Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, Xbox One, Switch
Konami has largely given up on the Castlevania franchise. After less than a year since its launch, even before it could get into international markets, Konami’s latest Castlevania mobile game is being shut down. And yet, the Castlevania fanbase is still desperate for more content.
Luckily, famed Castlevania developer Koji Igaraashi and Inti-Creates are here to pick up where Konami left off. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night was one of the best metroidvanias of recent times, but what about that classic Castlevania feel? Well, that’s what Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon is for, and it just got a sequel in Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2.
Monsters and bosses
As before, the gameplay is very reminiscent of Castlevania 3. You’ll go from stage to stage, tearing your way through monsters, defeating bosses, and eventually building yourself up to face the big-bad at the end. Bosses operate much the same they did in the first Curse of the Moon, in that they are huge affairs that attack with desperation attacks once you finish them off.
In Curse of the Moon 1, you had to make a choice between recruiting a character to your team or killing that character to power up your main character Zangetsu. This system has been removed in Curse of the Moon 2. Instead, the method by which you power-up is different depending on what episode you are playing.
In episode 1 you just make your way through each stage as per normal, and after the first four stages, you automatically recruit three new allies. Robert is a long-range character with low health that makes use of guns and other military ordnance. Dominique is a spear-wielding exorcist who can heal the party, call on elements, and attack with a pogo attack reminiscent of Shovel Knight. Hachi is a corgi who drives a steampunk mech-suit (yes, that is as awesome as it sounds) who has a ton of HP, can hover for a limited amount of time, and can turn himself invincible by using weapon power.
You fight your way to the end of the game, collect a few power-ups, beat the boss, but the game isn’t over yet.
In episode 2 you start with your allies, opening up new routes in the first few stages. This time around your goal is to collect three sacred swords to give Zangetsu the powerful Zanmatou, so you’ll be exploring a little more.
If you fail to get the Zanmatou you’ll get to play episode EX, where Zangetsu teams up with the three characters from Circle of the Moon 1 to mount an assault on the final boss.
Finally, the final episode changes the structure of the game from a linear one into a more Mega Man styled one. You now can select any stage you like, in any order. Each stage has two permanent upgrades to find, and a character to recruit. You can attack the final boss at any time (similar to Mega Man X5) but the more characters and upgrades you pick up, the better your chances. Taking on the game with a full party of seven characters, each with their own fully upgraded stats and weapons, is an absolute delight.
The biggest problem with the game is that it’s repetitive. There are four different core episodes and each reuses the same stages, the same enemies, and the same bosses. While, yes, you do get new characters which let you take new routes, these new routes are basically optional. You could, if you wanted to, go through the same stages the same way FOUR TIMES! Even if you do opt for new routes and explore to your heart's content, it still feels like you are doing the same thing again and again and again.
While the twist in the final episode, opening up the game in a more Mega Man style was really cool, it had some drawbacks. There was no way to tell where you were supposed to go to find upgrades. You basically had to just search through the level over and over again until you stumbled into them. Sometimes you’ll discover a new upgrade only to find that the character you need for it is dead. Then you’ll have to kill each character, one by one, just to spend a life, just to get a second chance on picking it up, and it’s tedious.
The characters, too, are a little imbalanced. Hachi and Gebel are the best characters in the game, with the fewest weapon options. They are the most mobile, by far, allowing you to skip over huge platforming sections. Hachi can make bosses a joke by just turning on invincibility and powering through them. I just wish that the other characters each had their own mobility options so that it wasn’t always correct to play as these two, especially since fighting with the other characters was much more fun.
But despite my nit-picks, Curse of the Moon 2 is a really great game. I played it front to back in a matter of 10-ish hours, 100-percenting it along the way. It is exactly what you expect it to be, a satisfying throwback to 8-bit Castlevania that does what the first Curse of the Moon did, but more and better. While I certainly see areas that can be improved, I’m more than willing to wait for those improvements in Curse of the Moon 3.