Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 Review – More of the Same, But Better.

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 is a side-scrolling platformer released for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. The sequel to 2018’s Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon, this Castlevania-throwback experience features new characters, stages, and even 2-player co-op. Having recently beaten the game’s Final Chapter, I’ll briefly discuss the best and not-so-best parts of ArtPlay and IntiCreates’ latest title.

For anyone wondering, Koji Igarashi‘s studio, ArtPlay, developed the spiritual successor to Castlevania, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. Inti Creates, known for Mega Man Zero and Gunvolt, developed the 8-bit Curse of the Moon titles. While they feature similar characters and settings, Curse of the Moon’s storyline spins off from Ritual of the Night’s. Thus, the two are not interetwined.

While I find CotM 2 to be quite an improvement over the first game, I think it still clings to some of the previous title’s fundamental flaws. For one, I don’t really need an excuse to replay a game just for a few different gimmicks. If I want to replay the game, i would rather do it on my own terms instead of being cheesed into unlocking the true ending. That aside, however, its presentation offers a stellar job with boss battles, levels, and gameplay.

Story

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 follows the plot of the first title. However, Zangetsu is now accompanied by new companions. These include Dominique, the exorcist from Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, a sniper named Robert, and a mech-piloting corgi named Hachi.

The story’s straightforward narrative involves going to a castle and slaying the demons to save the world. However, it takes some interesting twists within the game’s replay formula. Each one follows an ending, a new chapter, and an opening. Each of these chapters also affects the lineup of your party.

While little changes regarding the level designs, the final boss will be altered in both Chapter 2 and the Final Chapter. There are four different chapters and the final one features the true ending. Additionally, some of the dialogue among party members ends up rather humorous. Between that and the cutscenes that play between chapters, it becomes a bit more worth replaying the chapters with a slight change of pace.

Audiovisual

Much like its predecessor, Bloodstained follows the classic NES Castlevania aesthetic. The 8-bit title features an array of gorgeous colors and boss animations. Similar to Shovel Knight, the game presents various levels, bosses, and design choices far surpassing the NES’ own capabilities.

The chiptune music provides a selection of fast-paced music fitting for a Castlevania-esque title. I found the tunes to be catchy and at times quite engaging, such as The Demon’s Crown. I was also quite fond of the boss theme.

Gameplay

The 2D action gameplay features platforming, the ability to switch between multiple characters, and exploring non-linear stages. This means you can choose different paths to clear the stage depending on the characters you have available. Additionally, each character has their own playstyle.

Unfortunately, I was not at all fond of using Robert. While he served to be a sniper with long-range capabilities, he had no way of protecting himself up close. He felt woefully out of place in this game since his mechanics made clearing stages or bosses extremely difficult if not impossible.

Another slight issue I had was with Zangetsu. He gains a more powerful sword later in the game which gives him vertical slashe and multi-strikes. After Chapter 2, however, if the player didn’t hunt down the secret sword, they would lose it to the basic Zanmatou in the EX Episode. I feel downgrading abilities from a player is a big no-no.

Bloodstained also once again goes the route of “beat game and replay” ad nauseam. They try to write a different chapter of the tale but you’re really just repeating the game again with a slightly different roster in the 2nd chapter or the CotM 1 cast in the EX Chapter. By the final chapter, you have everyone, albeit briefly, to collect parts to reach the final level. But you’re just doing the same stages over again.

The developers would benefit greatly from creating more new stages to go with each stage rather than force the player to do the same game four times to get the final ending. Sonic Heroes is one example of a game that makes the player replay the exact same game, with slight differences, just to get the best ending.

Final Thoughts

I will admit that I greatly enjoyed the co-op in this title. The 2-player co-op allows players to jump in and exit anytime. While it’s limited to offline play, it still offers players to work together to defeat bosses or even access hidden areas.

Another good part was the difficulty level. The Veteran difficulty was tough as nails. Casual Mode offers its own challenge as the stage layout and enemies don’t change. After Episode 2, I switched to Casual Mode because I didn’t feel any need to play the same game again. I just wanted to finish the story. Furthermore, the bosses just become HP sponges on later chapters and it’s no longer enjoyable to fight them and mimic the same pattern each time.

