The very first thing it is best to find out about Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 is that it includes a playable corgi named Hachi who pilots an enchanted mecha-tank. The second factor it is best to know is that the basic Castlevania homage is in each means a marked enchancment over the primary Curse of the Moon. In actual fact, foolish and meme-able as it’s, the corgi represents a extra playful spirit on this sequel that makes the entire expertise richer.
The primary Curse of the Moon was a brief and candy diversion, just a little deal with for Bloodstained backers and a neat thought to contextualize the brand new franchise enterprise from Castlevania producer Koji Igarashi. It primarily introduced another historical past, the place Bloodstained was a recognized retro franchise and the then-upcoming Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night time was a daring reinvention a la Symphony of the Night time.
For all its charms, although, Curse of the Moon performed it fairly straight with its influences. The tone was moody and gothic and the heroes had been stoic slabs of granite. Then Ritual of the Night time got here out and blended its macabre and demonic imagery with components that had been self-consciously goofy, like large kitten heads peeking via the fort home windows. In that context, Hachi the corgi seems like developer Inti Creates embracing the cheeky oddball high quality of the Bloodstained universe, now that it has been extra well-defined. Should you occur to die as Hachi–and how dare you, you monster–the sport is bound to point out a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it animation of the little canine bailing out simply earlier than his mech explodes.
Hachi could also be the perfect new addition to Curse of the Moon 2, however he is removed from the one one. Aside from the grim samurai-like protagonist Zangetsu, every of the playable characters in the principle marketing campaign is new. There’s Dominique, an exorcist from Ritual of the Night time who wields spears and therapeutic magic; Robert, an agile sniper; and the tank-like Hachi.
Like within the first sport, every character has their very own lifebar and specialised talents, however these are extra differentiated and specialised than earlier than. For instance, Robert is the one character who can wall-jump and his rifle can strike threats from all the best way throughout the display, however it takes a second to reload and so he is not supreme for threats which are closing in. Inversely, Hachi is a short-range bruiser who can stroll throughout spikes, and whereas he lacks the flexibility of swappable particular assaults, that button as an alternative maps to short-term invulnerability that drains the magic meter. The number of monsters and demons means there’s normally a personality ideally fitted to taking them out, whether or not it is Robert safely taking down an armored enemy or Hachi power-stomping a gaggle of tiny swarming demons. Although it is an action-platformer at its core, as a consequence of a faithfully created (and fairly brutal) knockback impact it is normally worthwhile to keep away from direct harm and meet the second with the perfect software for the job.
Then there’s Dominique, who provides a deceptively complicated layer of technique. She has greater jumps and longer-range assaults than Zangetsu, which at first makes her appear merely like an upgraded model of the balanced predominant hero. However her therapeutic magic makes for an attention-grabbing risk-reward evaluation. You possibly can swap between the 4 characters at any time, and the phases are designed with each enemies and optimum paths which are finest for one character’s specialty, however as soon as a personality dies the others maintain going with out them. That makes the flexibility to maintain everybody alive and wholesome a significant benefit. Selecting to rely an excessive amount of on Dominique’s superior fight talents runs the chance of taking her out of fee, which then impacts the entire group who’re disadvantaged of her therapeutic capability. (Zangetsu ultimately will get an improve that makes him extra distinctive, and fewer of a strictly worse Dominique.)
Due to that larger degree of differentiation, the phases are rife with hidden nooks and secrets and techniques to discover. At first look it nonetheless borrows the aesthetic from Castlevania 3, however the stage design is way more complicated and rewarding to discover. This is not a “metroidvania” within the sense that there is not any giant open setting to discover, however the capability to reenter accomplished phases with new characters who’ve distinctive traversal talents provides it a sense akin to that.
Every stage ends with a large boss, and whereas undeniably unusual, these nearly universally lean extra towards the macabre. From a large dragon with an Alien-like second maw and a lightning cannon in its chest to a lava wyrm, these are a few of the most standard elements of the sport. Nonetheless, it’s spectacular how their assault patterns are so fine-tuned to permit any of the 4 characters to no less than conceivably take them down. Virtually all of them have some type of a last-gasp assault, when their life bar is drained they usually determine to attempt to take you with them. These could be tense and irritating since they’re so exhausting to foretell after you have already defeated the boss, however they add a layer of ugly monstrosity to the victory.
The primary story marketing campaign is on the quick aspect, however it ends in a cliffhanger which prompts a second quest. To see the story via to its full conclusion, you may must play via no less than 3 times, and these are marked as particular person episodes. The story hand-waves its means via any rationalization for why these episodes–which ostensibly happen in chronological order–would contain going through the very same bosses in the identical environments.
Your reward for seeing the story via to the top is a novel closing stage and boss, together with one significantly wacky, game-changing Easter egg that makes the entire effort worthwhile.
This has the impact of feeling like padding with repeated content material, however that feeling is considerably mitigated by the wealth of shortcuts and alternate paths out there as your subsequent playthroughs contain completely different mixtures of characters. The bosses are additionally subtly ramped up with no less than one new assault sample in every episode, and this mixed with the completely different group compositions makes for challenges that really feel contemporary. Your reward for seeing the story via to the top is a novel closing stage and boss, together with one significantly wacky, game-changing Easter egg that makes the entire effort worthwhile.
That Easter egg owes each its story justification and its degree of meta weirdness to Hachi, which is admittedly what units Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 aside. It is nonetheless a basic Castlevania homage at coronary heart, however it has an eccentricity that feels proper at residence alongside the enormous kitty-cats of Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night time. When a sport appears to be having this a lot enjoyable at its personal expense, it is exhausting to not take part.