‘Spiritual successor’ and ‘crowdfunded’ can be troublesome words in game development.
An excuse to churn out a game with brand recognition for little investment from a studio. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night does not fall into this category.
Former Castlevania developer Koji Igarashi took the time to iron out a wonderfully crafted passion project. Taking his years of experience and feedback from a loyal fan base to heart to create a worthy spiritual successor.
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night launched on all consoles in June, picking up where Castlevania: Symphony of the Night left off 22 years ago.
The ‘Spiritual Successors’
As mentioned the term spiritual successor can be a great hook when developing a crowdfunding project. Tapping into an already established and dedicated fan base, the project practically funds itself.
Leaving little work for the actual development team in terms of raising money and promoting the project. That can be an early warning the team are likely to put as much effort into actually developing their game.
Cashing their cheques and leaving fans with a dull uninspired clone of a decades-old release. One of the best examples of this was the failed Mega Man successor, Mighty No. 9.
Mighty No. 9
A crowdfunded project from Mega Man character designer Keiji Inafune. After Capcom allowed their beloved series to stagnate for over 20 years. Amid a storm of crowdfunded successors from a few years ago, Mighty No. 9 was easily the most anticipated.
The game earned over four times its’ original goal of $900,000 raising just shy of $4 million total. With nearly 70,000 backers the game featured a full credit sequence that ran over 3 hours and 48 minutes.
Even more shocking the entire game could be completed in less time, with run-throughs averaging 3-5 hours. It was a colossal disappointment with poor graphics, performance issues and painfully mediocre gameplay.
After three years in development, some even labelled it the most disappointing game of all time. Meanwhile, creator Inafune defended his game with an appropriately apathetic response of, “It’s better than nothing.”
Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon and Kickstarter Development
Fans are understandably sceptical of crowdfunded games following an explosion of poor clones in the past three years. Many projects fail to live up to the promises from the campaign and Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night was not without its’ issues.
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night was one of the most successful Kickstarter games ever, raising over $5.5 million. But the early trailer was panned by hopeful fans for an ugly aesthetic by 2019 standards.
The team took the criticism on board, redesigning a lot of the level textures and character animations. Igarashi featured in a new trailer prior to the game’s release showcasing the graphical improvements they’d made.
Igarashi also fulfilled a significant stretch goal by releasing an 8-bit prequel, Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon, a year prior. The retro style title exhibited a lot of the games features and introduced fans to the lore and characters.
Several bosses return, rendered in the new art style for Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. Curse of the Moon received largely positive reviews and Igarashi has translated that gameplay perfectly to the final project.
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
The game is intended as a direct successor the last major console released Castlevania game, Symphony of the Night. Often lauded as the pinnacle of the popular game series, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night had some big shoes to fill.
One of the biggest success of the game is feeling like a genuine sequel to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. The gameplay is familiarly gratifying and the setting is a genuine pleasure to explore.
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night does offer a number of modern updates on the series, mostly in customisation. There are cosmetic options to change the default model but it’s the open-ended play styles where the game thrives.
There is an abundance of weapons, powers, abilities and familiars to create seemingly endless combinations. The game is easily tailored to a specific play style once a player can collect their ideal combinations.
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is the perfect example of what a spiritual successor should be. It’s engaging with modern tweaks but faithfully loyal to the source material and wishes of long term fans.