Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon by Inti Creates is the precursor to Kickstarter darling BloodStained: Ritual of the Night—itself a sword and whip spiritual successor to the Castlevania series. Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon is not just an 8-bit inspired retro gimmick, either: it’s the Castlevania successor I didn’t even realize I wanted. What was meant to be something that helps hype Ritual of the Night ends up standing as a great experience on its own.
Everything in Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon looks and sounds authentic to retro-NES—just without the hardware limitations, slowdowns, and ghosting visuals that the Nintendo Entertainment System was known for. From the limited color palette to the music, it feels authentic to the NES era, despite its smoothness—made possible by today’s beefier hardware.
In Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon you play as the demon slayer Zangetsu. Eventually you will run into others who would help you in your quest, each with their own unique abilities that will aid you on your way.
There are two ways to play: casual mode and veteran mode. Casual mode makes thing a little easier, but isn’t a free pass to get through the levels. You get infinite lives, and are immune to pushback when you take damage—something that is faithfully recreated from the Castlevania games for Curse of the Moon. Veteran mode enables the pushback, as well as setting life limitations. It’s really the way the game is meant to be played, especially if you want the retro experience.
The combat is a little smoother than the original NES Castlevania, making mastering the various enemy types interesting instead of frustrating. Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon takes a lot of notes from Castlevania with its combat as well including special attacks that can be changed out with pickups. These special attacks draw from a centralized energy store, which is shared among the characters. Eventually, you will have an entire entourage of four characters that you can switch between. If one dies, though, you are stuck without them until you use another life.
Boss fights are actually pretty detailed, and one of the highlights of Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon. It’s also one of the parts I take most issue with. The bosses themselves are pretty impressive looking, with lots of attention to small details. Each of these bosses has a move set which you can learn, but that’s where I start to take issue. Instead of taking an approach that allows you to learn moves and mitigate damage, it seems like Curse of the Moon wants to teach you by hurting you. I take special issue with the bosses’ death moves—when they die, a boss will try to inflict a final pain onto your character. That’s okay, but it’s done in a way that is unnecessarily tricky, and that can undo an entire run.
There are challenge modes available once you beat the main mode. This offers a bunch of replayability with harder levels and challenges than the initial game provides.
Designed as a promotional tool for Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night and as a Kickstarter perk, this 8-bit throwback is great on its own. Though it’s a little short, Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon is worth checking out.
Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon is available now on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita and Steam