Bloodborne on the PS1 feels uncannily natural.
In particular, I was constantly reminded of the first two Tomb Raiders and the first Silent Hill. The use of shadows is reminiscent of how the fog in the first Silent Hill disguised the procedural rendering while building atmosphere.
A neat bridge between those early PlayStation franchises and the original PS4 Bloodborne was created with the design of indoor spaces…of which there are a lot.
If you have heard of Bloodborne PSX then you probably know that the biggest location that carries over from the original is Central Yharnam. Lilith Walther thoughtfully managed to spin a complete game in this specific location, though.
Just like last time, your player character is investigating Paleblood and is pointed, by Gilbert, in the direction of the Cathedral Ward.
The lore-fiend in me has long wondered if Gilbert was meant to be a canonical “mainline story” character, unlike some of the others that you could go the whole game without running into. I don’t think any other hint about reaching the Cathedral Ward through the sewers is offered.
Considering how I triggered the ending I got, I strongly suspect Lilith Walther has wondered that to.
Also like the base game, you will probably hear about the Great Bridge and think that it sounds more efficient than a giant wade through sewers. (I think he also mentioned aqueduct in the PS4 game? Or maybe he just said aqueduct and the fans all decided to call it a sewer?)
This, of course, does not work out and we gotta pursue Gilbert’s lead anyway. Which puts us directly in the path of a few of the new locations, both indoors and underground.
Within the first few minutes of gameplay, we find that Bloodborne PSX does not have the same continuous map as the original. Which is to be expected: this is a PS1 demake of a PS4 game. Many of those limitations are incorporated into the new design, though. The loading screens between different locations allow the different segments of the map to be more self-contained. Consequently, all of Central Yharnam is turned into an interconnected, “cumulative” dungeon, like the town of Silent Hill.
So far, I have found two buildings with unexpected depths and an awesome expansion to the aqueduct/sewer area. One reason why these discoveries are so satisfying is because- in the original -there are a ton of locked doors that are never meant to be opened. It’s also an intuitive direction for the design to go if you are effectively “trapped” in Central Yharnam. Another reason is that there are indoor areas that bear a superficial resemblance to other indoor areas in the base game, like the Upper Cathedral Ward and the Cainhurst library. To say nothing of the more creative things those spaces are used for.
In Bloodborne PSX, the scrawled note about Paleblood is found in Iosefka’s clinic. Where an infiltrator of the Choir ends up in the base game after killing Iosefka. Lilith Walther used a few indoor areas to explore this influence of both the Choir and the School of Mensis.
This part made me hesitate. I expected it to end here but wanted to be proven wrong. Yarntown ended around this point. Even if it is just a slightly bigger and different PS1 rendering of Central Yharnam, it’s a beautiful lil thing. Well worth playing and vaguely reminiscent of the video game demo compilations some magazines used to carry.
If you’re leveled into the thirties…then Father Gascoigne can be beat. So long as you’re bold and quick enough to pull off some viscerals, which feel a lil different in Bloodborne PSX but still work like they do in the base game. The main difference here is that a beast will not necessarily pause after getting riposte’d (along with a big floating ‘L1’ signaling that a visceral attack is possible). Or you could just grind like a nut and brute-force your way.
If this turned out to be the end, it would be a perfectly admissible mini-game. After Yarntown, though, it would feel wanting.
A new time of the night sets in once we hit the same dead end we all remember from the Great Bridge. Just like in the base game, it is not clear how much actual time passes or what has happened in the interim. This looks like the beginning of a second half. Maybe I wasn’t even that far.
Other than getting darker, some previously opened pathways are no longer accessible. And we get our first glimpse of an old friend from the base game.
Who you will probably encounter in the sewers, since the bridge to the Tomb of Odeon is blocked. And while I’ve been putting most of my blood echoes into Skill and Endurance…I’ve also been making an effort to build up Arcane since nabbing the tonitrus off of the mad Hunter in the library. I think Arcane weapons like the tonitrus and A Call Beyond are pretty effective against Winter Lanterns? I also know that Frenzy hits harder as Arcane increases sooo crafting a magic user turns you into a glass cannon in some ways.
I have only played through Bloodborne PSX once- so there is probably a lot I still haven’t seen -but so far I have not encountered more than one Winter Lantern in one place. And maybe I just haven’t put enough echoes into Arcane but the tonitrus seems less useful against them here than in the original. My other weapons were hardly any better.
The scarcity of the Winter Lanterns and their toughness make them feel like Walter Sullivan in Silent Hill 4 or Pyramid Head in Silent Hill 2. Meaning: run your ass off and don’t look back. Maybe it is possible to kill them, but I haven’t figured out how yet. A crazy powerful monster showing up after you find out that both entrances to the Cathedral Ward (The Great Bridge and the Tomb of Odeon) are blocked is just perfect.
I like this because of how it builds on the resemblance between the Winter Lanterns and the doll/Maria. The doll is a very unique character with few corollaries. There is a lifeless physical version of the doll in the Abandoned Hunter’s Workshop in the base game. The revelation of the doll’s human identity as Lady Maria is then played for maximum dramatic tension in the Old Hunter’s DLC. These three different characterizations underline the importance and uniqueness of Maria.
The Winter Lanterns, meanwhile, are all dressed like the doll under their tentacles. If Maria/the doll is unique, then making the monster that wears the doll clothing unique feels natural.
Come to think of it…creating a direct link between the key to the leveling mechanic and an unkillable monster that hunts you feels pretty spot-on for a horror action RPG. (That link also exists in the original, even if it’s less direct than the PSX Winter Lanterns)
I’m uncertain how much more of the game I should discuss after this point. I finished my first play-through on accident in a location that I also found on accident. Something about this makes me suspect that there is more than one way to “finish” game. This demake recreates the vibe of the original so perfectly that multiple endings seem possible. Maybe they’re not. Maybe you know differently. But the subtle implication of new story threads from Lilith Walther make me hesitant to “spoil” anything.
Download here from Lilith Walther’s itch.io