Thursday, January 21, 2021

Bloodstained Classic Mode Review

Developers: WayForward, Artplay
Platforms: PS4, XBO, NS, PC
Price: Free DLC for Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night ($39.99)
Version Played: PC

If Ritual of the Night is the Symphony of the Night of Bloodstained, then Classic Mode is its Castlevania I. This is free DLC for Bloodstained RotN, but it is a full ClassicVania style game. It's actually longer than Castlevania I on NES. Don't the Curse of the Moon games have ClassicVania Bloodstained covered, though? Well, they're more like Castlevania III and Bloodlines. Classic Mode is much more like Castlevania I. Also, I’m not going to complain about having more ClassicVania goodness.

And when I say like Castlevania, I mean a lot like Castlevania. Classic Mode is structured almost exactly like Castlevania I on NES. Right down to the 6 levels split into blocks. There's even chicken (curry) hidden in the walls! The first level has you going through a courtyard into the castle entrance, then a sewer, and then back out to fight a giant bat boss. Later on you fall through the floor down into some caverns, go up a clocktower, and walk up a set of stairs in front of the full moon on your way to the final battle in a throne room. Yeah, it's that similar. This almost feels like a remake at times. And by at times I mean very often.

Unlike in the Curse of the Moon games, only Miriam is playable in Classic Mode. Her controls here feel like a mix of Simon Belmont, Richter Belmont, and her Ritual of the Night version, which is basically Alucard. Fans of Castlevania I, III, and Rondo will feel right at home with these controls. She has that slow Belmont walk, there’s knockback (except on Easy mode), she can only whip directly forwards, uses stairs like in the ClassicVanias, has no air control when jumping forwards, and has a Richter style backflip. Miriam’s backflip is much easier to use, though. The window to input a second button press to do a backflip is much more forgiving than Richter’s, and she can do it while jumping forwards. She can even turn around mid-air and backflip in the direction she’s jumping in. This makes it so you can use the backflip as a long jump. It looks cool and is very useful. Miriam also has her slide and backstep moves from RotN, which I barely used. WayForward has done a great job in making this feel like a modern ClassicVania.

Pretty much everything about Castlevania's gameplay is represented here in some way. All the subweapons, enemies, obstacles, and most bosses from Castlevania have a Bloodstained counterpart. The cross boomerang, holy water, and throwing axes are here. There’s enemies that behave just like the skeletons, bats, armor knights, and Medusa heads. There’s platforms that fall away beneath your feet, traps, and clock tower gear platforms just like in Castlevania. Most of the bosses are also very reminiscent of bosses from Castlevania. So reminiscent that Castlevania strategies will work on them. Even the last boss is basically the classic Dracula battle you see in Symphony of the Night’s intro. This really feels like a remake sometimes!

There are some new graphical elements in this mode, but it’s mostly reused models from RotN. They’ve done a really good job in making this mode look and feel like a ClassicVania, though.. The camera is pulled back a lot farther, the classic UI is placed on top, and there’s lots of new animations that will instantly remind people of Castlevania, like the door opening, subweapon, and jumping animations. This isn’t just RotN with new controls.

All the music in this mode is the chiptune music from Bloodstained RotN‘s soundtrack. It's great music, though. Valiant Stride, Brave Trigger, and Everblack are here, among others. It all sounds very Castlevania-ish and fits this mode perfectly.

I should mention that I ran into quite a few bugs. I saw enemies that became invincible, the monkey in the werewolf fight got stuck in the air and froze, graphical effects that stuck on screen even after I died, and the game crashed on me during the final battle and it didn’t autosave on the final level, so I had to do the previous level again. Hopefully this stuff is fixed soon.

This is an awesome game! I just love it! WayForward obviously knows their Castlevania. The controls feel right, the level design is challenging and fun, the music is perfect, and the way they reused RotN’s graphics looks great. I hope they make more of these. Maybe put Zangetsu in the next one? Or add him to this one? This is just too good not to make another. Fans of the NES Castlevanias are in for a treat.