Preview: Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia - Going After Dracula, Again
I was surprised to hear that people were calling “Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia” “the best Castlevania game since ‘Symphony of the Night.’” It’s not because “Ecclesia” is a bad game, but because it is the biggest departure from the traditions of the Castlevania series since, well… “Castlevania Judgment.” While “Order of Ecclesia” has the makings of a great game, it seems odd to have it bear the name “Castlevania” because it is so different than previous games, and that includes the 2D games that it most closely resembles. Again, what I played of the game wasn’t bad by any means… just different.
First of all, the game stars a female protagonist. While I’m all for empowering the ladies of video games, the lead character’s first name is Shoanoa, and her last name isn’t Belmont. This is not the first time that a Castlevania title hasn’t stared a someone from the Belmont lineage, but coupled with the fact that the series so rarely even has a women in the game, it feels like a bit of a stretch. I repeat, I’m not against a women staring in a game, it just feels a little off for a Castlevania title.
Next up is the Glyph attack system, which is basically a fancy way of saying weapons. The Castlevania series has changed their methods of attacking many times over the last few titles, some for the better, and some for the not so better; this time around they are happen to be going with the Glyphs. These Glyphs are tied to the Order of Ecclesia to which Shoanoa belongs, are part of her character background, and will be vital to taking down Dracula.
Essentially, the way that Shoanoa gains new attacks is through the absorption of Glyphs throughout the levels - which are obtained at key points in the levels, as well as after defeating certain enemies. There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with the Glyph system, but, along with it comes an idea borrowed from many an RPG, equipping your weapons. Shoanoa has three places she can equip her Glyphs, two on her wrists, and one on her back. When the same Glyph is equipped on both wrists you have an increased combo attack (think dual-weilding), and only certain Glyphs can be equipped to her back. This may not be an issue for some gamers out there, but personally, I like to tinker with my character as much as possible to maximize their attack. Unfortunately, this means I may have to spend a bit of time in “Ecclesia”’s menu, again, not new, just something that may irk me a little bit.
Finally, the last tweak to the standard Castlevania formula was the inclusion of an over world map. From my past experiences in Castlevania games, they have mostly taken place in once place… Dracula’s Castle - it puts the “castle” in “Castle-vania.” Opening up the world does offer the possibility for new enemies, and a new experience for gamers who have trekked back and forth over Dracula’s sanctuary over and over again, but it just doesn’t feel right for some reason.
Ok… I feel better now that that’s out of my system, you’ll have to excuse me, I sometimes have problems accepting change.
Complaints aside, there is a very good chance that “Order of Ecclesia” will follow very closely in the footsteps of two of the greatest DS games to date, “Dawn of Sorrow” and “Portrait of Ruin.” The story is as deep as Castlevania fans are used to. The controls handle very well. The attack system is creative and unique, yet still feels familiar. The graphics are as good as they get on the DS, and aside from everything mentioned above, there are a whole assortment of things that will make the game familiar enough to longtime fans. (Yes, I realize I’m contradicting myself - deal with it.)
One welcome addition to “Ecclesia”’s arsenal of updates is the multiplayer mode. Included with the, no doubt, vast single player mode, is a head-to-head multiplayer race where you can go up against your friends to see who kills the undead best… or at least who gets to the end of the level the fastest. In addition to that, you’ll be able to share items with other “Ecclesia” adventures, and, the game will use Wii connectivity to unlock Shoanoa in “Castlevania Judgement,” which is a pretty awesome addition.
While Castlevania traditionalists may have some issues with some of the new additions to “Order of Ecclesia,” they may actually improve on the tried and true formula that made the last two DS Castlevania games amazing. My faith in those two games alone is enough for me to get over my issues and realize that someone has to save the world from Dracula, again, and it might as well be me.