A [Castlevania] fan's delight, and a softer gamer's fright.
-CANUCK- wrote this review on .
[Castlevania : Order of Ecclesia] : The latest attempt at a modern day Symphony.
Story : [Castlevania : Order of Ecclesia] is based around a young woman named [Shanoa] who was chosen to bear some kind of almighty power capable of bringing down [Dracula], only for fellow cult-mate [Albus] to steal the power for himself, forcing [Shanoa] to go after him. There's a good twist or two here and there but the overall story in [Castlevania : Order of Ecclesia] is by and large predictable. You know you're just going to wind up fighting [Dracula] in the end anyways. It's like the series is sometimes held down from evolving due to its own tradition, yet even I'll admit that I'd be disappointed if a [Castlevania] game didn't end in a bout with [Dracula].
[Castlevania : Order of Ecclesia] isn't so much distinct for its most heavily advertised features so much as it is for more of its' subtle changes. The only reason I appreciate [Shanoa] as the game's protagonist is because she distinctly looks female, which is a change of pace from the usual androgynous main character that stars in these [Castlevania : Symphony of the Night] knockoffs, otherwise she's not a particularly likable individual. The addition of a [village] with [civilians] that need rescuing isn't too big of a deal, as they merely provide [fetch quests] for the player to…
Oh, and if you'd like to know why I'm talking with [brackets] around words, it's because the game likes using them too, with the upmost demand it seems. I've seen numerous games do a similar thing, using underlines or colours to highlight names or quest related items. Order of Ecclesia is fond of the bracket, to highlight seemingly every noun in for the player. A villager may ask you to collect 3 [iron ore] (no plural form here) or another character will have a major speech proclaiming that [Dracula] is the embodiment of all evil. I can't help but find that this sucks out a good deal of impact or immersion out of the storyline. I don't quite understand why; trust me when I say that the target audience of this game is not stupid enough to need important parts of the sentence to be highlights so abruptly.
I say that because this game is not meant to be played by anyone but the most determined of platform gamers. Bosses are all tough, with large chunks of health to chip off and difficult, random attack patterns to figure out. You're going to die repeatedly in the process of trying to beat one. Even many casual enemies will tear you apart if given the chance. Save points are infrequent, so you'll find yourself using the magical escape item to retreat to the village often…or die a lot. The game only keeps track of the hours you've spent playing and not dying so while my game save says I've put in a mere 5 hours into the game, the real number is embarrassingly much, much higher.
In part, that's due to how infrequent stat-boosting armour appears in the game, as in order to improve your meager defense rating, you'll find yourself having to do a fetch quest or two from certain villagers in order to make available armour you can't afford at the store. There's another issue of difficulty; money is scarce, and you'll rarely find yourself equipped with necessary potions, meaning that you're going to really EARN the right to progress.
Another aspect that only the diehards are going to mind is the game's slap in the face false-ending. Once you do beat Albus, the game sets you up and basically says "you can't go to the real last level and fight Dracula unless you rescue EVERY villager." Well this certainly ticked me off, especially considering the number of lives I needed to beat Albus in the first place. It's even more frustrating how you're going to need some kind of internet strategy guide to find some of the villagers, since some of them are hidden behind walls that are supposed to be broken down but otherwise untraceable without either some kind of internet assistance or trying to hit every wall in the game until something breaks, like you're some kind of game tester. This may be fine for the Gamefaqs.com crowd of gamers, but not the average Joe.
In perhaps a sign that the series is going full-circle, there's no giant overworld in this game, but rather a series of smaller stages, connected by a basic world map. This cuts on the backtracking, and at the same time, each area is interesting enough to make you want to explore, though there's perhaps one "straight line filled with enemies" type of level too many in the game.
Another small change that I wound up appreciating is the glyph system, where Shanoa takes advantage of her scantily-clad powers and absorbs certain magical artifacts into her bare back. Absorbed glyphs can then be assigned to certain buttons, and end up manifesting themselves into weapons attacks or certain abilities. For the most part, this comes off as a repackaged version of the weapons and spells equipment system, but there are some unique twists. A select few enemy attacks can be sucked out from right under their noses to unlock new abilities. Magic attacks can lead into changing your character's super attack, and there's a great variety of spells once you approach the tail end of the game. It's a small gameplay tweak that you wind up appreciating after you make yourself stick with it long enough.
And that really is the key to enjoying Order of Ecclesia; gutting it out. Truth be told, this is the most fun I've had out of a Castlevania game since Symphony of the Night, and likewise, it's also the most frustration I've gotten since the very early NES games. It's a great purchase for long-time fans and in particular, the ones that like to search far and wide to collect every power-up and compete for the best time in the obligatory "Boss Rush" mode. But if you've never played any of these games before, be warned. Go start with Symphony or even one of the other DS Castlevania games. Build up your tolerance for beating giant monsters with sexually-questionable characters.
Pros : Great-as-always art style, without leaving the impression that the game is trying to be more stylish than it really is (i.e. the other Symphony clones). Will greatly amplify your tolerance for Castlevania : Judgement on the Wii (review coming soon) Plenty of post-game extras.
Cons : A few too many enemies were ripped out of Symphony of the Night.