Bloodstained does a great job of presenting a classic 2D platforming experience. However, it still relies heavily on gimmicks like forced replay or unbalanced characters in a side-scroller. Even compared to Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, it was at least possible to solo the game with Trevor, Sypha, Grant, or Alucard.

Despite these mild shortcomings, Circle of the Moon 2 is well-worth the purchase. Even if it’s just one playthrough, you’ll surely find an enjoyable challenge and experience through the title. If you’re missing classic 2D Castlevania action or just enjoyed the first Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon title, it’s recommended giving it a try. I found the level designs to be vastly improved and more varied than the first Curse of the Moon title.

Whether you decide to continue with the replay chapters or not is up to you. However, I recommend at least playing through it once to all classic gaming fans who seek a real challenge.

Verdict: 8/10

Why Skies of Arcadia Deserves to Be Remastered on Modern Consoles.

Sega‘s heralded JRPG, Skies of Arcadia, originally released for the Dreamcast in 2000. When the Sega Dreamcast ended its early run in the console market, Sega opted to port some of its hit Dreamcast titles to consoles of the era. Among them included the JRPG, rebranded now as Skies of Arcadia: Legends, for the Nintendo GameCube.

Skies of Arcadia starts the Sky Pirate, Vyse, and his childhood friend, Fina. They’re Sky Pirates initially taking jobs before fighting against the Valuan Empire. Along the way, they meet Fina, a girl from the Silver Civilization, and more companions along the way. During their resistance against the empire, they’ll build a crew for their airship, fight through dungeons, and even battle airships.

While Skies of Arcadia was loved for its character design, soundtrack, and setting, hindsight is only 20/20. Despite its wondrous and popular aesthetic, Skies of Arcadia suffered from some more common JRPG flaws, These will appear later in the article.

While Skies of Arcadia has only made cameo appearances in Sega titles since the GameCube release, players want to revisit this world again. Ideally, perhaps Sega could not just re-release the title for modern consoles but remaster it with modern quality-of-life improvements.

Rogue’s Landing stage from Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. (2012)

What Made Skies of Arcadia Special

People embraced Skies of Arcadia for its character design, music, and unique setting. Unlike any other game past, you were a Sky Pirate who sailed across the sky. The world was divided by islands and you used an airship to explore.

Its battle system entailed the use of SP. In addition to MP for magic spells, SP offered another layer of depth. These powerful strikes offered impressive cinematics while your character unleashed a devastating blow on the enemy.

The locales, the characters, and even having a pirate crew charmed its players. Perhaps also due to its limited releases, its novelty value remains high among its fans.

What a Proper Remaster Could Entail

Despite its best intentions, Skies of Arcadia suffered from its own series of flaws. Even though Legends attempted to lower the encounter rate, in comparison to other JRPGs, it was still considerably high. It was also no secret that the player would get lost at times without consulting a guide.

Skies of Arcadia’s ship battles moved like molasses. Thanks to the over-emphasis on cutscenes, the animations, and long HP bars could make fights take up to 45 minutes long. This was followed by a boss battle which, if you lost, you would have to do all over again.

The title does not need to focus on improving aesthetics outside of your usual HD Remaster such as Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster. Rather, some quality of life improvements would breathe new life into the game.

ACT FFX HD Remaster Comparison
Final Fantasy X (2001, Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster (2013, 2015)

Final Thoughts

I feel ambivalent towards Skies of Arcadia. On one hand, I love its characters, especially Gilder, Fina, and Vyse. On the other hand, it was a slog to play through. I hated that I lost near the final boss fight because I was under-leveled and forced to grind.

Despite this, I know it has the potential to be an even better game. I would love to see it return, better than before, by Sega’s grace. Whether through an HD Remaster, remake, or even a sequel, here’s hoping Sega will revisit the Blue Rogues once more.

