Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is an auteur project by the creator of Symphony of the Night after he left Konami. Like many SotN fans, I was excited for it.

This is porn. Having played Order of Ecclesia, I was prepared for some skeeviness when I heard there was a female PC, but I was unprepared for just how far Igarashi was willing to go now that he had access to full 3D. I returned it the day after I bought it, because I simply couldn’t stomach it.

The opening informs us that, similarly to Shanoa from Ecclesia, the protagonist was subjected to horrific experiments that gave her magic superpowers. Instead of losing her personality in a magic accident, she fell into a coma for ten years, but the end result of making her completely dependent on her male handler is the same.

Once actual gameplay starts, we get to see that the protagonist is dressed in a petticoat designed to show off her enormous boobs, while the male characters are dressed in three layers. You can’t see it here, but her idle animation in these cutscenes is a ridiculously exaggerated hip sway. (Also, this is minor compared to everything else, but those horns are only an accessory, not an actual part of her body, because God forbid these “horrific experiments” change her body in any meaningful way, that might get in the way of players’ wank fantasies.)

Once we get control, we see that her animations are absolutely ridiculous and designed to show off her body as much as possible. Her default stance is to daintily stand on one foot, definitely something a warrior would do, and her default attack is a sexy kick. Not pictured here: when she uses an actual weapon, instead of swinging it normally like the Castlevania protagonists, she rotates her whole body to do a boobs-and-butt pose.

Then the first boss is a giant naked lady monster with a demonic mouth for a vagina.

Yes, really.

But the tipping point for me was discovering that every time you get a new ability, you have to watch a little animation of Miriam getting penetrated by a magic crystal while she screams in agony.

Every. Single. Time.

There is no non-porn explanation for this. The creators are absolutely getting off to this, and they absolutely expect the player to as well.

In addition to all of this, the game is just graphically sloppy. Of just the opening, which is the place you’d expect the most polish: The sense of connection between the rooms is terrible, which is important for a game centered around exploration. The deck of the ship has pouring, torrential rain; you go between the deck and the inside of the ship through holes in the ship’s ceiling, but there’s not even a hint of rain from the inside. Even worse, the save room is blatantly from the castle:

What is with those stairs leading into the foreground? I kept assuming there was some room they led to, but they’re just for decoration. And the very idea of massive stairs highlighted with carpet in a Metroidvania being purely decorative is utterly bizarre. The save room also doesn’t sway like the ship does, because it’s obviously supposed to be part of the castle, even though you haven’t reached the castle yet.

There’s also a bizarre mechanic where you activate cannons to break down the walls in your own ship, which is so stupid. Why does the ship have cannons pointed towards its own walls. Why is the ship untraversable without knocking down walls. This was reasonable in Castlevania where the castle explicitly was not supposed to make sense, but this isn’t part of the castle.

These graphical issues aren’t something you would necessarily quit over, but you’d expect an indie passion project to put more effort into. It gives the feeling that they did only the bare minimum, and then got back to modeling boobs.

So, nope. Your unbridled horniness lost you a customer, Igarashi. I play Metroidvanias for fun action adventure, not to watch sexy ladies getting brutalized. If you absolutely must make a porn game, be honest about it instead of cramming porn into an otherwise respectable game like an ugly tumor.

6 Comments

  1. mcbender says:

    It is very awkward that of all posts, this would be the one that reminded me this game exists. Despite everything you’ve said (which is, for better or worse, accurate), I looked into it a bit more and decided it might be worth trying in spite of this. I’m not going to encourage anyone to seek it out, and it has a lot of problems even beyond this skeevy stuff, but there is some decent gameplay and atmosphere to be had if you can look past it. I had been in a Castlevania kind of mood and this does scratch that itch (I got it at 60% discount, I would not have paid full price for this).

    First off: there’s an option in the menu to disable the “get new shards” animation (along with the associated screaming), and I cannot overemphasise how much this helps. I don’t think I would have been able to play the game without this.

    Second: you can, eventually, get an alternate costume for Miriam. It’s not perfect (it’s still a dress; especially given all the sliding and kicking she does, she really ought to be wearing trousers, but at least the alternate one is longer and has most of her legs covered by long boots), but I thought it was a significant improvement. At bare minimum, it goes up to her neck, and also keeps the odd glowiness of her legs from drawing the eye as much against the dark backgrounds. Unfortunately, it requires having the DLC package installed and can’t be acquired until something like 75% through the game.

    (I have some… questions… about Miriam’s default outfit. When you get access to the cooking system, you can see her turn her back to cook, and it turns out the dress is backless so you can see she has a giant crystal rose growing out of her back. Which, fine, that’s an actual physical change from the experimentation… but the lacing in front, and her proportions, imply the dress is corseted. How does a backless corset even work? It makes no sense.)

    I think the game unfortunately puts its worst foot forward, with the design issues you’ve highlighted in the ship and the gross sea-monster boss. Most of the other boss designs were inoffensive (with the exception of “Bloodless”, who is basically anime Elisabeth Bathory so you can imagine there’s some sexualisation there; though, frankly, that was handled more tastefully than I expected going in). I don’t understand why the ship sequence wasn’t better polished, especially since it was the demo. Most of the later environments looked better to me (though the stairs in the save rooms never do make sense).

