In the years since Castlevania: Symphony of the Night helped define the genre, “Metroidvania” has gone from a bold archetype to a bullet-point feature. Quite a few games have iterated and riffed on Metroidvanias. But Castlevania series producer Koji Igarashi isn’t riffing on the genre with his latest project, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, so much as returning to convention.

But despite being relatively safe, Bloodstained is more than just its creator; its impeccable craftsmanship in level design and combat, quality-of-life improvements, and unique flavor help it stand on its own in a crowded landscape.

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night feels comfortable and familiar, even down to the color-coded map that reveals itself during the course of the game. Like its predecessors in the Castlevania series, your hero Miriam needs to strike even the most basic of enemies four or five times to defeat them, and the lack of agility at first can feel stiff and restrictive.

This can actually seem discordant with memories of games like Symphony of the Night, but the familiarity will return as Miriam grows more powerful and the game becomes more recognizable along with her.

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