Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (Switch): COMPLETED!

A lot has been said about how terrible the Switch version of Bloodstained is compared to the other platforms it’s available for. Low quality graphics, 30fps not 60, longer loading times, and so on. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I don’t actually care. It’s the version I wanted, and short of being broken (and it’s not) it doesn’t matter to me about the rest. And I was right, as it’s pretty much a perfect Castlevania game and I enjoyed it very much.

Not sure female rock guitarists have been a baddie in Castlevania before.

We all know it’s by Iga, so is going to be the most Castlevania game ever, but I wasn’t expecting it to be almost literally Castlevania in every way possible. Every baddie is a reskin of a classic CV foe, every character is analogous to someone from a CV game. There’s a castle, there’s a vampire, and although it’s named differently, Soma’s (from Castlevania Dawn of Sorrow) soul mechanics are here too. All it’s missing is an end boss called Dracula and Castlevania in the name.

Some sort of lab with creatures in tubes round here.

As a Castlevania game, after completing it, I felt I needed to get 100% of the map (or 100.4% or whatever it is here), but unfortunately I’ve reached 99.8% and I’m stuck as to where I haven’t opened up. I’ve resorted to checking completely unlocked maps online and comparing them with mine, and I’ve found every single hidden room shown. I’ve no idea where the remaining ones are.

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Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon (Switch): COMPLETED!

Bought, played, completed. In under two hours. But this definitely not Castlevania is supposed to be short, and there’s supposedly more to be had from replays, so I’m not going to complain.

Not that there’s much to complain about anyway – it’s a decent platformer with some great bosses and a character swapping mechanic which (as each one has different skills) allows different ways of tackling rooms and reaching hidden areas and power-ups.

But it’s hard not to see this as a Castlevania game. As well as having the same graphical style as the original NES titles, one of the characters is basically a Belmont, as she wields a whip in just the same way. Another is clearly Alucard. The main character you start off as has a sword like Soma, but looks like Simon Belmont, and there’s a monk who admittedly isn’t much like anyone from that series. Then there’s the levels which try to distance themselves from Castlevania levels but there’s still the castle and although the baddies are different most behave just like Castlevania baddies.

The bosses, however, are very much new. And also very much easier than anything in a Castlevania game, although that’s not negative point – Castlevania bosses can be past the fun side of difficult.

If I’ve heard correctly, Curse of the Moon is a prequel to the full Bloodstained game which is still due to come out. If that is anything like this, then I’m all over it. Hopefully on the Switch!

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Castlevania: The New Generation (MD): COMPLETED!

Or Castlevania: Bloodlines, if you prefer. Personally, I think both names are rubbish, and pretty much irrelevant.

Castlevania: The New Generation
Castle? Tick. Whip man? Tick. Moon? Tick. CASTLEVANIA.

My experience of this game previously has been that I own it, I’ve played it a few times, but because it wasn’t a Metroidvania style Castlevania (which I used to prefer over the older linear type) I never persisted with it. Of course, these days I enjoy most 2D Castlevanias, and since I just read about Castlevania: The New Generation this week in the excellent Hardcore Gaming Castlevania book and remembered that I’d never finished it, I thought I’d give it another go.

Castlevania: The New Generation
Nice doggie.

It’s excellent. Perhaps better even than Super Castlevania IV on the SNES. The graphical tricks the game pulls (sprite rotations and so on) were very unusual for the Mega Drive, not least because – as SNES fans would gleefully remind Mega Drive owners – there was no Mode 7 on the Sega console. The music, a vital ingredient in the series, is also incredible although perhaps not as iconic as in other Castlevania titles. It’s also a lot easier than Super Castlevania IV, which surprised me.

I played through as John Morris – the guy who isn’t a Belmont in name but is by blood, apparently, so can wield the Vampire Killer. He was in the original Dracula book too, apparently. The other character you play as is Eric, who has a pike or something. So yeah, I didn’t bother with him. Why would you? Tch.

