure to whet the appetite. An accompaniment to the modern Ritual of the Night, CotM fulfills its purpose as a throwback to the fond memories of the late 80s and early 90s. I must confess, my only experience with Castlevania (the source material in which Bloodstained draws inspiration) is as a toddler who lacked the knowledge, experience, and fine motor skills required to navigate Dracula’s castle. I remember looking at the cover art and being blown away by the giant castle and a vampire’s apparition looming overhead. It was one of my first experiences with a NES cartridge and I had wholeheartedly hoped I could progress past the first screen. To no avail as I aimlessly wandered back and forth, not knowing how to climb stairs. Much like my poor, stair-climbing abilities, Curse of the Moon is a game that never really comes off the ground floor. Set atop the foundations laid by Castlevania; from a gameplay standpoint, CotM doesn’t do anything new to help it stand above the NES games and countless clones that have come before.

The game revolves around Zangetsu, a warrior with the moon’s curse cast upon him by demons. This is what fuels his vengeful crusade against any and all demons he may come across in the hour and a half it takes to play through. Zangetsu will encounter a few friends or foes along the way, the likes of which is determined by the player’s choice to interact, attack, or ignore these encounters. There is a total of 6 different possible endings that are contingent on the combinations of choices that can be made. Miriam, Alfred, and Gebel are all playable characters should the player choose to let them tag along and they can be switched in and out on a whim. However, should the player choose to slay these three protagonists, Zangetsu will be the only playable character as the troop’s powers are added to his arsenal. Should you choose to ignore the three of them completely you will be forced to navigate the game alone, while also only having the basic skills Zangetsu starts with. The multiple endings depend on the varied choices that the player can make regarding the main characters.

Each character has their own unique set of skills and methods of attack that keep the game fresh over time. The variation in move-sets allow for a wide array of ways to approach the obstacles that stand between you and the demon Gremory. Different characters’ skills can help the player traverse various sections of the map, which is riddled with alternative passages and shortcuts to discover. The dead guide the way as the skeletal remains of previous adventurers always help point you toward the fastest, and often easiest way around. In order to access these areas, you will likely need the aid of one of the three other protagonists, so it is not recommended to slay them or ignore them on your journey. Like many things in life, it is much harder to go it alone. In this respect, the player is accountable for some level of difficulty through his actions, even after the difficulty has been set at the beginning of the run. This creates a much more interesting, tactical approach to how the player wants to complete the game. As mentioned before, choice does matter, and it goes beyond the parameters of story endings. It is for this reason that I found myself replaying the game a lot. And I mean A LOT. It takes about an hour and a half to complete the game under the easiest of circumstances; now times that by five and adjust according to difficulty and that is how much time I have sunk into the game. And I still feel there is more to be done. Add the varying unlockable difficulties and a completely separate boss mode and this game becomes highly replayable, which is something I find rare in the games I usually invest in.

Graphically, the game does what it intends. It’s a fantastic tribute to an 8-bit era, while pulling several punches to keep the game playable in this century. Scrolling backgrounds are lovely and some boss fights, while oddly out of place, seem to really serve to modernize these visuals. It does not look like the 8-bit games of old, rather updating that nostalgic art to how we remember them. It masterfully finds a balance between a traditional style while using modern capabilities to raise it to the next level. It is both nostalgic and beautiful, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. As far as sound goes, it follows much in line with the visuals. Reminiscent 8-bit melodies really transport the player to a dimension where video games never evolved further than the NES and Master System. It didn’t seem out of place at all, in fact it all came together rather nicely. Auditory and visual senses complimenting each other to recreate gaming in the early 90s.

All around, Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon succeeds in what it sets out to be. A warmly welcomed compliment to a much larger, sophisticated game, and a nod to our dust-covered older hardware. Anybody looking to pluck some nostalgic heartstrings will love this addition to their gaming library, as it does everything its inspiration did, but looks way better.

Sound: 4/5

Gameplay: 4/5

Story: 3/5

Graphics: 4/5

Replay Value: 5/5

Total: 20/25 or 80/100