Curse of the Moon review.
In an era rich with indie platformers, the genre comes at a dime-a-dozen. Many make it into the field, but only so many end up celebrated as a classic. However, Bloodstained has what it takes to separate itself from the norm. Check out more in our Curse of the Moon review here!
In Curse of the Moon, Inti Creates – the developers of Mega Man Zero and Gunvolt – created a title meant to be a retro throwback to the NES Castlevania titles. While not developed by Koji Igarashi – creator of Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night and the classic Castlevania: Symphony of the Night – he was impressed with what he played. This ode to the past – its subtitle derived from the GBA title Castlevania: Circle of the Moon – plays like the modern-day version of Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse. An 8-bit title that runs cleanly, with beautiful chiptune music by Michiru Yamane, Curse of the Moon is what we get from a game of yesteryear with today’s modern standards.
The game introduces the player with the story about the swordsman named Zangetsu. Complete with the scrolling text akin to the Castlevania series, he hunts demons and swears to kill every last one. As he sets off, you get the classic castle entrance scene similar to the intro of the original Castlevania titles. Smooth controls, challenging platforming action, multiple characters to choose from, and epic boss battles make up the game.
The Curse of the Moon review – the link from past to present.
In Castlevania III, you could play as four characters. Similarly, you can play as four here. Zangetsu, the swordsman, Miriam, who’s armed with a whip, Alfred, the alchemist, and Gebel, the vampire, so to speak. He takes Alucard’s role, as he can transform into a bat. Unlike Castlevania III, you can recruit all characters and switch between them on the fly. Some are much better against boss battles than others. Granted, the game is largely balanced around Zangetsu, the main character. However, the extra offense power from the other three characters can prove useful. Miriam’s triple daggers, Alfred’s flame shield, and Gebel’s powerful bats come in handy. Gebel can also turn into a bat, allowing him evasion and even saving the player from certain death in pitfalls.
Curse of the Moon offers multiple paths to players. This gives players an exploration element. You can slide through cracks as Miriam or fly across platforms as Gebel. Alfred can freeze enemies and use them as platforms as well. No character is useless, and every one of them feels powerful. Their health varies between each of them, but you can switch the characters out. None of them share a life bar. The stamina number is shared among characters, which serves as the equivalent of the sub-weapons from Castlevania.
Short game, multiple endings.
Similarly to Castlevania III, Curse of the Moon features several stages that take you to the castle. Featuring a sewer and a train, an ice world, a sandy pyramid, and more, you’ll make your way into a dark castle. Once there, you’ll fight through several more stages and boss battles. The game takes roughly 2-3 hours to beat on your first run. However, the bosses are quite challenging. In particular, they range from small demons to huge dragons. Honestly, the size of some of them is quite impressive. They’re all pattern-based bosses and can be felled with any character, given your skill.
Once you beat the game, you unlock Nightmare Mode. This is a new arc to the story featuring the other three protagonists of the game, as Zangetsu is not playable. Beating this mode unlocks another ending in the game. This is a callback to Julius Mode in Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow. Also, you can kill your allies after rescuing them from a boss. This enables a third mode – Ultimate Mode. In these separate modes, the boss battles change their abilities. While the stages themselves don’t change, the bosses add new attacks and patterns, making them a bit more difficult. While I have yet to finish Ultimate Mode, Nightmare Mode was a fun challenge. I enjoyed putting more time into the other characters and fighting the difficult, alternate final boss.
Not perfect, but getting there.
Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon is a good game. Challenging at times, but not too frustrating. For what it’s worth however, it’s quite short. There’s eight stages in the game, nine if you include Nightmare Mode’s last stage as an alternate. The multiple endings add something to the game, but nothing you can’t find on YouTube if you’re so inclined. I feel the replay principle is noble, but is no substitute for adding more gameplay.
Moreover, the game’s level design, while solid, is nothing original. Some of the more noteworthy elements include sinking into quicksand, being blown away by a gust, and even using Gebel’s bat form to make your way across large gaps. However, for the veteran platformer, don’t expect much original content. It’s a love-letter to the past, not an innovative breakthrough. It doesn’t deliver the unique experience of Shantae or a Mario title. Even Super Castlevania IV, which featured rising walls, a stage made entirely of gold, a killer buzzsaw that chases you, and whip-swinging shows that Castlevania is capable of far more. Granted that’s considering Super Castlevania IV is my personal favorite, I could still compare it to Bloodlines or Rondo of Blood.
If Shovel Knight or even Mega Man 10 taught us anything, it’s that a game is not limited by being an 8-bit title. I feel more stages could allow more experimentation. In turn, this would allow more types of stages. Granted, I do recommend the platforming experience for veteran players. It plays incredibly well. So even if it’s not perfect or original, you’ll come to appreciate the Castlevania flair quickly.
Curse of the Moon review conclusion.
You can choose your difficulty level before venturing forth. Each character can get any one of three subweapons which you obtain from candles. While the characters have the “stiff” jumps from original Castlevania titles, the platforming doesn’t feel as touchy as Castlevania III. This is a huge blessing, as Castlevania III is notoriously difficult. A legendary game in its own right, the U.S. version was made to be even harder and oftentimes unfair as a result. Bloodstained doesn’t follow cue with frustration, opting to give the player a balanced challenge similar to another modern-day retro hit, Shovel Knight. In fact, if you liked Shovel Knight, I promise you will love Bloodstained. Hopefully our Curse of the Moon review gave you a taste of what’s to come in the main game.
While I wish the main game was longer, and it offered some more varied platforming elements, it truly is a fine title. You can find the game on the Nintendo eShop, PSN, Steam, and Xbox One for $10. For what it’s worth, it’s the right price to enjoy the game’s retro flair, challenge, and abilities. There’s tons of Castlevania throwbacks, from visuals to monsters. Even Medusa Heads return to torment you in the form of a new type of enemy. If you’re looking to fill that Castlevania void, this is the game for you. Enjoy the beautifully animated bosses, extra replay modes, and epic soundtrack.
Thank you for reading our Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon review! Did you have a favorite character, stage, or boss battle? Let us know in the comments below!