FromSoftware has brought many of its games to multiple platforms, including the classic Dark Souls trilogy and ninja-themed Sekiro. However, the gothic hack-and-slash Bloodborne has been left behind.
The original Bloodborne has never made its way to the PC, trapped instead as a PlayStation exclusive. Since Bloodborne rates at a solid 92 on Metacritic, even higher than its soulslike siblings, keeping the game locked to PlayStation is a real shame.
However, now there's Bloodborne PSX, which launched this in late January after a 13-month development cycle and has enjoyed a tremendous reception. Fans are enamored with the old-school interpretation of the soulslike classic by FromSoftware, which is available as a free download on indie game marketplace Itch.io, although players can choose their price if they want to support the developer Lilith Walther.
This Bloodborne demake, styled after the retro wobbly polygons of the original PlayStation, is a wildly impressive re-imagining of the first few hours of the game, created in Unreal Engine 4. It might be a new way to play, but it brings the same mix of frustration and achievement as the original.
Grant us polygons
Bloodborne PSX is a semi-faithful interpretation of the original Bloodborne, with slight changes made to levels and controls to better suit the PS1 styling. Part of its emulation charm is artificially lengthening loading times (which can be disabled) and separating the usual sprawling Victorian city of Yharnam into smaller chunks. This way, the game feels authentic to the older console with loading screens cleverly set in between long ladder climbs and steps into the darkness.
Harking back to the days before even analog sticks were around, the D-pad is used for movement instead. Rotating the camera is done with shoulder buttons, centering your view with a face button press. Remember when old games did that? Since I was born in, let's say, the late 1980s (jeez, even being vague makes me feel ancient), I feel like this game would've fit perfectly on my modest shelf of games bought with pocket money, right next to a personal favorite, Nightmare Creatures from 1997.
Even though the controls have been simplified compared to the original, the camera lock-on means combat is still as reactive. The quick-face camera reset does help with navigating around the levels, but it can mean accidental item pickups and targeting the wrong enemy occasionally. It feels like the game was adjusted to reflect these more restrictive controls, but it's close enough to the original experience without artificially increasing the difficulty.
The many faux CRT effects are adjustable, with millions of possible combinations. By default, the game runs at 20FPS and renders the screen at one-third resolution. Coupled with affine texture warping and a recreation of the original PlayStation's jittery vertices, the effect is extremely convincing. You're free to disable it all, of course, and run the game at maximum size with all effects off. Doing this does cause a strange juxtaposition of super-smooth textures and chunky pixels, so it's better to leave some options switched on to maintain the retro theme.
Not content with doing the bare minimum, the create-a-character sliders are also included. Change the appearance of your hunter and adjust hair color by mixing hues, and your creation appears on the title screen when you load your save. All cutscenes run in real-time, so whatever garish character you create will always be visible during the story.
Backing the nostalgic visuals are arrangements of the original musical score, composed by Evelyn Lark using a Roland SC-88 Pro for an authentic PS1 sound. I worried I wouldn't remember the music, but hearing the menu theme in Bloodborne PSX and soundtrack to the Hunter's Dream, the worry proved needless. The music brought it all back, even with its interesting twist on composition with period-authentic synthesizers.
For years, I resisted the urge to play Dark Souls, primarily for my own sanity since I'd heard how brutally difficult it could be. Last year, I threw in the towel and decided that the original Bloodborne would be my first foray into the world of soulslike games. Funnily enough, sanity proved a strong theme in the game, and facing the first mandatory boss, Father Gascoigne, made sure mine was stretched thin. When the primary werewolf boss also appears in Bloodborne PSX, my memories flooded back when he let out his bit-crushed howl. The dedication to replicating enemy types and AI is staggering, proving to be as challenging as you might expect, albeit with a handful of forgivable bugs.
Bloodborne PSX also offers some surprises. You can fight the Cleric Beast, an optional boss returning from the original game. Complete with its own theme music, the fight feels familiar and challenging. Yharnam has been altered in unique and interesting ways, including its sewer area taking on a new form as a sprawling maze filled with giant rats and poisonous variants. The third and final boss is unique to Bloodborne PSX and based on a character from the original game. I won't spoil it, but this takes place in a brand new area created specifically for the game, and it's a ton of fun.
There's no denying there's a not-so-subtle resurgence of games from and themed after the nineties recently, with titles like Ion Fury and Doom 64 making waves in the "boomer shooter" FPS genre. Demakes are slightly different. The culture around demakes brings a curious sense of renewed enjoyment of games you know everything about and lure in new players who never tried the original but find the aesthetic appeals to their nostalgic tastes. Playing with your expectations is a feature not a bug — what you expect to be around the corner might be totally different, and navigating this fractured Yharnam offers the game a chance to have its own identity.
Seeing how modern game mechanics might have fit into more primitive engines and hardware of the past can be fascinating all on its own. Bloodborne PSX feels like it definitely could have existed in the mid-nineties, albeit probably over more than one CD if they went all-out for the whole game. Watching the original PlayStation era become a new kind of vintage aesthetic is exciting, especially in an age where anyone can learn a free game engine and have their dream demake come to life without needing a AAA budget.
Face the hunt
Similar to Demon's Souls, the original soulslike, Bloodborne is known as the more elusive entry given its platform exclusivity. While there are plenty of reasons the title is held highly by fans, being exclusive to PlayStation is the least relevant of all.
With Bloodborne PSX offering even just a sniff of the experience on PC and picking up over 100,000 downloads on its first day of release, the evidence is clear that FromSoftware needs to take the notion of a PC port more seriously. With the success of Horizon Zero Dawn and God of War on PC, both previously PlayStation exclusives, there are so many ways to improve upon Bloodborne, even if it's just lifting the archaic 30FPS framerate cap, present even on PS5.
It may only take roughly six hours to beat, but that only leaves me wanting more. The experience is equal parts fan-service nostalgia and genuinely fun indie game design; even players who never touched the original can find it entertaining. Bloodborne rightly deserves to be ported to other platforms and appreciated by a wider audience, whether or not that will ever happen is an ongoing mystery. With Elden Ring set to hit platforms soon and become one of the best Xbox games, people might be looking for new ways to scratch the soulslike itch. For now, Bloodborne PSX is a worthy substitute.
Welcome home, retro hunter
Bloodborne PSX is an incredible indie re-imagining of the PlayStation exclusive. Appealing to fans and those who never had chance to play, it's a retro triumph.
Ben Wilson is a freelance writer working for Windows Central with technical expertise and a background in electronics retail. Fueling a technology and video game obsession with coffee, you can usually find him behind one screen or another.
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