One year later, Ritual of the Night is still unplayable on the Nintendo Switch. Numerous patches later, the game still stutters and crashes, with its most popular screen being the loading one. We’re off to a great start here…
After years and years (and more years) of waiting, the game was finally released in June 2019. I hope Iga learned not to tease players that long on beforehand. The Bloodstained kickstarter was launched in 2015, and in all fairness, the game received lots of small and bigger improvements over the course of its development.
Except when you play it on Switch. I’ve had it crashing on me multiple times - and that is especially painful if not making it to a save room. What’s more, loading screens are terrible. Before the patch, jumping on a high platform to reach the next castle section resulted in a black screen in over three seconds!!! After that, you had to guess when the next frame was being rendered in order to position yourself, or risk being hit and fall back down, only to wait three more seconds. Luckily, a patch somewhat fixed that. Still, try not to die, as another 50 seconds are wasted.
Miriam controls terrible. It feels very janky, especially with the thumb stick, and the Pro Controller’s D-pad is not that great. She wants to duck when I don’t want her to and swings are especially slow (yes, I know Sword Expertise exists). Compared to Soma, Alucard, or even Circle of the Moon, it feels like two steps back (if only taking a step was that easy).
Then there’s the graphical part, the Unreal Engine. Dracula X Chronicles was also a 2D castlevania rendered in 3D, but it is clear now that it’s not the best direction to take. Many parts of the castle look like drab: a few colors smeared all over the screen, making it impossible for me to see the difference between foreground and background. Inferno Caves are red, the Sorcery Lab is green, the Forbidden Underwater Caves are purple. Add some sheen to rocks, color the enemies the same, and there you go. To what purpose serve game graphics? To add atmosphere and to be able to actually see stuff! What purpose do they have if I’m unable to see the difference between an enemy and a useless animation of lava flowing in the background? It’s especially frustrating if that part of the castle is difficult, I’m out of potions/food, and I’m desperately looking for a save or warp room.
I don’t mind a female protagonist, but I do oppose against a talkative one that has to yell at every single spell or sword swing. Shut up already and get on with it! Soma never said anything when executing his moves, and even in Order of Ecclesia it wasn’t that bad. This game somehow feels more weird, in a bad Japanese way, than all the other Igavanias.
For example, there’s crafting. Good. Once you crafted (or “cooked”) something, it’s also available in the shop. Good, now my money can be put to good use, provided everything wasn’t that damn expensive. But why does Miriam need to make these weird moves when “combining” a few simple raw materials? Models look ugly up close. It definitely feels a bit too weird for me. The game can be very menu-driven when tinkering with ingredients and shards, and I’m okay with that, why adding more development time with something stupid as that?
Some boss fights like Bloodless are ridiculous damage sponges that required me to use a cheap trick such as spamming Bunnymorphosis kicks or holding down
R for the Heretical Grinder. Boss design is overall good, and I did throw my controller a few times out of anger (or incompetence). Compared to the Twin Dragon and other challenging bosses of Circle of the Moon, these still feel like cheap to me.
Luckily, there’s the 2D retro spin-off Curse of the Moon and its sequel… Compared to 2D Metroidvania clones the genre has seen lately such as Hollow Knight, Ritual of the Night is a prime example how to ruin a castle run. If only they simplified things, instead of trying to impress players with a blurry gooey mess of an engine. Because deep down there, the game actually is excellent. Somewhere.