Did you play Skies of Arcadia or Legends? Let us know in the replies below. As always, be sure to follow our social media pages below to bring the latest gaming content with you!

 

 

Hello, readers!  I just to say that SEGA Forever was buzzing a little bit about Skies or Arcadia.  While this isn’t a guaranty, we thought it might show promise.

‘Sorry to people that thought that my promotion of the article made this click bait.  It wasn’t my intention or John Rinyu’s fault.

‘Sorry for any confusion and/or frustration.

-HERETICPRIME

Why Hasn’t Ninja Gaiden Resurfaced in Years?

KoeiTecmo and Team Ninja‘s legendary action series, Ninja Gaiden, debuted on the Arcades and the NES in 1988. While the former was an arcade beat ’em up, the latter featured a trilogy of Castlevania-inspired platformers. As a result, Ninja Gaiden saw success with its NES trilogy.

Ninja Gaiden (1988) was among the first video games to feature cutscenes.

However, after the initial release of the series, as well as the SNES remake, Ninja Gaiden fell off the map. Despite Team Ninja’s decision to put Ryu Hayabusa into their hit Dead or Alive fighting game series, Ninja Gaiden would remain buried for more than a decade. However, two years after the release of Capcom’s popular 3D action title, Devil May Cry, Team Ninja decided to bring Ryu Hayabusa back from the dead.

Ninja Gaiden Rebooted

Featuring similar action, yet fine-tuned with incredible speed and bloodier animation, Ninja Gaiden came out on Xbox in 2004. Known for its ruthless difficulty, the title was followed shortly after by two successful re-releases: Ninja Gaiden Black and Ninja Gaiden Sigma, the latter which was an HD-upscaled release for PlayStation 3.

Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus (2012)

Ninja Gaiden would become a hit 3D Action series throughout the 2000s. Team Ninja would follow up with 2008’s Ninja Gaiden II for Xbox 360. Unfortunately, internal issues would force series Producer, Tomonobu Itagaki, out from Team Ninja. His colleague, Yosuke Hayashi, was in charge of Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 and the sequel, Ninja Gaiden III.

Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 (2009)

Unfortunately, Ninja Gaiden III would release to poor reviews. While Team Ninja released Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword for Nintendo DS, they also opted to release Ninja Gaiden III: Razor’s Edge for the Wii U. Despite the momentum the series carried with its first two games, even the re-release, Ninja Gaiden III: Razor’s Edge, would scarcely fair any better.

Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword (2008)

The Future of Ninja Gaiden

Since 2013, Ninja Gaiden has not seen a new game released on any platform. Team Ninja has since focused heavily on the Dead or Alive series. One theory might suggest that Ninja Gaiden III’s poor reception has kept Team Ninja from wanting to risk releasing another title.

Another theory might come from Team Ninja exerting their efforts into their latest hit series, Nioh. Derived from Japanese mythology and history, Nioh took the elements of Dark Souls while adding its own hardcore take. Furthermore, it features its own set of references and Easter Eggs.

Now that Nioh 2 has been released, Team Ninja may have freed up their schedule. While Nioh 2’s DLC will still come out over the next year, players want to know if they will return to Ninja Gaiden. With a new console generation coming, players want to return to playing as the world’s most badass ninja.

Keep in mind that the time span between Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom (NES) and Ninja Gaiden (Xbox) spanned 13 years. While only seven years have passed since the release of Razor’s Edge, one can only hope that Team Ninja has not forgotten about their stellar action series that helped put them on the map.

Which Ninja Gaiden title was your favorite? Let us know in the comments below. Also, be sure to follow our social media channels below for the latest gaming content to take with you!

Dragon Quest XI S Coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Steam.

Last week, Square-Enix confirmed that Dragon Quest XI S would come to major consoles and PC later this year. Originally released in the west, in 2018, Dragon Quest XI came out to rave reviews when it debuted on the PlayStation 4 and PC. While the original Japanese version came out for 3DS, Square-Enix prepared a re-release for the title shortly after its overseas debut.

