When Konami left Castlevania on ice, it didn’t take long for fans to take up the reigns themselves. The Metroid-Vania genre quickly became one of the most popular in the indie bubble. In 2015, inspired by Keiji Inafune’s Mighty No.9, series veteran Koji Igarashi began a Kickstarter campaign for Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. Ritual of the Night was to be a spiritual successor to fan-favorite Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Igarashi himself had served as assistant director on the title. Ritual of the Night had quickly smashed the campaign goal and would go on to fund every stretch-goal. One of these small goals was a prequel mini-game.

Inti Creates, of Mega Man ZX and Gunvolt fame, would be tasked with developing this prequel. Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon, would be a small prequel to set up the stage of Miriam’s adventure in Ritual of the Night. Where Ritual of Night was inspired by the Metroid-Vania titles, Curse of the Moon would take after the “Classic-Vania” games. With the short length, challenging platforming, Belmont-strut, NES inspired graphics, and crunchy old-school music, Curse of the Moon would be the Castlevania 4 we never saw.

The demon-hunter Zangetsu has been given the curse of the moon. In a final quest, he is determined to make the demons, or the moon itself, pay for his suffering. Along the way, you’ll run into three other adventurers. Miriam an adventurer who has crystals holding demonic power embedded into her skin, Alfred the alchemist, and Gebel a man imbued with the power to turn into or summon bats.

The other playable characters work similarly to Castlevania 3. At any time, you can switch between them to handle a situation differently. Like Castlevania 3, each character has the basics of a “Belmont.” They all move slow and commit to a jump as soon as you press lift off. If one character dies, you can continue with your others. If you manage to beat the stage, the dead character will be revived without costing you a life. Each character has access to their own sub-weapons. It gives you a little more customization on your adventure! Zangetsu wields a short-ranged sword. Miriam has a whip that acts just like Simon or Trevor, but she can also jump the highest or slide into tight spaces. Alfred has the worst speed and jump but can cast spells. Alucard, I mean Gebel, doesn’t have sub-weapons, but he can turn into a bat and fly freely until you run out of magic.

As a demon-hunter, you can choose to recruit the three, or slaughter them. Recruiting them gives you a wider safety-net, but killing them gives Zangetsu many more powerful abilities. You’ll gain an insanely powerful mid-air slash from Miriam, a double jump from Alfred, and a run button from Gebel. One of those isn’t like the other, but all of them are fun!

Curse of the Moon truly looks like it would’ve been created on the NES. Much like Shovel Knight, Inti doesn’t limit themselves to the restrictions of the era, but they do emulate the look as closely as possible. I’d argue Curse of the Moon is a much better looking, and sounding, game than Shovel Knight. I do have one major complaint. At the end of each stage, you’ll fight a boss. After you’ve killed a boss, they’ll do one more “surprise attack” to try and kill you. One of these surprise attacks sees extremely heavy screen flashing, and it genuinely hurt my eyes. As someone with multiple epileptic friends, I worry for someone who would be completely caught off guard by it.

Curse of the Moon took me by complete surprise. It’s another hit in Inti Creates’ library of many. Curse of the Moon is tough but completely fair. Finding games like this, even in the indie bubble, is a challenge. I have to tip my hat to Igarashi and Inti Creates for delivering such a wild experience from a simple stretch-goal. As they originally said, this is a “mini” game. My total playtime was three hours, but I had so much fun in those three hours that I would’ve been willing to pay more for this. I highly recommend you pick up Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon, and I’ll definitely be checking out the sequel when it launches!