I never thought we’d receive a game just like Castlevania 1 and 3 again in the modern era. But then along came Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon. The game is surprisingly simple to play. Inti Creates took the time to recreate the look and feel of an NES Castlevania, but you don’t need a lot of finesse to play the game. Walk right, bop a few enemies, whip the lamps, repeat. And yet, I must give credit to Curse of the Moon for simply existing.
There are four playable characters, but I found that only a couple of them are actually useful. There is a female vampire hunter, with a whip, who will knock out most enemies directly in front of you. Also playable is someone who looks to be an outright vampire, who can turn into a bat. This presents an interesting problem I have witnessed in other games as well: you can simply fly over the most difficult parts of a level, but only for a limited time. I had the exact same criticism of Pinobee, a Game Boy Advance launch game. In Pinobee, however, you can fly forever. In Curse, you can fly for a limited time, which is more forgivable. The other characters aren’t worth selecting.
There is an interesting quirk in Curse of the Moon, however–you can switch characters at any time using L and R, and they all have independent life bars. This is particularly useful for boss fights, where one playable character’s health gets low, and you just switch to someone else. About those boss fights…. As you progress, the bosses get harder and harder. I had a boss who created a wind vortex, pushing me off the stage. I had a boss who electrified every single surface in the room. But there’s a trick to defeating all of them. Again, when one character’s health is low, just play as someone else.
Curse of the Moon apes the look and feel of an NES game, but widescreen. I think they did a good job. I remember Mega Man 9 and 10, though solid, were lacking in detailed backgrounds. The same is true here. The music sounds authentically chiptune. I’ve been messing around in a high-level framework called MonoGame, and there’s no reason Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon couldn’t be made atop a framework like this one. You might want to throw in Tiled, a map-making utility, or if you’re old-school, use graph paper to start. I just want to repeat … there was polish to the original Castlevania games that is missing here. However, this genre has been brought back from the dead by Inti Creates. You’ve got to start somewhere.
In the end, Curse of the Moon is short, too easy, lacking in detailed backgrounds, but otherwise just like an NES game of yore. I can imagine modders or fans hacking the game to increase difficulty. As I said, it’s a miracle this game exists. I heard the sequel is the better between the two Curse titles we got, but the grass is always greener elsewhere. I must deduct points for basic graphics, and boring, easy levels. But with some extra time in the oven, this game is not beyond saving. A loving homage, to a bygone era.