As an Igavania (Metroidvania) style game, people have some idea what to expect from Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. Our protagonist is the only one capable of fighting back against a major villain and their minions, it is up to us to help them find their way through, all while perhaps growing as a character and learning the skills necessary to overcome any obstacle. Basically, someone would go in thinking Miriam, its main character, would be the kind of person we’d expect to tackle this kind of adventure. But, as a Koji Igarashi game, you might also expect it to play like Castlevania. It absolutely does in the best sort of ways, but it also helps people appreciate everything Igarashi has done. Miriam takes the best of these kinds of skills and tendencies and uses them to fight back against Gebel and his demons.
When someone hops into Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night for the first time, they might immediately realize Miriam has an ability that is nearly identical to Soma Cruz’s Power of Dominance from Castlavania: Aria of Sorrow and Dawn of Sorrow or Shanoa’s Glyphs in Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia. In both of those games, Soma could occasionally absorb the souls of defeated enemies, giving him new active and passive abilities and skills. Miriam functions similarly, though she is absorbing enemies’ Shards. Soma had sub weapon-like Bullet Souls, Guardian Souls that have an ability that turns on and off, passive Enchanted Soul abilities, and Ability Souls that let him do things like double jump. Shanoa’s two Main Glyphs appeared on her arms and consisted of things like weapon attacks and elemental attack spells. Her Back Glyphs would instead do things like give her abilities to do things like fly or transform, provide stat buffs, constantly restore her health, or summon a familiar.
Miriam’s Shards work a little differently, which might make her feel like a more effective attacker than Soma sometimes. Her Conjure Shards are like Soma’s Bullet Souls, some of Shanoa’s Main Glyphs, and previous games’ sub weapons. However, her Directional Shards also have a similar function, only you are able to aim them with the right analog stick. So, it can field like she has two sub weapons at all times. Her Passive Shards, which can increase her strength with certain weapons or improve stats, are like Enchanted Souls. Some Manipulative Shards, like Healing that is acquired from Sidhe in the Underground Sorcery Lab, act like Guardian Souls or Back Glyphs. But, her Familiar Shards also behave in a similar way, as they summon some sort of ally to assist or protect her. There’s a little more definition here. Also, you never have to worry about essential abilities like double jumping, inverting, or sliding, as they are either already available or are shards that are always available after being acquired.
Miriam can also be a fantastic whip master. Especially if you acquire the Thorn Whip. Whips are great for their reach in Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, though you aren’t going to be able to pull a Super Castlevania IV and have her have the whip hanging limp like Simon can. They deal blunt damage, unless you get a Thorn Whip by crafting one with Johannes or bringing Susie some Rice Balls. (The latter is easier.) It deals both blunt and slash damage, due to the thorns. It also has the Critical Swing skill, which is a fantastic way to get critical hits, though you need to check the bookcase right after you enter Dian Cecht Cathedral to learn it. Though, the Ambivalence Whip you can acquire by getting an 8-Bit Coin from the secret room you can reach just outside the castle and crafting with Johannes is also great, due to it being a dual dark and light elemental weapon that you charge to swap its element.
But, like many Castlevania protagonists, Miriam is incredibly versatile. She can wield every sort of weapon, also like Soma, Shanoa, Jonathan Morris, and others. She starts out with shoes for martial art kicks and a dagger, but has no problem also wielding clubs, great swords, guns, katanas, rapiers, spears, and swords. All of these can be viable, and Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night encourages you to play around. After entering the Dian Cecht Cathedral again, a location you probably will reach about two hours into the game, you’ll get the Shortcut Ability Skill Crystal. Attacking this gives you two possible loadouts, which you can switch between at any time. Initially, this is a good way to have a short-range and long-range loadout. You could, for example, have some sort of sword build in one with close-range shard abilities and a gun with ranged specialties in the other. As you go along, you’ll eventually find more Skill Crystals to add more slots.
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night doesn’t pull punches or try to limit Miriam in any way. Instead, we get the same sort of hero we would expect from any Castlevania game. She has the potential to have a varied moveset with all sorts of different skills earned by besting opponents. She has a wide array of weapons to choose from. But, for those people who may want to be purists and go with as close to a whip-only run as possible, enough of those are diverse enough to make it an option too. She’s a great heroine in a delightful game that has learned from the Igavanias that came before it.
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is available on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. It will come to the Nintendo Switch on June 25, 2019. Siliconera will be livestreaming it on June 26, 2019 on Twitch.