I felt the need to share some thoughts before getting started because I have a long history (baggage) with the Castlevania series. Since the project was announced, people have been asking for my thoughts and opinions, and even now, some people are waiting for my “verdict” on Bloodstained. Understand that anything I say here is (of course) only my own opinion. I shouldn’t have to say this, but well… I do.
With that said, I’m hardly an unbiased source of opinion. I love IGAvanias and Symphony of the Night is a top 3 'Game of All Time' for me. My son’s middle name is also Belmont, for whatever that’s worth. I was destroyed when Castlevania was taken away from Igarashi; and if you have followed me over the years, you know I’ve launched a crusade or two against the Lords of Shadow series.
So "absurd and unfair" would be a good description for where my hopes and expectations are for Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. A very large burden has been placed on the shoulders of this project, and not just from myself. Much like Death Stranding, the success of this game is very much tied to the "Fuck Konami" narrative. We all need this game to be great. But even then, I have tried to be very realistic about how this game could turn out.
I have closely followed the development of Bloodstained from the beginning, and have spent hours both watching and playing different alphas/demos of the game in various states. Based on that (and the somewhat rocky development of the game), I have do have some concerns for the final release. In short: I think the game is ugly, the level design seems simplistic and uninspired, weapon and shard balance seems sloppy, and quite honestly, the competition in this genre has raised the bar. Yes, I mean Hollow Knight – but others as well!
Despite my very sincere concerns, I’m still very much hopeful this can be a great game. I love IGAvanias because they are RPGs. And when these RPG elements click, Iga's games can be stupidly addictive. I’ve said it countless times, but I think the “Soul System” from the Sorrow games is seriously one of the best mechanics I’ve ever seen in an RPG. And the same system is in Bloodstained! But besides that, IGAvanias are often filled with cool gear, spells, familiars, special moves, secrets, easter eggs, and bonus characters. If this stuff is really great, I can forgive some of the game’s other flaws. After all, this wouldn’t be the first IGAvania game with weak level design.
Ultimately, I wanted to write this because I want people to know that my feelings going into this game are complicated. Some have accused me of being down on the game, but my concerns come from a very real place and they are based on my own research and experiences. I want to like this game. No, I want to LOVE this game. I wish this series and Koji Igarashi all the success in the world. If this really is the return of "Castlevania", obviously, I want things to work out. This isn’t a "Lords of Shadow" situation. I have no reason to want this to fail, and I have no reason to NOT want to like this. It is crazy that I even need to say this.
The things that could very much impress with Bloodstained can only happen when I play the game. A lot. Basically, when I play a lot of Bloodstained, I’ll tell you if I liked it. But even then, know that my feelings coming out the other end will also likely be complicated. You are probably not going to get a definitive "IT'S GREAT!" or "IT SUCKS!" But I can guarantee that I will talk a lot about this game. Probably too much. You never have to worry about that.
I'll be discussing the game on the podcast this Thursday, and streaming the game this Friday. See you there!