Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon landed with a shocking impact. It was Kickstarter bonus that to those not in the know, seemingly came out of nowhere. It was small, but fans of classic Castlevania action-platformers were hooked from the start. Curse of the Moon was an homage of sorts to Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, albeit with its own twists and ideas that made it cool. Clearly, it did well enough to become a series, as we now have a sequel! Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 is everything I wanted it to be and more. There’s more game, more characters, more abilities, more story, and more heart. There’s just… more of everything that made the first game so neat, and it solidifies Curse of the Moon as a “Classicvania” companion to Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night.
The story starts in similar fashion to the previous game’s. Zangetsu is back in the demon hunting business, and business is booming. As he makes his way through a new castle housing a new target, he meets a new crew along the way. Miriam, Alfred, and Gebel are quietly absent, and in their place are Dominique (a warrior from the Church who uses a spear), Robert (an old war buddy of Zangetsu who hates the Church, natch), and the star of the show, Hachi (a literal Welsh Corgi that pilots a coal-powered mech suit). These four go through Hell and back as you move through Curse of the Moon 2, and along the way they develop a deep bond. Despite the low-fi, NES-like presentation here, Inti Creates found a way to make that bond explicit through the story.
That’s the key that makes Curse of the Moon 2 so great. The first game was a cool little bonus for the “real” game and a fairly straightforward tribute to a classic game. Each character filled a specific role that closely resembled one from the source material, but overall the scale and scope were appropriately humble. The sequel is so much more full of life, character, and personality. I’m not just talking about how silly the whole mech corgi thing is, either. While Zangetsu is still Zangetsu, his new companions have a slate of abilities that feel totally original and operate in ways you haven’t seen before in a game like this. Dominique has range, but also healing powers and DuckTales-esque mobility. Robert is slow and weak, but uses long-range weapons that give him tons of extra options for tackling enemies. Hachi is cute, but he’s also completely defense-oriented in ways that help him avoid damage and even power through stage hazards.
It isn’t just about the cool things you can do while pushing through the demonic hordes. One of my favorite parts of Curse of the Moon 2 is a little touch that speaks volumes about how much the Bloodstained creators care. In between every stage, there’s not only the usual Castlevania-like stage map, but now there’s also a little scene of what the crew is up to during their travels. They make camp and tell stories, bathe in lakes, share meals together, pet Hachi when he’s a Good Boy, shiver in the cold, and on and on and on. These scenes take up just a little bit of real estate on the screen, but the best part of beating a boss isn’t the satisfaction of victory; it’s knowing I’ll get a reward afterwards. I get to see these characters be characters, and not just cool combat sprites.
Because of that, I have mixed feelings about this next part. It was weird to see the second trailer from Inti Creates straight up reveal the Curse of the Moon cast eventually shows up during the second part. I got to that part (a few hours in!) before the trailer, and boy howdy did I mark out. The way the story gets to that point does an excellent job building up to the reveal, and it’s a shame it won’t be a surprise. So while that’s kind of a bummer, the silver lining is being able to talk about it here. Miriam and company coming back means they too get to benefit from Curse of the Moon 2’s impressive emphasis on character. Here, the “episodes” are similar to the “normal” vs “nightmare” runs in the first game, with a bit more nuance. As Zangetsu and his old pals make their way through their episode, we get to see them all interact together, with a big highlight being broody ol’ Zangetsu excitedly telling his old friends about his new ones around a campfire. I never expected to describe Curse of the Moon 2 as “adorable,” yet here we are.
While there’s a lot more stuff in Curse of the Moon 2, the game’s actual structure is pretty familiar if you’ve played the first. There’s a lot more visual fidelity and animation, but the NES affect is still the main focus. The biggest quality of life change is designated checkpoints, so you know you can breathe once you see one (you know, if you’re playing casual mode). Otherwise it’s the same Castlevania-like challenge, with each episode ramping up the difficulty and adding new twists along the way. There’s also a two-player mode, which is maybe not the best way to master the game, but it’s certainly novel. The first game’s cast coming back also means that while the “do it again, but tougher” loop here takes on a new angle later on once you’re running through with a totally different set of tools.
Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 is a superb sequel. It has everything that made the first game a surprise hit, but expands and adds to it with a level of care that shines through the whole thing. It’s one of the meatiest games of its kind, and it has more story and character weaved into the retro-style play than I ever would have expected. It isn’t the most casual-friendly game, even with the casual mode turned on, but anyone with even a passing interest in Castlevania should absolutely check it out. And if you’re already on the Bloodstained train, then I don’t need to do much more than validate the hype. Curse of the Moon is a cool game; Curse of the Moon 2 is an awesome game.
Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 is now available for the Nintendo Switch, the PS4, the Xbox One, and the PC.