Sunday, October 30, 2022

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 (Lots of systems, 2020)


This one is scary because they cranked the difficulty way up. It's like going from Mega Man 10 to Mega Man 9, roughly. While the first Curse of the Moon was intended to tide people over until Ritual of the Night was finished, the Kickstarter for ROTN was so successful that they did a second retro throwback side-game after it, and here we are. The purpose of this one seems to be to just obliterate people.

So, this is going to resume right where the last one left off, right? With Zangetsu in a futuristic city, separated from his allies?

...nope. It doesn't pick up where the first left off at all. Doesn't even really mention any of that stuff about Zangetsu going bad or ending up in a city somewhere. It also doesn't follow up on any of the other possible endings to the first game, for that matter, because all of them end with the party in some degree of disarray.

Instead it's basically the same plot as the first game, Zangetsu hunting demons. Only now he's got new allies and new stages to do. That's pretty much it. Plot-wise, this game is interchangeable with the first one. Heck, I think it even takes place in/around the same castle, which has revived itself for some reason. I was hoping for more story, but it's alright, we're here for the retro gameplay.

Things are largely the same as the first game, though Zangetsu now has a Super Sword powerup that gives his sword a lot more range. Yeah, it's just like Ninja Gaiden 3 on the NES. You don't get that until well into the game, so at the outset you're still stuck with these little jabs.

First boss is this dragon...bird...thing. My kill is stolen from me by Dominique, this sexy lady with a spear. She's basically Eric Lecarde from Castlevania Bloodlines on the Genesis, and can thrust in all directions. She can also pogo-stab downwards like Shovel Knight does.

Between levels, you get these little cutscenes where the characters are gathered around a campfire, just doin' camping stuff. Some of these cutscenes contain comedy gold, so they're worth keeping an eye on.

Dominique demonstrating the up-stab. Much like Miriam was the Belmont of the first game with her whip, Dominique is the 'Vania representation here while Zangetsu plays more like Ryu. She also jumps high, like Miriam.

Speaking of sexy characters, here's the next boss. She attacks with large pink hearts, like Sailor Moon.

Zangetsu strikes back with his ever-useful diagonal whip special attack. This move is SO GOOD in both games because bosses love to hover around just out of normal attack range.

Our next ally is this green sniper guy, Robert. Zangetsu immediately makes sure to be a dick about it.

Not sure what retro 'Vania character Robert is a take-off of, but his name might be another Ninja Gaiden reference. He can fire lasers clear across the screen, which is good for taking out opponents at range. Unfortunately the trade-off for this is that he has possibly the worst agility of anyone in this game, as well as low HP. Much like the sorcerer in the first game, his bad agility can sometimes be a positive, like when you need to make lots of short and stubby jumps in quick succession. Like Toad in SMB2.

Next boss is this DEATH TRAIN. So far I'm finding the actual stages to be pretty unmemorable compared to the first game (that and I'm too busy trying to survive to take many shots). The bosses on the other hand got a big upgrade in badassness in this game.

Fourth and final character for this one is Hachi, a giant mech...

...that is actually a corgi puppy piloting said giant mech. Now I've officially seen everything.

...well, almost everything.

This horrendous game: Coming soon!

Looks like our heroes are going for a dip in the pool in this shot. Zangetsu is getting along with Hachi, Dominique is even hotter than usual, and Robert...can't be bothered with this swimming business. Swimming means he has to put down his gun, and he won't be fooled!

Hachi is a great character. He has big, slow punches as his only attack, but at least they do some damage. More important are his special abilities. He can only use one special attack (unlike the other characters who all have several) but it's a doozy, and makes him invulnerable temporarily. This allows him to lay a full-on smack down on bosses. His other ability is the power to hover in the air temporarily while jumping.

...yeah, like Princess Toadstool in SMB2. I didn't realize it while I was playing this, but it completely follows the SMB2 character lineup.

Next level is an ice level. It's slippery for normal characters, while Hachi can completely ignore the sliding mechanic. He's immune to most floor hazards. Just a totally OP character. Zangetsu is probably second-best once he gets the Soul Eraser (more on that in a bit) and the third-best until then, switching places with Dominique. Her high jumps and agility make her useful throughout, but she definitely isn't a go-to for bosses like those other two are. Robert is really landing in last place for me here, unfortunately. Just not finding too much use for him outside of taking hits to spare the others.