    Also, while her idle stances never improve, I did think Miriam’s animations were a bit better with swords, greatswords, and katanas, which I spent the majority of the game using. Boots and daggers are the worst and it’s a bit unfortunate that’s what they chose to start her with. (It may have also helped that I played on Nintendo Switch in handheld mode, the small screen makes it easier to not look too hard at the animations.)

    My biggest complaint, if anything, is how grindy the game ends up being. In addition to all the shards (some of which have incredibly low drop rates), enemies drop all kinds of materials for the alchemy and cooking systems, which you use to make equipment and recovery items, and then you can also upgrade each shard (both by getting more copies and by doing alchemy, which requires loads more materials). It’s very tedious and unnecessary. I often enjoy systems like this (and I enjoyed aspects of this one), but it’s overcomplicated and not rewarding enough to justify it. Admittedly, I did think it was cute they had new food items give a permanent stat boost the first time you eat them, and justified it by saying a varied diet fights malnutrition.

    There are also skills you can learn from various weapon types and books in the environment, which of course require using fighting game inputs (which I’m not good at). This is neat, and some of them really do help make the combat more interesting… except, of course, they make you grind a ‘mastery’ bar by using them on enemies, and arbitrarily only let you use the skill with a small subset of weapons until you’ve filled it and can then use it with any weapon. This was totally unnecessary and created more tedium.

    There are lots of one-off wacky abilities and interactable environments, in a way I associate with Symphony of the Night, but a lot of it just ends up feeling overdesigned (but not necessarily polished). Questionable design decisions abound.

    A few notes on plot and characterisation:

    Personality-wise, Miriam is walking a fine line between ‘generic determined videogame protagonist’ and ‘Strong Female Character ™’ and I don’t know where I think she falls on that axis in the end. She’s more generic than she ought to be, given everything she’s supposed to have gone through, but that’s about the worst I can say of her.

    The plot is largely an Idiot Plot. There’s a mysterious old man (who is apparently Miriam’s former mentor) constantly speaking cryptically about how he has to find the Evil McGuffin Book and refusing to explain why, in a way that’s obviously designed to make him come across as villainous so you end up fighting him. There is no reason for him to speak this way except to foster the misunderstanding for the sake of plot (and, despite the game later trying to claim he wasn’t trying to kill her, just frighten her off, if you lose the fight with him Miriam still dies). This, of course, finally gets resolved in a scene where he dies and points you at the real villain; it’s just stupid. The rest of it is, by and large, typical Castlevania stuff, it’s fine but fairly bland (and some questions, such as ‘so why is it a castle?’ only make sense in terms of this being Castlevania with the serial numbers filed off).

    And, of course, the real villain ends up being a female NPC who’s been helping you most of the game but was actually lying and manipulating everyone. Of course, this is resolved by male NPCs figuring it out offscreen and telling you; Miriam’s role is largely reserved to ‘go places and kill things’.

    So, uh, final verdict? Very much a solid ‘meh’, though it was better than I expected given this. I don’t think anyone’s missing much for skipping it, especially given a lot of the skeevier elements. I will emphasise, again, all of the criticisms you’ve made here are valid. But I can’t say I didn’t enjoy playing it, nor that it didn’t remind me of the better Castlevanias.

    2
  2. Nerem says:

    SPOILERS AND STUFF:

    Ritual’s sister series, Curse of the Moon actually has a lot more about that NPC, and implies that the plot shown isn’t quite as straightforward as it seems.

    Also as for Alfred, he actually explains why he wasn’t so forthcoming earlier: Because Dominique was Miriam’s friend, and Alfred knew what she was up to (and she had already turned Johannes against him) so he was kind of trying to figure out how to scare Miriam and Johannes away and hopefully not have to kill them. He wasn’t super successful.

    As a note, Johannes is not Miriam’s handler, but basically her father. He raised her when she was young and cared about her which is why he is helping her now. He’s not a member of the Guild and hates them for what they did to Miriam (which is why it was so easy for Dominique to turn him against Alfred!)

    1. Nerem says:

      (Also it’s implied that the reason why it’s a castle is because it is where the Guild did the summoning that caused everything in the backstory… which is also Dracu–I mean, O-D’s Castle, who was implied to have been defeated by the guild and bent into servitude to them.

  3. Nerem says:

    Oh yeah, it’s funny you mention that all the men are dressed in three layers, since the only playable male character is completely shirtless in a sexy way.

    1. Interesting. Does he also moan sexily when penetrated by shards?

      ETA: If this is who you’re referring to, he is… not very shirtless. His coat covers his entire right side, and his left is covered in decals from his arm prosthetic. It’s definitely not on the level of, say, DMC3 Dante. I can see people finding him sexy, but it looks more to me like the shirtlessness is to show off his macho scars and muscles.

      1. Nerem says:

        He actually shows off a lot more skin in gameplay, since he is shirtless for the same basic reason that Miriam’s clothes show off her back – his fighting style requires unrestricted movement with his sword arm.

        https://img.gamewith.net/article/thumbnail/rectangle/9949.jpg

        So he ends up with his coat hanging like 80% off him while he’s attacking.

        He doesn’t have Shards though. He plays completely differently from Miriam, and is a straight-forward swordsman. All the unlockable characters don’t have much gameplay in common with Miriam, actually.

        Also the prequel/sequels Curse of the Moon 1 and 2 are interesting since they actually deal with various ramifications and possibilities of the Ritual of the Night plot. For example,

        Spoiler Inside SelectShow

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