BLOOD-CAUGHT HANDS-ON: CASTLE VANIA CREATOR’S BET PAYS
Is the game that raised $ 5.5 million on Kickstarter a worthwhile Metroidvania hull?
Koji igarashi did not create Konami’s Castlevania but for years he was a series producer, synonymous with the franchise and his mix of exploration, pixel-perfect plat forming and unwavering challenge. When Konami ran away from traditional video games, Igarashi released and went solo, on his own unadultered vision of a Metroidvania game.
When that passion project, Blood Stained: Ritual of the Night, hit Kickstarter in May 2015, Igarashi asked for a relatively small $ 500,000 to create the game. A month later, the campaign is closed at $ 5,545m, more than 11 times the starting target. Bloodstained was directly the most funded video game in the history of crowdfunding.
Although it would not hold the title for a long time, Shenmue III tore the record a month later. The success proved that there was still a big question for a title that emphasizes the gameplay in the classic gothic platformer, even if Konami was no longer interested in making a self.
Fast forward for two years and WIRED plays the almost finished product on E3 2017. It’s not the first time a game playable game has been shown, but it’s by far the most feature-complete, showing the scope and complexity of the new world of Igarashi.
Like Castlevania, Bloodstained is a deliberately heavy platformer with horror influences, focusing on nonlinear progression through a huge fortress of demons. Exploration remains important, with the map unveiling as you look around, closed with certain areas until you have the right skill to reach or unlock it. Nevertheless, it is fair to mention a spiritual successor, unlike the appearances, this is more than a copyright expulsion, as far as Igarashi’s best work is concerned.
For one, it is steep in its own original mythology instead of the vampire themes of his inspiration. Players arrange Miriam, a beloved girl, hit by an alchemist’s curse, slowly crystallizing her body, but also giving her access to the arcane forces needed to find the responsible person. Miriam will unlock Shards as she makes her way around the castle, each offering a new ability in return for another piece of her humanity.
These skills, in turn, provide an ever more complex offer of ways to fight the world and continue. From magic attacks to proclaim “decorated” versions of the monsters of the castle as magical relatives to help you in battle, Bloodstained feels that it has many more ways to fight back the demon horrors.
Other Shards help you physically, from basic moves like a double jump to reach higher ledges, to quick sliding shovels that let you slide under barriers. Miriam quickly becomes an incredibly fast and skilled warrior, and you begin to figure out how to combine these movement skills to reach more distant areas. For example, a double jump can eventually be chained to a downhill dive shovel, which in turn gives an additional jump. The time that attacks this chain fits well, and you can drive Miriam even higher.
Bloodstained also brings a little further into the RPG area, collecting a range of weapons, armor and accessories that mergers or grant status bonuses. Daggers, swords and a whip – all iconic weapons from Castlevania – stand for Miriam, but Igarashi has also stimulated her arsenal. Kung Fu shoes let Miriam go hand in hand and fight close together, while a katana offers a sharper range than a short sword. The difference in weapons and their applications encourages the player to think more tactically about how Miriam is out before tackling difficult areas or approaching forests.
The integration of all these systems – Shards, alternating weapons and fighting styles, familiars and platforms in battle – feels well-polished. Indiscriminate from business review, this seems to be the game that Igarashi always wanted to make and the benefits of that creative freedom shine through.
However, an issue we have is that, at least in the E3 build of the game, Bloodstained seems to have the satisfying difficulty of its predecessor. The biggest challenges we encountered were the platforming, whereby general enemies did not require much damage to the defeat, nor did they deal with much when one of their attacks landed. However, the marketing representative told WIRED that the building was sunk for demonstration purposes so people could see more of the game and the final edition that players reached in 2018 will have the full Iga difficulty. Hopefully, this keeps track – while Bloodstained is elegant in its current form, it feels far too simple to compare fan expectations.
Another point of caution is that Studio Inti Cerate’s leading development is at stake under Igarashi. The same dev company was responsible for Mighty No. 9, another successful Kickstarter project that promised to create a fan-favorite series (Mega Man) among a beloved creator, but eventually disappointed. Hopefully, when blood stain is complete, it will avoid the same fate.
Players will not have to wait too long to find out – Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is currently on target for an early release of 2018, which comes to the PC, Xbox One, PS4, PS Vita and Nintendo Switch.