With the announcement of Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, one-time Castlevania series producer Igarashi promised Metroidvania action with a strong female lead. That heroine, Miriam, also happens to be quite the Belmont analogue, a whip-wielding hero venturing deeper into the demon castle to rid the world of their evil.
The fact that the nominal series lead (so far, anyway) is a woman is quite a change from the classic Castlevania series. Although that series has had its heroines, mostly they've served as backup to male characters or, in a couple of instances, have had to go through hell before getting their own hero's quest. Having the female character be the lead for two games (well, at least the second quest of Curse of the Moon along with Ritual of the Night) is a refreshing change.
That said, he character's depiction is not without some issues. There's a touch of leering eye candy to her design for Ritual, as she always wanders around in a Victorian schoolgirl-style outfit (even with piles of armor and weapons on her person). There's also an argument to be made that the second game, Ritual effectively fridges her for ten years so the men can go off and screw things up. Thankfully some of the reported plot developments, such as having her memory wiped between games, was dropped with the released of Ritual, muting that argument some.
Overall, her character is at well handled by the story. She's an equal to all the other characters and rarely subject to the men talking down to her as if she's someone stupid that needs to be protected. That's a win for the genre as a whole, all things considered.
Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon
Orphaned at an early age, Miriam was taken in by a group of magic practitioners known as the Alchemists. There she trained in demon hunting, learning about the darkness while the Alchemists infused her with dark, magical, demon-empowered crystal shards. She became a powerful huntress, using her abilities to fight the evil in the land.
During her time training, she was captured and trapped on a demon-possessed train. Thankfully, Zangetsu, a powerful, sword-wielding demon hunter from the East, fought the demonic train and, in the process, freed Miriam. Although initially distrustful of the girl due to her dark gifts, he eventually agreed to team up with her to fight the demons. Two then became four when, as they ventured forth, the heroes freed the Alchemist Alfred and the demon hunter Gebel. This team proved quite powerful has they were able to invade the dark castle of the demon Gremory and destroy the demonic king.
Unfortunately, Zangetsu had a dark curse laid upon him long ago and, with the release of the dark magic from Gremory, the curse flared. Miriam and her companions watched in horror as Zangetsu took the dark magic into himself, becoming the new Emperor of Darkness.
Fleeing, the three remaining heroes regrouped back outside the castle grounds. Together they agreed to venture back into the castle once more in an attempt to free their companion from the dark magic. The castle was more challenging the second time through, but the heroes persevered, making their way through the tower before descending into the final Keep. There they confronted Zangetsu, now in his full demon form. He locked two of the heroes down, stunning them with magic, leaving Miriam as the only hero capable of fighting the demon. Although her friends were sometimes able to free themselves for short bursts, Miriam had to do much of the work, dealing enough damage to weaken Zangetsu and render his soul ready for release.
Eventually, with Zangetsu weakened, Miriam fought off his final attacks while Alfred cast a spell to release thee dark magic. Once the spell was ready, Zangetsu was freed, his body dead but his soul sent on to the afterlife.
Outside, Miriam and her companions watched on as sun rose over the demon castle. They mourned their friend but were grateful he'd move on to a better place.
The storyline for Bloodstained is already convoluted and we're only two games in. The problem stems from the fact that Curse of the Moon is billed as a prequel to the next title (which we'll discuss momentarily), Ritual of the Night. As such, Curse has to take place 10 years before the sequel because, as we'll soon learn, Miriam falls into a coma for ten years before Ritual takes place. However, but it's also been stated that Miriam is only 18 in Ritual, so she would have had to be 8 years old (and very tall for her age) if that were case. More likely she'd be 28 in the second game (or frozen in time by the magic and remaining 18) if the retro game really is set 10 years before Ritual.
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
After saving the world from the demon-infested castle, Miriam went back to the alchemists for further training. However, soon after, during an experiment with the demon shards, Miriam well into a deep coma, one she would not wake from for ten years exactly. Upon her waking she found a world plunged in darkness. The demons were back, the Alchemists had all been killed (save one, Alfred), and her friend Gebel had been taken over by the demons. He'd resurrected the power of the demon castle and had claimed it as his dark abode. It was upon to Miriam to venture back to the demon lands and rid the world of their evil (and, hopefully, in the process save her friend).
Miriam, though, wasn't alone on her journey. One apprentice alchemist, Johannes, made the journey with her. He set up shop in the town just outside the castle's gates and provided a workshop for her to build needed shards and craft armaments for her journey. His guidance, too, helped her navigate the castle and find the powers needed to make to the final confrontation.
