My gaming fingers aren’t on the pulse of what’s new and modern nowadays. There are exceptions for favorite franchises, but otherwise I’m not in the know. So, when I learned that Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 was actually a thing I was surprised for multiple reasons. I thought the first game was great; did they need a second? Also, wasn’t the first game just a stretch goal for the original Bloodstained? Just what is going on? My guess is that the response for the first game had such an impact that it resulted in Inti Creates taking advantage of the retro-bug and churning out Curse of the Moon 2. I’m glad they did.
Zangetsu returns as the main character in Curse of the Moon 2. He’s been asked by the church to take down an army of demons that seem to be spawning from the moon. Joining Zangetsu is one of the church’s exorcists, Dominique. Both Zangetsu and Dominique are joined by friends familiar and new as they battle their way through forests, ice caverns, volcanoes, and mausoleums. The story is light, but snippets of dialogue and little interim campfire scenes (with super charming sprite work) give it some flair. The game plays in a linear fashion but there are multiple pathways to take in each stage, as well as multiple endings. Of course, it’s still a short game. And sometimes, it’s a repetitive one. Seeing all the endings simply means replaying the same stages over and over. It can get tedious.
Curse of the Moon 2’s gameplay brings back that tight, responsive, action platforming combat similar to the Castlevanias from days long-gone. There are three modes of difficulty so anyone is able to hop right in. Selecting the easiest difficulty means that enemies won’t knock you back when they hit you, and you’ll have an infinite number of retries. On the opposite end, the game’s hardest setting brings back the good, bad, and ugly of the things that made certain Nintendo games so difficult. That includes knock back and limited continues. Zangetsu uses a sword with a small range to fight a variety of supernatural enemies, blood hungry demons, and towering bosses. Hidden in breakable torches are bags of money, blue potions for Weapon Energy, and/or hearts to restore lost life. Torches with a purple hue hide sub-weapons. Zangetsu’s options are a whip that extends at a 45 degree angle, a scroll that places a bomb, and an Oni mask that increases his power.
Throughout the journey, others will join Zangetsu. These characters can be swapped with the push of a button. Dominque wields a long spear that can be used to reach enemies high above her. She also has the ability to use her spear as pogo-stick but it’s rarely a useful option, sadly. Robert wields a gun that can hit enemies from across the screen. Hachi, a welch corgi, rides in a massive suit of armor that can withstand lots of punishment and traverse dangerous terrain. Miriam, Alfred, and Gebel will eventually join Zangetsu, too. All of these characters have their own strengths, weaknesses, and set of sub-weapons. Going through the same stages multiple times can get redundant but having such a diverse group to mix things somewhat alleviates that. Every stage is littered with enemies and breakable objects. At the end of the stage is, you guessed it, a massive boss that is ready to burn, chomp, drown, or zap your team to oblivion. Getting to fight these feels like a just reward for going through the stages because they’re so damn fun.
The graphics are essentially the same as before. That is, to say, they’re fantastic. We still have a colorful, 8-bit retro look. The amount of color, detail, and texture is as impressive as ever. Take a moment to look at the levels. Take a moment to look at the boss designs (and try not to die – again). Take a moment to look at the little things. Curse of the Moon 2’s graphical style is special because it uses an 8-bit foundation and adds just the right amount of modern touches. Accompanying the graphics is a fitting, retro-instrumental score of music. While the tracks aren’t as catchy as before, they’re fun to listen to as you’re battling for Zangetsu’s and his comrade’s lives.
Note that even if you’re not familiar with the first game you can still hop on into this one. It doesn’t take long to see all there is to see in Curse of the Moon 2. But, games like this are timeless. It’s no trouble to pop the game in, select your favorite stage, and go through it just to kill some time. And, kill some demons. Inti Creates did it again. I enjoyed the first one more because of how unexpected it was, but Curse of the Moon 2 is still great. In terms of content, this one was way ahead of the predecessor. But, that’s really about all of the improvements. Everything else is the same. Classic looks, great tunes, and a challenge that’s right for everyone.
Overall, 8/10: Curse of the Moon 2 retains the classic style and aesthetic. New characters and multiple stage routes help with the often repetitive but still overall fun experience of seeing everything the game has to offer.