Dragon Quest XI S, a Nintendo Switch exclusive re-release, featured the 2D mode showcased in the Japanese 3DS version. However, this version of the game also added new cutscenes, storylines, bosses, and even endings to the game. This stellar level of content warranted a replay for veteran fans while introducing new ones to a fantastic JRPG. However, the latest announcement by Square-Enix ensures that Dragon Quest XI S will now be playable for owners of any modern console.

The Significance of Dragon Quest XI S

This title showcased a phenomenal level of polish from a 110-hour game. While America always struggled to embrace Japan’s long-loved series, Square-Enix added an extra dose of marketing to appeal to a larger fanbase. However, Nintendo took it even a step further the following year.

In 2019, Nintendo announced Dragon Quest XI S for Nintendo Switch. This is followed by E3 2019 where Nintendo features the game’s Hero as a new character for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Shortly after, they would follow it with a new trailer for the game. Upon its release, Square-Enix would later go onto mention the game succeeded.

For PlayStation and PC fans, this is a return to form with new content not featured in the original release. For Xbox fans, this is the debut of Dragon Quest. This is also the first JRPG featuring Akira Toriyama’s creative designs since Blue Dragon released on Xbox 360 in 2007. Ultimately, everyone can now enjoy the definitive edition of this legendary title.

Final Thoughts

I found Dragon Quest XI to be one of the best games I ever played. I personally rank it up with Persona 5 Royal as one of the best JRPGs of the current generation. Its charming character design, writing, aesthetics, and battle system all hit excel points. It never forced level grinding, save for an optional encounter, and proved to have a solid challenge for those who sought it.

I did not play Dragon Quest XI S, however, as I felt satisfied with my first playthrough of the original release. Despite this, I’m currently entertaining myself with Persona 5 Royal which grants me a 100+ hour replay after beating Persona 5. With that being said, I can’t say I’m not considering playing through Dragon Quest XI S at some point.

If you’re looking for a title that paces itself well, both in story and in gameplay, Square-Enix’s masterpiece will suit your needs. It’s a worthy addition to anyone’s library. With the multiplatform release of the Definitive Edition, I strongly recommend playing this title.

Dragon Quest XI S comes to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on December 4th, 2020. You can pre-order the game now. Be sure to follow up with us on AllCoolThings by following our social media pages below!

Balan Wonderworld, New 3D Platformer Developed by Sonic the Hedgehog Creators, Coming in 2021.

Balan Wonderworld is an upcoming 3D platformer developed by the creators of Sonic the Hedgehog. Helmed by Yuji Naka and Naoto Ohshima, Square-Enix’s upcoming title will herald the return of two platforming legends from the heydays of Sega and Sonic Team. This will also debut their new development studio, Balan Company.

What makes Balan Wonderworld significant?

Naoto Ohshima created Sonic the Hedgehog while Yuji Naka programmed the original Genesis titles. Yuji Naka would later lead Sonic Team in developing Sonic titles before leaving Sega in 2006. His last original platformer that featured a mascot character was Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg for GameCube in 2003. Perhaps the most striking resemblance this has to Naka’s past work, however, is NiGHTS into dreams…

While Naoto Ohshima had continued developing games outside of Sega since 2001, he would find success in creating his own mascot platformer, Blinx the Time Sweeper, for Xbox. His studio, Artoon, would later go on to develop Yoshi’s Island DS. Once Artoon disbanded, Ohshima founded Azrest, which would develop games for Nintendo franchises, such as Yoshi’s New Island and Hey! Pikmin for 3DS.

With that being said, this is the first time Naka and Ohshima have teamed up together in decades. For fans of classic Sonic the Hedgehog and NiGHTS Into dreams…, this game feels like the return of an important era.

You can learn more about the title from the official website here.

Releasing in the perfect timeframe.

Balan Wonderworld will release during an era where 3D platforms have seen a massive boom. While Nintendo has pressed on with successful titles, like Super Mario Odyssey, only in the last few years have 3D platformers seen mainstream success in the gaming market once more.

