Bloodborne PSX is a magical PC demake to scratch that soul itch

Source: Windows Central

FromSoftware has brought several of its games to multiple platforms, including the classic Dark Souls trilogy and ninja-themed Sekiro. However, the gothic Bloodborne hack-and-slash was left behind.

The original Bloodborne never made its way to PC, trapped instead as a PlayStation exclusive. Given that Bloodborne rates at a solid 92 on Metacritic, even more than its soulslike siblings, keeping the game locked on PlayStation is a real disgrace.

However, now there’s Bloodborne PSX, which launched in late January after a 13-month development cycle to tremendous reception. Fans are raving about FromSoftware’s old-school take on the soulslike classic, which is available as a free download on the Itch.io indie game marketplace, though players can choose their prize if they want to support developer Lilith. Walter.

This demake of Bloodborne, inspired by the wonky retro polygons of the original PlayStation, is a hugely impressive reimagining of the game’s early hours, created in Unreal Engine 4. It may be a new way to play, but it brings the same mix frustration and accomplishment than the original.

Grant us polygons

Bloodborne PSXSource: Windows Central

Bloodborne PSX is a semi-faithful rendition of the original Bloodborne, with slight tweaks to levels and controls to better suit the PS1 style. Part of its emulator charm is that it artificially lengthens load times (which can be turned off) and breaks the usual sprawling Victorian city of Yharnam into smaller pieces. This way the game feels authentic to the old console with cleverly placed loading screens between long ladder climbs and footsteps in the dark.

Throwback to the days when even analog sticks didn’t exist, the D-pad is used for movement instead. Camera rotation is done with shoulder buttons, centering your view with a press of the face button. Remember when old games did this? Ever since I was born in, say, the late 1980s (god, even being vague makes me feel old) I feel like this game would fit right in on my modest shelf of games bought with pocket money, right next to a personal favorite game, Nightmare Creatures from 1997.

Even though the controls have been simplified from the original, the camera lock means combat is still as responsive as ever. Resetting the camera quickly helps navigate levels, but that can mean accidental item pick-ups and the occasional targeting of the wrong enemy. It feels like the game has been adjusted to reflect these more restrictive controls, but it’s close enough to the original experience without artificially increasing the difficulty.

Bloodborne PSXSource: Windows Central

The effect is convincing compared to the original PS1 hardware.

The many fake 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 texture warping and an affine recreation of the original PlayStation’s edgy highs, the effect is hugely compelling. You’re free to disable all of that, of course, and run the game at full size with all effects off. Doing this only causes an odd juxtaposition of super smooth textures and chunky pixels, so it’s best to leave some options enabled to maintain the retro theme.

Not content with doing the bare minimum, character creation sliders are also included. Change your hunter’s appearance and adjust hair color by mixing hues, and your creation will appear on the title screen when you load your save. All cutscenes run in real time, so any screaming character you create will still be visible during the story.

The nostalgic visuals are backed by arrangements of the original musical score, composed by Evelyn Lark using a Roland SC-88 Pro for authentic PS1 sound. I was worried that I wouldn’t remember the music, but hearing the menu theme in Bloodborne PSX and the Hunter’s Dream soundtrack, the worry proved unnecessary. The music brought it all back, even with its interesting twist on composing with authentic vintage synthesizers.

Pixel Hungry Beast

Bloodborne PSXSource: Windows Central

For years I resisted the urge to play Dark Souls, mostly for my own sanity since I had 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. Oddly enough, sanity proved a strong theme in the game, and opposite the mandatory first boss, Father Gascoigne, made mine tense thin. When the primary Werewolf boss also appears in Bloodborne PSX, my memories flood back when he let out his little crushed howl. The dedication to replicating enemy types and AI is staggering, proving to be as difficult as you might expect, but with a handful of forgivable bugs.

Bloodborne PSX feels like it could definitely exist in the mid-nineties.

Bloodborne PSX also has some surprises in store. 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 it takes place in a whole new area created specifically for the game, and it’s a lot of fun.

Bloodborne PSXSource: Windows Central

There’s no denying that there’s been a not-so-subtle resurgence in post-’90s games and themes of late, with titles like Ion Fury and Doom 64 making waves in the “boomer shooter” FPS genre. The demakes are slightly different. The culture around demakes brings a curious sense of renewed enjoyment of know-it-all games and attracts 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 may be entirely different, and navigating this fractured Yharnam gives the game a chance to have its own identity.

Seeing how modern game mechanics could have fitted into more primitive engines and hardware of the past can be fascinating in itself. Bloodborne PSX feels like it definitely could have existed in the mid-90s, although probably on more than one CD if they had gone all out for the whole game. Watching the original PlayStation era become a new kind of he vintage aesthetic is exciting, especially in a time when anyone can learn a free game engine and see their dream demake come to life without needing a AAA budget.

Face the hunt

Bloodborne PSXSource: Windows Central

Similar to Demon’s Souls, the original Soul, Bloodborne is known as the most elusive entry given its platform exclusivity. While there are plenty of reasons why the title is highly beloved by fans, being exclusive to PlayStation is the least relevant of them all.

With Bloodborne PSX offering even just a preview of the PC experience and clocking up over 100,000 downloads on its first day of release, it’s 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 exclusive to PlayStation, there are plenty of ways to improve Bloodborne, even if it’s just lifting the archaic frame rate cap. 30 frames per second, present even on PS5.

It may only take about six hours to beat, but it just makes me want more. The experience is both nostalgic about fan service and really fun indie game design; even players who have never touched the original can find it entertaining. Bloodborne rightly deserves to be ported to other platforms and enjoyed by a wider audience, whether or not that happens 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 itch of the soul. For now, Bloodborne PSX is a worthy substitute.

Welcome home, retro hunter

Coverage of Bloodborne PSX

Bloodborne PSX

Bloodborne PSX is an incredible independent reimagining of the PlayStation exclusive. Attracting fans and those who never had the chance to play, it’s a retro triumph.