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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia Review

After playing CV: LoS, I've been in a very Castlevania mood, and even decided to finally try out Order of Ecclesia for the DS, even though I said I wouldn't.

This was a surprise for me indeed.

First let me start by saying that this game is the closest thing to a classic 2D Castlevania game since Rondo of Blood. This title mixes the best of the old school, and the Metroidvania style. The game has many varied stages that you progress through using a world map. From swamps, forests, mountains, and much more... this game has a lot of variety in its level design. As I was playing through the game, I couldn't continually help thinking to myself that this is the 2D Castlevania game I've always wanted to play.

That's not to say that this doesn't have its faults. Some of the level designs are just plain bad. The main culprits of this would be those awful stages where you literally just walk from left to right dispatching baddies. It feels like they just threw these in there to simply say "Look, different scenery. It's not all in a castle for a change." Now, while that is nice, and I appreciate the gesture, you really didn't have to do that, developers. Another thing that really annoyed me was that save points are lacking big time in this. I know they were going for that challenging effect here, but it was really annoying when I would die and get sent back to like ten minutes into the past, forced to explore the same part of the castle over and over again. Eventually it almost felt like Diablo, because I would be constantly using the "Magical Ticket" item which instantly teleports you back to a safe town with a save point. Thankfully there are warps within the levels that can you take you to specific parts of the map, but sometimes you still have to do a lot of extra walking. Seriously guys, there could have been one or two extra save points per map.

Speaking of old school, this game is damn hard. The bosses are brutal, and just like the older games of the series, they can take you down quickly if you don't learn their patterns. A lot of the boss attacks do over 100 points of damage, and simply touching them can easily do over 50. It's pretty ridiculous, however it's always a great feeling to learn the bosses and then dispatch them. While I was playing this game, I was completely taken by surpise by the game's difficulty. Normally I expect every Castlevania game to be a walk in the park where I can just cruise around and get hit as I please, but not here. Regular enemies can just as easily kill you as any boss can, especially in large numbers. If you come in here expecting another easy as hell Caslteroid game, think again.

Lets talk about the combat system. The main character, Shanoa, can equip "Glyphs" to 3 different Glyph slots (mapped to Y, X, and R buttons). The Y & X glyph's are essentially your weapon slots. You can equip a few different types of weapons, from rapiers, lances, throwing axes, and so on and so forth. The R glyphs are more for utility then attacking, with abilities that increase your stats, or allow you to fly. Shortly into the game, you are given a relic that allows you to set 3 different glyph set-ups, which creates interesting ways to make powerful and effective combos. It takes a while to get used to it, and by the end you're pretty much using every single finger to hit all different buttons, and it gets pretty crazy awesome. It's a welcomed surprise to see such depth in combat for a 2D game. On top of that, the game rarely allows you to use one glyph for everything. For example, Skeletons are weak against smashing weapon types, like hammers, and they are strong against sword slashes. So don't expect to walk around hacking everything to pieces with your sword, because it's not going to work. You need to constantly remember enemy strengths and weaknesses, and adjust accordingly. Again, depth people, good stuff entirely.

The music in this game is extremely good, but that goes without saying. It's 2D Castlevania after all. One of my new favorite Castlevania tracks has to be "An Empty Tome." It's extremely catchy, and really gives you that... go kill some zombies mindset. The sound effects are good too, and the voice work is there... it's decent, but I don't care for it much. I just go to the config and turn it off, voices in games like this was never really my cup of tea, but that's just a personal preference.

Storyline in Ecclesia is what one would come to expect out of a Castlevania game. Betrayal, plot twist, another betrayal that makes you realize the original betrayal wasn't really one after all, Dracula, Castle, dead Dracula, Castle crumbles, the end. That's not to say that the characters are fleshed out a lot better than in previous entries, making for some of the best characters in the series (well I think I should say "best developed", best might be a bit much, I'll leave that spot open for a Belmont), too bad this rehashed story didn't do them much justice. Either way, if you're playing a game like this, you're probably not so interested in the story to begin with. I know I wasn't, and predicted the entire thing from the first scene, and I was right 100% by the way.

Then there are the graphics, and first off let me start this off by saying... NEW ENEMIES! OH MY GOD NEW ENEMIES! Now, fans of this series know exactly what I'm talking about. Of course, there are those recycled sprites in there still from Rondo of Blood (I'm looking at you, skeletons), but still... I was seeing so much new stuff, and I couldn't help but feel that... for once, in a long time, I was playing a new Castlevania game. This also has to be one of the visually greatest 2D games I've ever played, the surprising attention to detail in some areas is just incredible. It's a very pretty game, and all the areas look good... even if the map is just a simple straight line sometimes.

All in all, this game is wonderful... it really is. It's a shame that this game didn't come out years ago, since it would have helped fix the split somewhat between classic Castlevania fans and Metrodvania fans. If there are going to be anymore 2D entries in the Castlevania series (and after playing this, I certainly hope so), then they really need to continue focusing in this direction. It takes all the good things of Castlevania from its original release in the 80s, to the stuff of the present, and blends it all in a fantastic fashion.


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