She also gained guidance (and needed materials) from Dominique, a servant of the church. Dominique was the one who put together this whole adventure to the castle, overseeing the details to ensure Miriam and Johannes had passage to the castle. She also provided her own guidance to help the demon huntress make her way through the castle.
Then there was Zangetsu, the sword-wielding demon hunter (from Curse of the Moon) who was somehow back from the dead. Neither he nor Miriam seemed to have any memory of the other, but that didn't stop them from eventually joining forces... after he first tried to kill her and went through a long bout of distrusting the huntress. As she was infused with demon shards, Zangetsu doubted Miriam's intentions within the castle but, over time, she earned his trust and his respect (even if it did take two battles to prove it).
As she ventured through the evil halls, Miriam also eventually encountered Alfred. The alchemist, who had survived Gebel's attack on the guild, had ventured in to the castle to reclaim a deeply evil magical book. He wanted to keep it out of the hands of Gebel so he could claim the power for himself, which eventually led to a battle between Miriam and the sorcerer. After, it was revealed that Alfred only wanted the book for himself so he could use it to seal away the demons, not unleash them. Once this was revealed, Zangetsu eventually handed over his sword to Miriam so that she could use it to stop the demons and maybe save Gebel.
At the castle keep Miriam finally had he confrontation with her demon-possessed friend. Armed with the sword, Miriam realized that she didn't need to attack Gebel but, instead, the red moon that hung over their battle which, in reality, was the sigil of Gremory, the evil demonic leader of the castle. Slashing the moon broke the bond between Gremory and Gebel, leading the demon to flee elsewhere in the castle. Sadly, with the bond broken, Gebel died, but at least his soul was finally free.
Venturing back through the castle, Miriam found the path to Gremory's final realm. That was when it was revealed that one of her allies, Dominique, was actually her enemy. She killed Alfred and stole the evil book, fleeing deep into the demon halls so she could bring forth true evil. After saying a sad farewell to Alfred, Miriam gave chase, pursuing Dominique to the end of the line, deep in an icy cavern. There, after a battle between the two women, Dominique opened the gateway for the demon Bael, leading Miriam to have to fight the giant monstrosity. Although the battle was difficult, Miriam was able to best the beast, and Dominique along with it, sealing away the demons and ridding the land of evil. After a short farewell, Miriam left Johannes so she could continue her work ridding the land of evil.
As we note, both Miriam and Zangetsu appear in Ritual of the Night, the despite the fact that Zangetsu died, fully and completely, in the previous game (if you go by the story of the first and second playthroughs of that game). While it's weird to have him show up again in this game, it's ever stranger considering that no one makes any remarks about it. While I wouldn't expect side characters to find it strange, the fact that Miriam doesn't question Zangetsu's existence is very curious.
But then, in this game Miriam doesn't even recognize Zangetsu at all, nor he her. It's almost as if both of their memories were wiped after the previous game. Well, that or Curse takes place in a different continuity and it's not really a prequel, but considering so far series producer Igarashi hasn't said the two are separate, we have to assume this is just a weird continuity error, one that will hopefully get addressed down the road.
Playing as Miriam:
As the Belmont-like hero of Curse of the Moon, Miriam has a very traditional feel in the hands of a Castlevania fan. She has her whip (which actually has a longer reach than many of the whips in the original series) along with a selection of sub-weapons: dagger, great axe (which she swings in a slow arc in front of her), scythe (which acts like the boomerang-like holy cross), and triple blade (which she throw in an upwards arc).
She's also the highest jumper of the heroes in Curse which, when compared with her ability to so a very Mega Man-like slide, gives her a lot of movement tech the other heroes lack. When playing through the game, it's quite likely that you will end up using Miriam for huge stretches (especially once Zangetsu is removed from your party for the 2nd Quest, Nightmare Mode).
In the sequel, Ritual of the Night, Miriam starts greatly depowered from where she was in Curse. She starts just with basic martial arts moves and absolutely no special abilities but, very quickly, she starts gaining powers. Naturally, she begins picking up weapons to use -- not just whips, like in the prequel (although those are available), but swords, axes, and spears as well. Additionally, killing enemies also grants Miriam shards, powers of the demons that she could then use in combat (so long as she had to mana available). In essence, Miriam because a Soma Cruz-clone, with all the same kinds of controls and functions available.