Guilty. I’m one of the backers that has been following the Bloodstained development for a fair while now. During E3, Inti Creates had a booth where a special E3 demo for Bloodstained was playable. As of yesterday, the demo is available for any backers who pledged over $60 USD. After the troubling release of Mighty No. 9, it is a major concern whether or not the other massive independent title would suffer from a terrible fate too. I’m extremely glad to say it won’t, if this demo is any indication of the final product.
Bloodstained is the return of Koji Igarashi style of ‘Metroidvania’, collectively called ‘Igavania’. The usual style for these games is a 2D, massive explorable map that can be progressed through with areas blocked off by a lack of an ability or power. Usually players would return to these areas after receiving these abilities, such as double jump, flight, roll or what have you in order to reap rewards. This style of game, which started with Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, was made under the guidance of Koji Igarashi.
In Bloodstained, you play as Miriam, a young orphaned girl who was taken in and later infused with the dark Alchemist’s curse. The curse completely crystallizes her skin and gradually turns her evil, much like a dear friend of hers, Gebel. In order to ‘help’ Miriam with overcoming this curse, Gabel’s created a castle, which he slowly loses his grip on as it warps into a beacon for demons. It is up to Miriam to fight through this giant castle in order to reach out and save her friend.
The demo itself takes place in a strange part of the castle where Miriam is on the Galleon “Minerva”. A ship that seems a bit out of place in the castle, but could very well be linked to the Castle through some other unexplained means. The entire ‘zone’ is for the most part linear. There are however places which aren’t accessible due to a lack of a special ‘shard’.
Shards are reminiscent of souls from other Igavania games. Much like in recent ones, these shards are divided into specific types: Trigger, Effective, Directional, Enchant and Familiar. Shards are received much like how souls are; by beating the snot out of the same monster over and over again. The demo has about 6 monsters and a boss. You can receive shards from 5 of these, with the regular ‘Morte’ enemy being the exception. The Seama, Amy and Dullahan drop their respective shards, which are under the Trigger category – magical abilities that mimic the abilities these monsters have, for you to use against other enemies.
The Buer drop an Enchant type shard which gives stat bonuses, specifically a boost in constitution. And the Morte Cannon drops a Directional shard which is a unique type of spell that lets you use abilities in 8 directions. The ‘Fire Cannon’ ability emits a magical burst of fire which can be used on cannon fuses on the screen to create new pathways in the world. There are obviously more within the full game, and there may well be a chance for boss monsters to drop shards too. The Familiar and Effective shards are not available for use in the demo.
What’s interesting about these shards is that they have different ranks of quality and levels as well as elemental ‘types’. This means that elemental exploits will take effect, and either shards develop and become stronger over time/through use or they are simply categorized and these lower level shards will be useless when you get stronger ones.
The model animation is gorgeous, especially when you look at the smooth movements Miriam’s starting scarf has as you jump, slide kick and generally move around. Furthermore, major kudos for not only changing weapon designs, but for the first time what Miriam equips in the various equipment slots changes her look. Aside from the signature blue dress, she can now change her headgear and scarf. Small details like this add to the overall enjoyment of the game.
Speaking of equipment, while items can aesthetically change Miriam’s appearance slightly, they also provide stat and resistance boosts. For the most part, these pieces of equipment will affect her defense. But some also affect her other parameters such as strength, intelligence, luck, constitution and mind. As for resistance, it too can be altered by equipment, so you can tailor Miriam’s resistance needs based on the opposition faced. These resistances include slashing, piercing, blunt, fire, ice, electric, dark, light, poison, chrono, earth, death(?) and bleeding(?). The last two are a bit harder to figure out based on their symbol, but that’s my guess so far.
Going back to the model animations, while they do indeed look incredible, it does still look rough, especially with how the enemies appear on screen. Not only that, but there are several instances where Miriam can phase through parts of a wall. You can see a shadow where body parts are sticking through the world. It’s a bit strange to see but it’s likely a temporary solution. On top of this, some of the UI does look rough still, especially the font for the loading screen and the map design.
As for weapons, it was mentioned in the Bloodstained Kickstarter that Castlevania-style whips will be making their debut. However, the demo showcases only two weapons, the long sword and Kung-Fu boots. Each weapon is completely different from the other as it effects not just damage output, but the animation and attack type. There also appears to be two slots that enable characters to switch to two different weapons or allow for an offhand option. However, this feature isn’t available in the demo.
Music is in full swing with Michiru Yamane, who is famous for her work on the other Castlevania games and more recently the Skullgirls score. Yamane has recaptured the kind of gothic ambience and feel of the older Castlevania games, in short, it looks like she’s going to nail this soundtrack again.
There are countless features that aren’t shown off however. Promised features like the weapons crafting system, shops, warp points and save fountains are all absent. It’s excusable due to the mere fact that the demo is a very enjoyable, short slice of what Bloodstained might be, a beautiful, smooth, atmospheric and genuinely interesting piece of gameplay.