Eleven years. That’s how long it's been since the last classic 2D Metroidvania (or "Igavania") entry in the Castlevania series, Order of Ecclesia. Nintendo threw in the towel on their end, too, after Metroid: Other M in 2010. With those two series seemingly dying (as fans knew them), it put Metroidvanias in a weird place.
Thanks to dedicated fans, though, the genre wasn’t completely gone. Axiom Verge, Hollow Knight, Guacamelee, and so many others came out to replace what was so dearly missing in the industry. Bloodstained is a good sort of spiritual successor to the classic Castlevania titles, but it also plays some things a little too close to the chest. Let’s compare the two to see which reigns supreme.
10 Better: The Voice Acting
There are no buts about it. Bloodstained has a great voice cast. Compared to Symphony of the Night’s terrible localization, this is pure Shakespearean gold. What really puts it over the top, personally, is getting to hear David Hayter again.
As good as Kiefer Sutherland was as Big Boss in Metal Gear Solid V, it sucked that Hayter didn’t get to reprise his classic role. So if the idea of a samurai Solid Snake sounds cool, pick this up!
9 Worse: The Lack Of Iconic Cheese
The voice acting is better, sure, but there is also some much-needed charm missing in Bloodstained. As bad as the lines were in Symphony of the Night, they shaped gaming culture. “What is a man?”
That’s a classic meme everyone knows! Bloodstained has the talent, but it lacks the cheese by taking itself too seriously. Although, it could be argued that including David Hayter is like the ultimate cheese, but that’s a debate for another day.
8 Better: Quest Integration
From Symphony of the Night to the last proper Castlevania game, Order of Ecclesia, every game is bursting with content. There is always tons of extra stuff to see and do. However, the one thing they lacked that Bloodstained brought to the table was quests.
It’s a simple idea that most RPGs have as a standard, but not Castlevania. Frankly, they didn’t need them. And yet the concept of laying the dead to rest or slaying a specific set of monsters works so well in Bloodstained.
7 Worse: Art Style
It looked ugly before they added the cel-shading and it looks just as ugly now. At the end of the day, that change was a rushed pallet swap and it’s quite easy to tell. Games like Uncharted: The Lost Legacy incorporate various unlockable new pallet swaps from monochrome to 8-Bit.
They change the look, but because they weren’t designed from the ground up with those filters in mind, they don’t look as good. That’s why Bloodstained looks a bit off. For so many retro fans, the pixel art of the Castlevania games cannot be beaten.
6 Better: Powers
Castlevania has experimented with various powers over the years. Yes, a lot of these skills were gained when defeating monsters, much like in this game. However, Bloodstained feels like the ultimate culmination of everything before it.
Not only does nearly every monster have a skill, but also those abilities can be stacked to become more powerful through alchemy, or doubling up on drops. Like the quests, it adds a lot more to do and it doesn’t feel like busywork either.
5 Worse: Music
Okay so this might get this guy in hot water, but the Castlevania series and Bloodstained don’t have many memorable soundtracks. That is to say Castlevania peaked with the first three games, which have music just as iconic and catchy as anything Mario has to offer.
Everything else from that point on all sounded the same. Cool Baroque music bro. However, compared to any of the "Igavanias," Bloodstained loses out by a small fraction. Okay, bring on the hate mail.
4 Better: Weapon Variety
Maybe it’s been too long since this one has played a proper entry in the Castlevania series, but weapons in Bloodstained sure are great. There were plenty of choices in all of the "Igavanias," but this game just feels more coherent.
They may share similar types like whips, spears, and swords, but Bloodstained has one leg up on Castlevania without a doubt: combos. Throughout the game there are library shelves. Some have simple lore entries while others list weapon combos akin to moves found in Street Fighter. The harder the combo is to pull off, the cooler and more powerful it becomes.
3 Worse: The Bosses
Except for a few standouts, like the first encounter with Zangetsu, Bloodstained is really lacking in unique bosses. A lot of them look like Power Rangers rejects. That’s a bummer, considering all of the bosses set up in prequel Curse of the Moon were all fantastic, both in terms of visuals and the mechanics of the battles themselves.
Castlevania reuses a lot of bosses too, to the point that some encounters could be virtually from any entry. However, they were there first, so this point goes to Castlevania.
2 Better: Castle Layout
Gebel (the stand-in for Dracula as the main villain) and his castle may not be as iconic as the legendary vampire and his own abode. In fact, it feels like a cheap bootleg by comparison. However, the layout is a lot better.
That is to say it was a lot harder to get lost. The game didn’t even add waypoints like Nintendo did with Metroid Zero Mission, which instructed players where to go. Bloodstained doesn’t directly hold hands with gamers, but the flow of the layout just felt right. It’s not without obstacles, but what game doesn’t have small hindrances?
1 Worse: The Name
Let’s really get into the nitty gritty and talk names. Now, Castlevania can be broken down as so: “Castle” was chosen because the location of the first game set up the evils of Dracula’s home, duh. The “vania” part comes from Transylvania, a popular mythical area where vampires are supposedly from. Put those two together and boom, a classic is born.
Let’s get to Bloodstained. “Blood” comes from, well, the amount of blood one spills by killing monsters. “Stained” then comes from stained glass, a thematic architecture found within Gebel’s castle and on Miriam’s body. It’s not a bad portmanteau, but again, Castlevania is perfect. Servicable, sure, but a little too generic-sounding to be likely to sprout a decades-long franchise.