E3 2018 Hands-on: Bloodstained & Interview With Koji Igarashi

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is an upcoming title that many have been rabidly waiting for. Ever since its Kickstarter wrapped up back in 2015, the game’s release has been continually pushed back, but it seems an end to the wait may finally be in sight. Producer Koji Igarashi was present with 505 Games at E3 to show off the latest build of Bloodstained, and while they still have no firm release date to announce, 2018 still appears to be the target.

We had a chance to sit down with the game’s most recent build, spending half an hour playing through the game’s opening dialogue and stages…and honestly, the game feels great. While I haven’t played the Castlevania game many are comparing Bloodstained to, Symphony of the Night (feel free to call me a heretic or whatever right now), I am deeply familiar with the series’ Nintendo DS trilogy, and this title reminds me quite a bit of an upgraded version of those games.

An opening text scroll sets up the world, but I opted to skip most of it so I could maximize my allotted demo time playing the game. I then found myself in control of protagonist Miriam, on a ship being invaded by monsters and creatures. The controls were immediately easy to pick up, and I was weaving around and slaying enemies in no time flat.

Despite being an introduction level isolated from the rest of the game world, there were still a number of paths to explore and secrets to find. I was also coming across a new weapon to use every couple minutes or so, which was apparently done specifically for this demo to give players the chance to try out a wide array of them. I eventually settled on a rapier as my weapon of choice to finish out the demo.

Bloodstained also features “shards” as a similar system to the “souls” from Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow amongst others. The system will be instantly familiar to Castlevania vets, allowing you to collect various attacks and mobility enhancements by defeating enemies.

The ship stage ended with a quick cutscene and a battle against some kind of wild tentacled sea creature, which forced me to use every health-restoring potion I had in my inventory to defeat it. I’m not sure if it was that difficult of a boss or if I was just not playing vary well, but I eventually bested the creature and moved to a village map, where I met a few more characters before my demo time came to an end.

Following the demo, we had a chance to sit down with Bloodstained producer Koji Igarashi. With the assistance of an on-site translator, we were able to ask him a few questions that came up during our time with the game.

Gamer Escape: What I noticed while playing Bloodstained, compared to your earlier work, is that it seems to have more of a cinematic direction to it. More cutscenes, more dynamic camera, more focus on story. What inspired you to go in a more cinematic direction with this game?

Koji Igarashi: The reason why there’s more of a cinematic approach is because this is a very new IP. In order to explain sort of the lore of the game, sort of just the general story of the game, this is the easiest way to explain that and to introduce new players to this game.

GE: With the resurgence nowadays of a lot of companies going back to the “old-school” 8-bit/16-bit style, more along the style of your older Castlevania games, what made you decide to go with the more modern 2.5D presentation?

Igarashi: From the very beginning, we wanted to release this game on all different platforms. In order to utilize the strength of the platforms, we thought it might be easier to go with more modern graphics, rather than going to 8-bit or pixel art-based graphics.

GE: In the demo there were a lot of different weapons. Is the amount of weapons going to be the same in the main game?

Igarashi: Yeah, same goes with the actual game! There’s going to be a lot of different weapons, like the ones you saw in the demo. For just the demo’s sake, we put in a lot of different types in order for everyone to try out different weapons, but yeah, in the full game, there’s going to be that many different kinds of weapons.

GE: And with the weapons too, I know in the demo, some of them had bonus actions where you could make combos. Do all the weapons have that or only a few?

Igarashi: We’re still trying to figure out whether we’re going to implement this on all the weapons or just a few. But, in the actual game, we’re going to include a lot more of these combo-type or special attack for different types of weapons. Not just the types, but different weapons in general.

GE: Between your past works, and now Bloodstained, I was curious as to what drives your interest in this kind of gothic horror genre and presentation?

Igarashi: I guess the main reason why I decided to go with the gothic horror theme once again is because it all started out with just a Kickstarter project. In order to appeal to my fans, and also to the community, I couldn’t go out of that gothic horror theme. If I decided to go with, like, a Sci-Fi, then it would be like, “Hey, this isn’t Iga’s game!” They want to see that gothic horror theme, so that’s why we’ve decided to go with that again.

GE: What kind of challenges have you faced doing the Kickstarter campaign? Has it been more difficult than you thought it would be?

Igarashi: Yeah, doing the Kickstarter campaign was very difficult. We realized this after we started the campaign, where we need staff that know and understand what the western fans want from this kind of game. It’s very different from what we know. It’s very different from, “Hey, I want to create this kind of game, so help me fund this game.” It’s more of like understanding the market, understanding the communities, what they want. When we started the campaign, that was the most challenging part, to understand what the community wanted from this Kickstarter project.

GE: In my familiarity of your past work (of games similar to Bloodstained), the only one that had a female protagonist was Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia. What went into your decisions to again focus on a female protagonist in Bloodstained?

Igarashi: There’s really no actual reasoning behind it. It’s a little bit more strategic. There are a lot of female protagonists coming out, really strong female leads are trending. The reason why we decided to go with it is because, you know, since we’ve only had Shanoa [Note: Protagonist of Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia] as a female lead before, we wanted to do so for this time as well.

GE: Is there anything you’d like to say to our readers about Bloodstained?

Igarashi: Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is a game that uses modern technology, modern visual looks, while keeping the roots back when games used to be really fun. When they were really “game-like” games. Currently, there’s a lot of very cinematic AAA titles and things like that, but we wanted to focus more on the old-school nostalgia feel to it. Please look forward to it!