[Update, March 30 2019, 7:15 p.m. ET: We talked to 505 Games after publishing this preview and representatives assured us Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night will be optimized for the Switch in time for its summer release.]
Like most sentient beings, I automatically point to interesting-looking indie games and say, "I hope that's coming to the Nintendo Switch." Fortunately, most indie developers are happy to accommodate us. We live in a wonderful age. Well, kind of. Outside of the independent game scene on the Nintendo Switch, things suck a little.
Even the fruitful mating between the Switch and the indie scene occasionally produces children that should be perfect specimens, but somehow go awry. I'm worried that might be the case with Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night on the Switch, at least from what I played of it at PAX East. Bloodstained is one of my most anticipated games for 2019, so I hope this troubled goth child has time to slick back its hair and adjust its frilly cravat before it goes on stage this Summer. For now, sadly, there seems to be black magic afoot.
I'm a tremendous fan of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and most of Koji Igarashi's work in general. I very much enjoyed Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon, last year's 8-bit precursor to Ritual of the Night. I don't mean to sound boastful by saying I have a good sense for "Igavania" games; I know their weight, their feel. When I picked up the Switch Pro Controller, began the opening stage of Ritual of the Night, and died within three minutes because of terrible input lag, I was able to confidently tell myself, "It's not me! I'm good at these games! I swear to God!"
Yes, Ritual of the Night has major input lag on the Switch. It also has framerate issues. It has slowdown. Granted, these problems might not be present on newer preview builds of the game and / or preview builds on other platforms. Thing is, I want to play Ritual of the Night on the Switch. If I have to play it on PlayStation 4 or PC because the Switch version of the game runs like garbage, I'll do it—but I'm honestly surprised ArtPlay, WayForward, and 505 Games would bring such a technically-troubled version of such a highly-anticipated Switch game to PAX.
As mentioned earlier, the input lag between the Pro Controller and the docked Switch feels like a gap of ten years. The demo I played focuses on the opening moments of the game wherein the protagonist, Miriam, finds herself on a storm-tossed galleon. The pause between jumping, attacking, and using special skills (Miriam collects "Shards" that let her use defeated monsters' powers, much like Soma's ability to collect and use monster souls in Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow) makes the game very difficult to play in docked mode.
I fared better in handheld mode but was bogged down by an unsteady frame rate that dropped to an outright crawl a couple of times during my playthrough. During these trying moments, it felt like Miriam was trying to wade through any number of the muddy swamps that burble throughout the Castlevania games.
Watching Ritual of the Night struggle on the Switch was a downer. I don't expect perfect frame rates in Switch games, least of all demo builds, but Mortal Kombat 11 is already running like greased lightning on the hybrid console. It's interesting to see a resource-intensive game run well on the Switch while a lower-resource independent game struggles, but I can't say the novelty is worth the risk of a potentially unplayable Switch iteration of Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. If some horrible night-time curse was placed upon the game when its developers weren't looking, I seriously hope they can dispel it by the time it launches in Summer.
Disclosure: USgamer is a ReedPop company owned and operated in conjunction with PAX.