Former Banjo-Kazooie developers founded Playtonic Games, creating Yooka-Laylee. Independent studios, such as Playful Studios, succeeded with games like New Super Lucky’s Tale for Nintendo Switch.

Meanwhile, Insomniac Studios‘ reboot of Ratchet and Clank in 2016 set the groundwork for the upcoming title Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart. Plus, developers Vicarious Visions and Toys for Bob remade classic PlayStation titles in the form of Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy and Spyro Reignited Trilogy, respectively. In the former’s case, Toys for Bob is currently developing Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

Final Thoughts

As a longtime platforming fan, I’m glad to see the creators of Sonic working on a new project. I’m almost intrigued to play Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg and NiGHTS into dreams…, the latter being released on the PlayStation Store for PS3. If nothing else, I suppose I could watch a playthrough on YouTube.

It would be fun to delve into Yuji Naka’s earlier works before this title comes out. While Sega has catered to fans with references to both games over the years, fans truly loved these original titles and want to see their creativity return.

While some 3D platformers have floundered with titles, like Sonic Forces in 2017, their releases have otherwise come few and far in between. However, thanks to the efforts of Insomniac Studios, Toys for Bob, and now Balan Company, platforming fans can rest assured; the era is back.

Look forward to Balan Wonderworld when it comes out for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PC, and Nintendo Switch in Spring 2021. Keep up with us and follow our site for incoming updates on Balan Wonderworld!

Koji Igarashi Announces Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2.

Earlier this week, Koji Igarashi (IGA), founder of ArtPlay, announced a sequel to 2017’s retro 8-bit love-letter to the classic Castlevania series, Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon. The title will receive a sequel featuring Zangetsu, main character of the first adventure, as well as three new playable characters replacing the playable cast from the first title.

About Bloodstained

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon serves as the spin-off precursor IGA’s larger project, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. With the former title, developed by Inti Creates, it served as a tribute to the NES Castlevania titles. Ritual of the Night, however, served as a successor to IGA’s own produced Castlevania titles. Bloodstained Curse of the Moon 2, however, already shows more promise given the trailer’s use of new stage design choices.

While Curse of the Moon felt like a proper love-letter to the original Castlevania titles, its design scope felt limited beyond a few incentives to replay. The sequel, however, already shows the kind of promise you might expect from a quality indie platformer such as Shovel Knight.

What makes Bloodstained special?

The NES Castlevania titles were known for their critically-acclaimed platforming. The original Castlevania title remains a favorite among NES fans to this day. The first entry featured Simon Belmont, the gothic horror enemies, 5 different sub-weapons, a killer soundtrack, and the first of many epic battles against Lord Dracula.

Koji Igarashi’s Metrodivania titles integrated even more storyline into the narrative ranging from Alucard fighting his father, Dracula, to Soma Cruz, protagonist of Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, discovering he was Dracula’s reincarnation. The exploration and map system borrowed heavily from Nintendo’s Metroid series while the RPG elements allowed you to equip weapons, armor, spells, and level up with EXP.

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon continued the former’s tradition by allowing you to switch characters like in Castlevania III. Ritual of the Night took over Symphony of the Night and onward’s formula, allowing you to explore the castle to your heart’s content. Also note that Circle of the Moon (CotM) itself is a reference to Castlevania: Circle of the Moon which was released on GBA in 2001.

Final Thoughts

If you enjoy platforming titles, we strongly recommend checking out Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon. As with Shovel Knight, it serves as a love-letter to classic 8-bit platforming with a polished sheen, epic boss battles, and even replay incentives.

I found Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night to be a fine game. The series already shows that it features the spirit of Castlevania in many ways. As someone who also feels great disappointment in Konami’s performance – or lack thereof – over the past decade, IGA has yet to let us down.

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 will release on July 10th, 2020. Keep up with us as we cover ArtPlay and IntiCreates‘ latest title. The title will also feature a 2-player co-op mode. If you are seeking more info on Bloodstained, follow us on our social media links below. We’ll keep you updated with Curse of the Moon 2 here.