Castlevania: The New Generation
Now… kiss!

There were some great bosses, marred slightly by Death’s Tarot Wheel of SuckySuck(TM), most of which I don’t think I’ve seen in other Castlevania games. Dracula also suffered from Irritating and Unnecessary Gaming Cliché #3, which was a shame but pretty much expected. I’m tempted to play more CV games now, but there aren’t any on the Mega Drive and that’s what I’m focussing on right now. There’s a sort of clone on the Master System though? Hmm.

Click to view slideshow.

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Castlevania: Spectral Interlude (Spectrum): COMPLETED!

cvsi-1That’s right, folks – I’ve completed a Spectrum game. But not a Spectrum game from 30 years ago – one from last year. Or this year. It’s new, anyway.

And it’s also really good. A new Castlevania game (a fan one, not a Konami one) that manages to fit into the Castlevania canon, with astounding graphics and sound considering the hardware it’s on. And it’s a full adventure experience too, like Castlevania II was on the NES, which abilities you gain from bosses giving you access to new areas of the map.

cvsi-2I’d forgotten how responsive the controls on Speccy games could be. All too often there was some vagueness and input lag, but here it’s perfect – and it needs to be for some of the later sections where you have to be pixel perfect and make use of your double-jump or warp abilities. Or both.

Like all good Castlevania games, Spectral Interlude is a bit of a challenge. OK, it’s a lot of a challenge. Nigh on impossible, in fact. Thankfully, I was playing on an emulator, so I could make use of save states. This was probably just as well as it’s a big game too, and took me several hours to finish.

Screen_Shot_2015-03-31_at_18.37.39An utterly superb game. Please don’t ignore it because it’s for such an old system, as it stands up really well today despite the limitations. Not that you’ll even see any limitations, really, aside from the usual colour clash. Go and download a copy here.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow: Mirror of Fate (3DS): COMPLETED!

It seems like years ago when I last completed a game. I blame the crippling twin time vortexes of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate and Animal Crossing: New Leaf, because escape from them is almost impossible.

But, here and there, I’ve worked through the final chapter of the story – playing as Simon. His section actually fits before Trevor and Alucard (which run pretty much concurrently), and although I’d spotted where it was going well before it got there, the reveal after “defeating” Dracula was still excellent.

Dracula himself was really rather difficult. Not only do you have to counter or avoid his attacks, but he alternates between light and dark magic – which you must also do to actually cause him any damage. His “flaming towers” attack is especially deadly, as if you get caught in it, he can easily hit you repeatedly before you are able to recover and dodge. It took a good half an hour to finally best him.

Now I have Hardcore Mode unlocked, but I’m not sure I’ll be up for that. It was hard enough on Normal!

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow: Mirror of Fate (3DS)

A game with a sub-subtitle? Amazing.

First things first. This is not quite like the Metroidvania Castlevanias that I love so much (like Dawn of Sorrow or Symphony of the Night). It’s also not quite like the “original”, more linear Castlevanias like those on the NES and SNES. And it’s not even quite like the new “reimagined” Lords of Shadow game for the Xbox 360, despite the title and the fact it follows on from that game’s story.

It is, instead, a mashup of all three types of game. It’s pretty linear, like the originals, but it does have some map colouring and exploration (and the “new items unlock new areas” thing) from Metroidvanias. Finally, it has an approximation of the combat from the 360 game, with combos and air attacks and all sorts, plus that version’s art style.

I thought I’d hate it. I actually love it. The graphical style of the 360 title translates to beautiful 3D backdrops, but the game plays out on a 2D game – which is great as I’ve hated every 3D Castlevania I’ve ever played. The combat and levelling up system is a joy, and the game is suitably hard with seemingly impossible bosses that suddenly become walkovers once you learn their patterns and weaknesses – just like all the best Castlevanias.

Without wishing to impart spoilers, I’ve played Gabriel’s intro, then Simon’s bit, and now I’m into Alucard’s bit. Although I think I’m pretty close to the end of that.