Fromsoftware’s most famous video game title is easily “Dark Souls”. It has become renown throughout the gaming community for its intricate world, steep but fair difficulty, incredible level design, and its unique method of storytelling: Show don’t tell.
That may not sound innovative, but it was for video games, which normally locked the story behind cutscenes and exposition dumps while the player had to idly twiddle their thumbs, dreaming about how they would very like to be doing the cool things the character is currently doing. And most mobile games and mobile casino games barely include narrative, if they include any at all.
Since its immense success, Dark Souls has often been hailed as one of the gold standards of video games. Games “journalists” often compare anything remotely difficult as “The Dark Souls of _____”, and gamers have taken the handle “souls-like” as a new genre within the industry. Hollow knight, Dead cells, Death’s Gambit, Codevein, Darksiders, The Surge, Nioh, and even STAR WARS Jedi: Fallen Order all label themselves as such (and so, so, so many more).
But Fromsoftware themselves weren’t going to let such a valuable IP sit idle. Since Dark Souls was released, Fromsoftware has churned out Dark Souls 2, 3, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, Dark Souls: Remastered, Demon Souls: Remake, Elden Ring (next month), and, of course, Bloodborne.
Bloodborne was actually released after Dark Souls 2 and was the project of Fromsoftware’s A team while their B team worked on DS2. Bloodborne took the elements of the Souls-like genre (stamina management combat, 3rd person mechanics, checkpoint-based spawn, interconnected worlds, etc.) and set them within a terrifying nightmare world inspired almost directly by the works of H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe. Everything is set in gothic architecture, the NPCs wear dapper victorian clothing, and horrors of the world are because of a bunch of university professors delving into forbidden knowledge.
It’s gruesome. It’s awesome. It cannot be played unless you specifically have a Playstation 4. It’s an exclusive title, which means that PC players (like meee) cannot play it without purchasing a four hundred dollar console. Sigh.
That’s not to say that all hope was lost! Okay, it basically was. There were rumors for the longest time that Bloodborne would eventually be officially ported to PC. However, in the years since Bloodborne’s release back in 2015 and the subsequent releases of Dark Souls 3, Seikiro, and now Elden Ring, that seems less and less likely.
However, a community member who goes by the handle of “Lilith Walther” (which is probably just his real name, but I can’t confirm that) has been working on a Bloodborne PSX “Demake” for literally years. I’ve found videos about it on the channel that dates back at least four years. So this project has been in the making for a long damn time, especially for a fan project.
The gist of the project is to take the basic gameplay and story of Bloodborne and recreate it in the style and limitations of the Playstation 1. After several years of development, the project was finally released on itch.io, and I played it to completion.
And it is easily one of my favorite soul-likes I’ve ever played.
The Bloodborne PSX Demake opens with a beautiful recreation of the official Bloodborne intro cinematic but in the Play Station 1 style. Glitchy textures, low poly models, and jank galore. It’s so authentic and full of character in a distinctly “video-gamey” way that modern, hyper-realistic AAA titles just fail to match. Maybe it’s nostalgia. Maybe I’m just old.
The Demake dropped into, again, an amazing recreation of the first level of the game. That’s when I noticed the biggest change from the PS4 version, outside of the graphics: The controls. To keep with the authenticity, the Demake does not use either of the analog joysticks because the original PS1 controller didn’t have them.
Instead, you move the player character using the D-Pad and the trigger buttons to turn the camera. Locking onto enemies uses the X button (the A button on an X-box controller) instead of clicking the stick, and walking (instead of running) requires you to hold down the square button (or X button on an X-Box controller).
Initially, this threw off my entire muscle memory I had developed from playing Dark Souls. However, I ended up getting used to the new setup surprisingly quickly, and once I had the controls down this Demake became a blast to play.
Bloodborne PSX recreates most of the main, initial zone from the official game: The City of Yarhnam. This is a city overrun by terrible beasts, and it’s up to “The Good Hunter” (otherwise known as the Player) to hunt them down, find the source of this scourge, and end the Eldritch nightmare that has thrown the world into chaos.
In the main game, this involves a ten to fifteen-hour quest of delving into the annals of Yarnham, a conspiracy involving the Bergenwerth University, cosmic entities from beyond the stars, and eating enough umbilical cords so that you can turn yourself into a god.
Yuuup. That’s Japan writing cosmic horror for ya.
The Demake follows most of this beat for beat, and I never expected that it would be a recreation of the full game. So I was pleasantly surprised when I saw just how much of the game actually WAS included. It’s still a small slice of the actual game, but a really damn good slice nonetheless.
The Demake includes the first two bosses from the original game, around twenty to thirty of the basic enemies, about five of the more iconic weapons, all of the basic gameplay mechanics, and at least one of the fan-favorite NPCs.
And there’s more original stuff that was added in by the Demakes creator to fit this more PS1 / gamified version. Certain doors in the hub area are locked by the amount of Insight the player has collected, with big numbers on the locked doors to indicate how much is required.
Certain enemies and areas are modified to fit better or are even expanded upon. The best example is the Giant Rats. In the base game, they sort of just scuttle towards the player are try to nip at you. Here, they bound around like jackrabbits, making for a far more exciting encounter.
However, there are two additions that really stand out for me. The first is the CO-OP. I played through this game initially with my little brother, and we handed off the controller to each other whenever one of us died (or went too far without dying). However, split-screen CO-OP was added right before we reached the final boss.
We downloaded the new version (which kept our save file from the previous version- good job Lillith!) and took on the final boss together.
The second edition is the completely unique 3rd act that took me completely by surprise. I really don’t want to spoil any of it because it deviates quite heavily from the original game. However, it really changes up everything and ties THIS experience up in a neat little bow.
I went from strolling through this game like a boss to sprinting from checkpoint to checkpoint in a panic. There are also some unique items added in that just fit so well into this game (COUGHdoublebarreledshotgunCOUGH), and I know for an absolute FACT that I didn’t even find them all.
This experience back in the day could have easily been sold for thirty dollars without complaint. As a fan of Fromsoftware, it’s got everything I want in a Bloodborne fangame. The setting, the atmosphere, the cosmic horror… it all culminates in one of the best gaming experiences I’ve had in a while.
In fact, this Demake, being only three hours long (and probably a lot shorter if you try), is one of the only video games I’ve had the opportunity to complete for a long time (sorry, Psychonauts).
In fact, the biggest criticism I have is that there isn’t MORE of it. Sure, I could take the time to 100% it and collect all the items and whatnot, but that’s not really my thing. However, I can’t expect more from a fan project that’s THIS good and was produced and released entirely for free.
So overall, I cannot recommend the Bloodborne PSX Demake any more highly. Both me and my brother had a blast playing through it, even before CO-OP was actually added as a feature. The aesthetic hits all the right spots in my gamer heart. The writing and lore and soundtrack of Fromsoftware are still incredible, even when enjoyed secondhand.
Bloodborne PSX is a project that clearly was built out of love. There is so much here that didn’t need to be, but the developer did it anyway. It all serves to create a singular, closed experience—a mini-version of the original.
And, probably, the only way I’ll ever be able to play Bloodborne. So thank you, dev, for all the sweat, blood, and tears that must have gone into this project. You’ve made something truly wonderful.