Bloodstained's Zangetsu and Randomizer Modes Are a Mixed Bag of Great Replayability Features
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night received two of its promised stretch goal DLCs, with one being far superior to the other.
Earlier this month, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night got the long-awaited Zangetsu and Randomizer modes in a free update on PS4, PC, and Xbox, and while they are both fun, one is superior to the other. As a bit of history, two of the stretch goals for Bloodstained‘s Kickstarter were to get the demon-hunting samurai, Zangetsu, as a playable character and another being a roguelike mode that would randomize the castle each time you played. Unfortunately, due to issues that arose while the team tried to implement the roguelike features, it was deemed impossible and the direction was changed to the new Randomizer Mode.
First up, the Zangetsu Mode, unfortunately, is the disappointing portion of this DLC pack. The idea of being able to run around the castle in Bloodstained as a demon-hunting samurai voiced by Solid Snake (aka David Hayter) is tantalizing, and in that regard, it’s just as good as you imagined it would be. Every attack and move that you saw him use in the main game against you are now at your disposal. From charging up your blade with different elements to dashing through enemies leaving pillars of flame behind, they are now all yours. Controlling Zangetsu and slaying all the demons is a blast.
The disappointment sets in though soon after you realize just how much has been stripped away from Bloodstained in this mode, making it feel more like a fan-made concept more than an officially released mode. Gone are all the NPCs in the town, all the treasure chests to find stuff in, any sort of customization, alchemy, or anything that makes it a Metroidvania. With treasure chests gone, you will often stumble upon empty rooms, because they held an item previously, and even though enemies still drop coins, you have nothing to spend your earnings on. With the townsfolk gone, so are all the quests that you could spend time with. Every door is unlocked from the start, and you can access all areas with the skillset you start with. The abilities you start with are the only ones you have and need throughout the whole experience, with even access to items and food denied to you.
Duals you would have with Zangetsu in the story mode as Miriam in the main game are unchanged, leaving you to fight a doppelganger. The rest of the boss encounters are lackluster as well, missing the banter and conversations you usually get while playing as Miriam. With your demon-hunting moves, even late-game bosses are a cinch at lower levels. The whole experience just feels hollow after the novelty of Zangetsu wears off. With this coming nearly a year after Bloodstained‘s release, I would have hoped that after such a wait, we could at least expect for maybe some unique moves we hadn’t seen before or some sort of customization. The lack of any new dialogue or new lore to flesh out this exciting world is a shame. There aren’t even new trophies or achievements for the hunters out there to try for. Had this been released shortly after launch, the shallow nature of this mode would be far more excusable, but at this point, it seems more like an insult. Zangetsu Mode is a fun romp for a short time, but it just stings that it could have been so much more, and should have been. So much has been stripped away that I found it hard to stay interested for more than an hour. The saving grace is that this is free.
“Zangetsu Mode is a fun romp for a short time, but it just stings that it could have been so much more, and should have been.”
Luckily, the DLC finds its salvation with the Randomizer Mode, which allows players to start up a brand new playthrough (as Miriam only). When you start up a randomized playthrough, you can select from a variety of options that will mix up the game, from what items and shards enemies drop, the contents of treasure chests, to even where the save and teleport rooms are. From the creation screen, it will generate a seed, which serves as a unique code that tells the game what is randomized and where things are at, letting you share the code with friends so you can all play the same experience.
Randomizers are great ways to get more life out of games, and as I mentioned previously, I love them. It tests you as the player to think on your feet and problem solve each time, removing previous knowledge of the whereabouts of things. The way that the Bloodstained team incorporated it here–giving players direct control over what gets shuffled–is a perfect way to ease those unfamiliar with this style of modification (or who may not have an in-depth knowledge of the game) to get into things. The care put into it this mode shows. There is so much replayability with the randomizer that it accentuates the lack thereof with the Zangetsu Mode, which is a shame.
“When you start up a randomized playthrough, you can select from a variety of options that will mix up the game, from what items and shards enemies drop, the contents of treasure chests, to even where the save and teleport rooms are.”
These won’t be the last of the additions to Bloodstained we get. Players are still eagerly awaiting several of the promised stretch goal additions, including online multiplayer, local co-op, a boss revenge mode, and a third playable character. With very little word on any of them, hopefully it won’t be another year before we get these. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the quality and added features of these modes will be more in line with the fantastic Randomizer Mode, though.
Note: Both of these new modes are open to players once they get the True Ending, but some players have experienced a glitch where they still don’t appear at first, myself included. To fix this, you have to beat the final True Boss and see the True Ending again, and that should do the trick. Hopefully you kept your endgame save!