Next boss is this freakish ice witch with huge tit-tays.

Zangetsu literally decapitated her while her Vagina Dentata looked on creepily.

...I don't wanna talk about it.

Since we've got all of the characters now, victory over that boss gets you a new sword: Soul Eraser. This thing is a beast, and gives Zangetsu the power to...

...slash 3x in a row. It's even better than Ninja Gaiden 3's Super Sword. The arc of the slash really helps in taking out airborne enemies before they get to you, and this instantly makes Zangetsu a lot more fun to play as than the previous game.

The lava stage is where things really start to get rough. Lava does some damage, and the stage design really isn't cutting the player much slack here.

A lava dragon made up of a bunch of VERY retro. There were a lot of bosses like this back in the day, across all genres. I manage to gimp this one with Hachi, invulnerability, hovering, and punching away.

The next stage is full of Chozo statues and Moai, of Gradius fame. Unfortunately these are VIOLENT MOAI.

Another boss that likes to keep its weak point high, where most characters can't reach it. Break out Zangetsu and the diagonal whip, however, and you can mow through its life meter. That diagonal whip practically feels like cheating, just like Hachi's invulnerability. Like the game wasn't designed with it in mind or something.

And yeah, bosses have a life meter in this game, which is a huge improvement over the first game.

Uh oh, a clock tower with spinning gears. With jumping being what it is in these games, platforming like this is treacherous. This is easily the hardest level in the game and it isn't even close.

Hachi SORT OF allows you to gimp through some of this between invulnerability and hovering. Unfortunately, lose him to a pit and you're stuck doing things the normal way. Robert with his Toad-like* short jumps actually works pretty well here. It's the toughest hallway in either Curse of the Moon game and I took a ton of deaths in this one room. Even with Hachi, the levitate ability can be a bit finicky and you can fall down when you don't mean to.

* - Damn, that's two mentions of the Dark One. I need to be careful not to do a third, or he might be summoned.

Get past all of that and you get a rematch with the first form of the final boss of the previous game. It's still a threat, but nothing compared to its stage. If you have any special ammo left, Hachi can use invulnerability and cheese the hell out of this fight.

I like when sequels feature the previous final boss as a penultimate sub-boss, just to let you know the new big bad is stronger than the old one. Mortal Kombat II, etc.

This is it, the final stage, with a thunderstorm no less. The big challenge of this stage? The purple death-beams of the first game's final stage return, only now they form a purple death-ball.

This thing chases you all over the level and murders you if it catches you. Luckily you can knock it back with attacks.

At the center of that purple death-ball is...this guy, the new head honcho. While the clock tower platforming section was the hardest platforming section in the game by far, this guy is similarly the hardest boss in the game by far. Well, his second form is, to be precise. As is tradition, the first form is more of a speed bump to slow you down.

This fight can, once again, be gimped with Hachi. However you want to conserve special attack ammo for Zangetsu to unleash diagonal whips on the final form.

The final form is an absolute beast, and took me MANY tries to defeat. The diagonal whip does a huge number on it, at least.

Key to victory was preserving Zangetsu as much as possible by letting other characters take the fall for him. It was here that I discovered that bosses don't actually recover all of their health when you lose a life. They only round up to the nearest 25%. So as long as you keep preserving Zangetsu, he can easily knock off half of the final boss' health with special attacks in one go, and after a few runs you'll get him by default. Still have to play well here and strategize.

The bad guy hurls an EVIL DEATH BALL at our heroes and Dominique jumps in front of it to save everyone.

She isn't in the final scene, so I'm not sure what bearing this has on Ritual of the Night...if any. I assume you can get her right back in the various New Game Plus episodes that follow this initial playthrough, since they also feature the characters from the first game in playable form.

While I played the first game twice through, one playthrough of this one is enough for me. It's a rough ordeal. It did, however, get me pumped for Ritual of the Night.

Final thoughts on this one? It's definitely a ball-buster, though not as bad as I was expecting. The first run is definitely winnable even for a Mid player like me. Later runs probably ramp up the difficulty even more. Would really like it if this game added to the plot of the others, but it doesn't. It feels more like the "leftovers" of the first game because they wanted to do more with the Kickstarter money (nothing wrong with that). Like the long-lost second half of it or something. Can't say this one is crucial to play or anything, but I do recommend the first game for some NES 'Vania style action.

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