Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia Review

There are few certainties in the gaming world, but if you’re betting on a classic two-dimensional action series to remain fun and satisfying with each new release, then Konami’s Castlevania series is always one to consider. This holds true with the newest game in the franchise, Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia for the Nintendo DS.

Order of Ecclesia is the story of Shanoa, a young member of the Order who is chosen as the wielder of the Dominus, a power that will spell the end of the returning menace, Dracula. Before she can receive this power, however, the magical glyphs of the Dominus are stolen and she must embark on a quest to recapture them before confronting the Count.

Although the story is quite engaging for this type of game, Order of Ecclesia shines most brightly in the gameplay department. Combat also revolves around glyphs, as every weapon in the game is not a physical item, but a glyph that Shanoa must absorb in order to use. There is a wide variety of these ethereal instruments of destruction available to the player, and the swords, daggers, axes, sickles, and the like can be mapped to the X and Y buttons in any combination in order to slay the forces of darkness. Choosing two weapons equips Shanoa with the tools necessary to combat foes in different ways (like short- and long-range attacks), while doubling up on the same glyph allows her to perform rapid one-two strikes and grants her the ability to unleash special, heavy-damage attacks such as raining down a screen-darkening volley of arrows or taking a single swipe with a blade three times her height.

Dispatching the creatures of the night in C:OE is a near-perfect classic gaming experience, with the only noticeable (and minor) hitch being the delayed transition to and from attacking and jumping/ducking maneuvers. Otherwise, the side-scrolling action feels just right, and the player is granted a carefully-balanced level of power via the adaptable weapon system to combat the hordes of monsters (s)he will be facing. The creative enemy design is refreshing, and never leaves the player fighting the same set of foes for too long. Most of the creatures look and behave differently from one another, following unique attack patterns that force the player to proceed with caution. Bosses are large, detailed, and impressive, and require a degree of strategy to defeat. The difficulty curve is natural and progressive.

Elements of C:OE function very much like a role-playing game. Shanoa has base stats that improve as she defeats enemies, thereby becoming more and more dangerous a warrior. New glyphs that players discover are typically stronger than those already in tow, and the money that they collect can be used to purchase various pieces of damage-reducing armor. Each person Shanoa rescues along the way returns to the main town, where they will request that she complete small tasks before rewarding her with a specific service (opening a shop, healing wounds, crafting items, etc.). These quests are optional and never get in the way, but they do provide additional goals for gamers to achieve and help build a more complete game.

All of the action comes wrapped in a gift box of excellent level design. Shanoa travels in all directions–up through ceilings, down through floors, into hidden areas, and back again. Warp pedestals make traveling from one end of a stage to the other easy, but the game rarely sends players backtracking in the first place. A number of environmental hazards and traps litter a few of the levels, and each area is very distinct thanks to some of the best graphics on the handheld as well as an outstanding score. The dynamic background animation and multiple layers of pixel art combine with top-notch sound effects to create a wonderful audio/visual experience.

If there’s one DS game worth picking up for the rest of 2008, Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia is it. From its beautiful presentation to its engaging gameplay, there is little to complain about in this 2D action title. It even has a pretty good story…with a twist. Go get it.


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Author: Eddie Inzauto View all posts by
Eddie has been writing about games on the interwebz for over ten years. You can find him Editor-in-Chiefing around these parts, or talking nonsense on Twitter @eddieinzauto.

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