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Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon Review

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1636149384_BloodstainedCurseoftheMoonlogo.jpg.c0ce9042c5c3f666e9faeef151db6120.jpgThanks to a massively successful Kickstarter campaign, Castlevania fans get not one but two games that draw upon the classic action gameplay that the series is known for. Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon was developed by Inti Creates as an homage to the early days of Castlevania, with particular emphasis on Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse. The end result is a satisfying blend of classic action-platformer mechanics with thankfully a few modern conveniences thrown in.
You play as Zangetsu, a swordsman who was cursed by demons and has vowed to destroy any demons he can find—pretty standard set-up for a classic 80s action game. Despite that vow though Zangetsu allies himself with several demons over the course of the game, but what's most interesting is that you can reach different endings depending on how you interact with those demons (this is only accessible after your first playthrough). The story still isn't particularly deep but the different endings add a nice bit if replay value, making Curse of the Moon a decent introduction to the world of Bloodstained.
The gameplay truly feels like it was lifted straight out of a NES title. In classic side-scrolling fashion your goal is to reach the end of the level and defeat the boss, but there are plenty of monsters blocking your path as well as some light platforming challenges. Curse of the Moon should feel instantly familiar to Castlevania fans—the game even retains some of the frustrations of old school gaming, such as getting knocked back when hit or the incredibly stiff controls that can make jumping feel frustratingly clumsy. The good news, though, is that Curse of the Moon features a Casual mode that eliminates the knockback and gives you infinite lives, which is useful even if you're an experienced player since it gives you chance to run through the game and acquaint yourself with the mechanics. But even on Veteran mode (the default mode that replicates classic Castlevania mechanics) the game never gets too frustrating. You'll definitely suffer through some cheap deaths, but it's not too hard to rack up a healthy supply of extra lives. Best of all though, you can change the difficulty setting any time you reload a save file to get just the right challenge balance for you.
It helps that you eventually have four playable characters that you can swap among at any moment, and you won't lose a life until every character is dead (dying does send you back to the last checkpoint though, and there's no way to revive a character aside from completing the level or killing every character). Having four playable characters also does wonders for making the gameplay feel engaging. Each character has unique abilities that help make monster slaying a little more varied, plus you'll find alternate paths through each level thanks to each character's unique skills. For example, the first ally you encounter, Miriam, has a whip for longer reach and can slide through small areas. Once you have all four it's pretty satisfying to swap among them to deal with any given obstacle, or to challenge yourself by taking on enemies in different ways.
Another feature that helps alleviate some of the "Nintendo Hard" feeling is permanent upgrades, such as expanding your maximum health, sub-weapon ammo, or even boosts to offense/defense. Finding these upgrades always requires a bit of exploration and using characters' unique skills, but they're always worth hunting down.
Curse of the Moon is definitely not a long game—it's possible to finish the game in under two hours—but what it lacks in length it makes up for in replay value. There are the two difficulty settings to test your skills, the branching paths that reward exploration (and require keeping your characters alive), and there are multiple game modes that offer slight differences to the gameplay and story. All told, there's a decent amount of content to satisfy Castlevania fans.
It wouldn't be a retro revival without recreating the classic look and sound of a NES game. The pixel art is fantastic (definitely more elaborate than your average NES title) and the music captures just the right sense of catchy, slightly repetitive chiptune audio. It may not be the smoothest pixel art or animation out there today, but Curse of the Moon is all about reviving a sense of 80s Castlevania games, and in that regard the presentation nails it.

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon is a spot on recreation of familiar Castlevania mechanics, plus a few thankfully more forgiving features such as Casual mode. The level design and challenges aren't necessarily breaking any new ground in the action-platformer genre, but that was never really the intent with the game in the first place. This is a game for Castlevania fans, and those fans will love running through a new dark and spooky adventure and putting their old school skills to the test.

Rating: 8 out of 10 Curses

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