Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 walks amongst us. It arrived quickly and silently, like a wolf darting after its prey. I have no objections. Curse of the Moon is one of the best retro platformers on the digital marketplace, and a sudden follow-up is a very nice surprise to receive in an era that's teeming with… nastier surprises.
To drag a mouldy cliché out of its grave, Curse of the Moon 2 is "more of the same"—but it still has some new tricks to offer. It's a 2D platformer with light metroidvania elements that open as you collect more characters with varying abilities. Curse of the Moon 2 tasks you with toting around seven characters this time: the returning cast from the first game, and three new faces. The newcomers are Robert (a sniper who uses a gun), Dominique (the buxom nun from Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night), and Hachi (a corgi who operates a mecha and aches for Robert's approval).
The addition of the new fighters adds some new spice to Curse of the Moon 2. The new fighting styles are nice to have, and it's fun to overcome barriers and find new paths with said fighting styles. Dominique is my favorite, because her high-jump spear attack hearkens back to Eric Lecarde's attacks in Castlevania: Bloodlines for the Sega Genesis. Robert's gun allows for weaker long-range attacks, which is an attack option Soma Cruz can exercise in the excellent Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow for the Game Boy Advance. Bloodstained continues to parade its Castlevania influences—a little shamelessly if I'm being honest. I can't be mad, though: Konami isn't out here giving me gothic 2D sprite-based games that mix the best elements of Castlevania 3, Aria of Sorrow, and Bloodlines. Meanwhile, Inti Creates and ArtPlay know how to make me happy, and I bless their union.
That's why playing Curse of the Moon 2 makes me eager to witness a future where Inti Creates takes the Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon series down Castlevania's less-travelled paths. I would love see Inti Creates make a Curse of the Moon 3 (or a Curse of the Whatever) that's heavily inspired by Castlevania 2: Simon's Quest for the NES, for instance.
Simon's Quest was a popular target for mockery when YouTube retro game analysis was in its infancy. Granted, Simon's Quest is not a perfect game. It's a little aimless, a little obtuse—all stuff that Inti Creates would theoretically have no problem cleaning up. Once you brush away that top layer of poisoned soil, Simon's Quest is an ambitious adventure game that encourages deep exploration and boasts a kicking soundtrack. There's less emphasis on intense combat, which is where Inti Creates might trip up a bit, because its games are all about honing your reflexes.
Ultimately, I think it could work out beautifully, though. The closer you get to Dracula's abode in Simon's Quest, the more vicious the enemies become. Weak werewolves and skeletons give way to zombie dragons, man-eating plants, and quick-moving wraiths. I bet Inti Creates would find plenty of creative ways to torture as we crept towards our final destination.
There's already some Simon's Quest-style wandering in Curse of the Moon and Curse of the Moon 2. That's how you find new paths and new endings: you use the game's characters to break down barriers, then use the newly-opened roads to reach the dustier corners of Curse of the Moon's lore. Simon's Quest is still a little different, though, as it's one interconnected world. There are no doors separating levels, no overhead shots of the game's map as Simon moves from one area to another. It's all just dark, dangerous Transylvanian countryside that's crumbling under Dracula's curse. Even now when I replay Simon's Quest (with the aid of a guide, to be fair), I'm struck by how atmospheric it is. It has a quiet, subdued gothic feel to it, which wasn't replicated in subsequent games until Alucard visited Dracula's chapel in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.
On the topic of Symphony of the Night, the open-ended mechanics of Simon's Quest were a big inspiration for what many consider to be the best game in the series. If Simon's Quest can directly inspire the greatest Castlevania game of all time, I've no doubt Inti Creates and ArtPlay can likewise mold Simon's Quest into something fantastic. Imagine: Branching paths that feed into towns where you might find succor—or else you find scornful, mistrustful residents, as Simon does on his own travels. Imagine stopping on the road to explore mansions or castles that contain items vital to your journey. Imagine a day-night cycle that just passes naturally instead of stopping the gameplay every few minutes to remind you it's a horrible night to have a curse.
Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon and Curse of the Moon 2 are both top-tier platformers that remind us why we still love games like Castlevania 3, Castlevania: Bloodlines, and Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow. We already know those are great games worth building off, though. Give yourself a little extra challenge, Inti Creates, and start drawing up plans for Bloodstained: Zangetsu's Quest.
Bloodstained: Hachi's Quest is acceptable, too.