Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon (Nintendo Switch / PS Vita) Review

Game Title: Bloodstained – Curse of the Moon
Developer: Inti Creates
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PS Vita / PlayStation TV
Availability: Digital Download
Battery Life: 4.5 – 7 hours
Download: 45.3 MB (Switch), 24 MB (Vita)

There have been several Kickstarter “spiritual successor” games that people were incredibly-excited for but ultimately fell short of expectations. Mighty No 9 felt lackluster and has been easily shadowed by its own cross-over game, Mighty Gunvolt Burst. Yooka-Laylee had a difficult launch and had several issues at launch that had to be patched out.

One that is still on the horizon and looking to be one of the greats, however, is Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. While its release is still a ways away, we have a Bloodstained game out now for both the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation Vita that can be played and enjoyed.

Being a throw-back to even more classic Castlevania games from the NES era, here is my review of the spin-off title, Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon!

Story

While light on story, Curse of the Moon is a spin-off that chronologically takes place before the events of Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. Zangetsu is a Demon Hunter who ventures off into the Night in his life-long hatred and hunt for all of Demonkind. On the journey, he runs into and rescues three allies from Demons that use their own abilities to help Zangetsu in his quest, including Miriam, the protagonist of Ritual of the Night.

Now, story here is pretty light, but you do get some story during each short stage in the game. One thing that is worth noting is that this is more of a spin-off and was said to not really be in the same ‘canon’ as Ritual of the Night. All four playable characters are from Ritual of the Night, but play different roles than they do in the main game.

Gameplay

While Ritual of the Night is emulating 2D Castlevania titles from the PlayStation era, Curse of the Moon is a stage-based 2D side-scroller with light exploration elements. To be more specific, it is emulating the NES-era Castlevania games, like Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse.

Basic game progression is through 8 different stages, where you navigate side-scrolling environments filled with enemies, alternate paths, and secrets that contain item pickups. The goal of each stage is to reach the boss and defeat it to move onto the next stage.

Although the game feels very much like the older Castlevania games, it does mix things up in that you recruit 3 additional playable characters as you go through the first half of the game. Each one has different movement speeds and ranges, health gauges, and exclusive weapons and sub-weapon pickups, making using them feel different. Cycling between them also is the key to fight certain bosses and navigating to some of the alternate paths that you could not reach, otherwise. But, as a price, if you die as one specific character, you can’t use that character until you get a Game Over or you restart the stage.

Speaking of bosses, this is one aspect that really raises a bit of the game’s difficulty. Each boss has patterns that are relatively easy to learn and remember for dodging their attacks. However, upon dying, every boss of the game does a last-ditch attack as it goes out, meaning that if that attack kills you, it’s Game Over and you’ve got to repeat the battle from the last checkpoint. It’s a feature that I don’t see often in platformers and helps keep you on your toes, from beginning to end.

Though that doesn’t mean that platformer newbies can’t play the game and enjoy it. When you go in, you have difficulty options as well as a “Style” option. You have the normal style where you have limited lives and have knock-back from every attack that hits you. The game also offers a Casual Style, which gives you infinite continues and no knock-back. These can be toggled every time you boot up the game, so you’re free to hop back and forth.

Now, in terms of all this, Curse of the Moon is a very faithful and fun NES-style platformer. But, the only thing you won’t get here is any sense of length. One run through the game will be done in about 1.5 hours, give or take. The game then unlocks Nightmare Mode, a higher-difficulty mode where you play only as the 3 allies and the only way of unlocking the secret 9th stage and the True Ending. But, even with this replay added in, you still clock in around 3 hours at the most.

Controls

The great thing about this game is how simple it controls, but also that all versions of the game have the same control scheme. For example, the jump button is B on the Switch and X on the Vita, so if you get both versions, you don’t have to learn a new scheme for one or the other. It’s also compatible with the PlayStation TV, so both Switch and Vita versions can be played on the go and on your TV.

Moving around is done with the D-Pad/Arrow Buttons and the Left Analog Stick. Switching characters is done with the L and R triggers. The rest is with the face buttons/action buttons. You jump with A on Switch and X on the Vita, and do your melee attacks with Y on the Switch / Square on the Vita. Triangle/X uses your sub-weapon, and Circle/A don’t do anything outside of menus.

All in all, it’s a very easy control scheme to learn.

Presentation

Visually, the game recreates the old NES-style pretty well. Everything looks retro and the recreation of many enemy types and especially the animated bosses really looks great in handheld mode on the Switch as well as on the Vita’s smaller screen.

Performance-wise, it’s great on both platforms. The fps is flawless from start to finish on the Switch as well as the Vita and PSTV. So, if you’re looking for a reason to buy it for one or the other, the only thing I could mention to sway you is that the Vita version has trophies. Outside of that, there is no difference if you have a Vita TV available.

Battery Life

Being such a simple game, visually, Switch owners can expect to get quite a bit of time out of this game in handheld mode. Here are my Battery Times, from 100% to 0%:

Max Brightness + Wi-Fi – 4 hours, 39 minutes
Max Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 5 hours, 04 minutes

Low Brightness + Wi-Fi – 6 hours, 27 minutes
Low Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 6 hours, 50 minutes

Definitely on the high end of the spectrum. Getting almost 7 hours out of a Switch game is great, and getting it out of this game just helps push that Bloodstained name for handheld fans.

 

Summary

In conclusion, Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon is a great little platformer for fans of the NES Castlevania games. Although you won't get a lot of time out of it, it excels in emulating the origins of the classic vampire-hunting series as well as giving Bloodstained a good name before its main entry even comes out.

9/10

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