"Bloodstained offers just enough Castlevania flavour (...) that many fans came here for, while remaining its own title."
Few video game Kickstarters have been as successful or are as anticipated as Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. Easily crowdfunded back in the spring of 2015, this 2.5D title has been eagerly awaited by fans of Koji Igarashi's works — specifically the Castlevania series — ever since. And for very good reason.
At E3, we got a chance to get up close and personal with the next demo that Kickstarter backers will get their hands on, described to us as a pre-alpha stage with beta quality. This demo was the first to reveal a little bit of the story, and it was the first that I have played. In between exposition, we got a taste of three areas: a galleon, a courtyard and a village. We were offered plenty of combat, including two boss fights, as well as a brief look at crafting systems and inventory.
After a demon invasion in an English city ten years ago, protagonist Miriam has awoken for the first time. An alchemist guild has managed to turn her and others into Shardbinders — beings who are attuned to the power of crystals, which demons also rely upon. Though they are meant to use this essence in the form of shards to combat the demons, one such Shardbinder named Gebel has become corrupted. Miriam and company learn that it's a tad difficult to reason with someone who's been performing dark rituals, and so they must stop him.
In true IGAvania fashion, you have all kinds of magic and weapons to work with. Despite the animation making Miriam look like she's in excruciating pain (and to be honest, she probably is — have you ever been pierced by giant demonic crystals before?), she can collect shards from fallen demons that give her new magic abilities. There are five different types of shards, and she can "equip" shards of her choosing within each type, same as she can with weapons or armor.
The first boss fight followed a confrontation with Gebel, after which we were attacked by a kraken demon who sent huge splashes of water at Miriam, shot out poison, and swung at us with — you guessed it — giant tentacles. We had many types of weapons at our disposal, such as kung fu boots and whips, but for the purpose of this fight, a gun called Blunderbuss was the best choice due to its long range and power. After our ordeal, the boss rewarded us with a shard that summons a giant tentacle, which can slam enemies for massive damage. Other shards deal different types of damage, or even buff Miriam.
Bloodstained offers just enough Castlevania flavour in controls, music and story that many fans came here for, while remaining its own title in aesthetic and designs. Our sampling of the story was so far very well written, with relevant character portraits appearing in the cutscenes in the style of Fire Emblem. Voiceovers, however, were in Japanese in the demo. Still, the demo was overall a very promising experience, even without having reached the second boss, and we can't wait to see what else Bloodstained has in store when it releases across all platforms later this year.