Casltevania has survived primarily because of a good handheld market for it. The console titles, for the most part, are usually more of a letdown than anything else. The DS already received two handheld games. The first, Dawn of Sorrow, was a masterpiece. And while Portrait of Ruin wasn't bad, it is perhaps the weakest of the DS games. Order of Ecclesia is a fantastic game, although it's fairly difficult. It spices up the formula in some ways, at least, and it is by far one of the best constructed games of the handheld outings.
Castlevania Order of Ecclesia puts you in control of Shanoa. Female protagonists are not that common in Castlevania games so to play as one is welcome. Shanoa belongs to the Order of Ecclesia and as the game begins we discover they're getting ready for a ritual that may save humanity. Unfortunately things go wrong when it's revealed Shanoa is the chosen one to do so. Her friend Albus isn't too happy about this and screws things up, causing Shanoa to lose her memory in the process. Some time later, Shanoa is learning her skills again... but now has to figure out how to stop an out of control Albus who has kidnapped the villagers of Wygol Village and imprisoned them in various locations. As Shanoa dives deeper she discovers old memories and faces challenging foes. But she ultimately learns that the Order of Ecclesia isn't nearly as virtuous as she thought.
Despite being yet another game where our main character conveniently loses her memory, Order of Ecclesia actually has a good story going for it with some interesting twists thrown in. But the best of the game comes from the gameplay itself. In the past, Castlevania has been straightforward with its Metroidvania appeal and with its RPG elements. None of that has really changed since they were introduced in Symphony of the Night. Order of Ecclesia doesn't put a huge twists on these elements, but the world is definitely bigger. Rather than being thrown into Dracula's castle from the get go, you traverse a world map entering different areas to explore. As you defeat bosses and progress the story, more areas open up for you to explore.
The gameplay also throws in different approaches. Order of Ecclesia relies heavily on its glyph system to keep you going. As you progress through the game enemies are known to drop glyphs that Shanoa can absorb and use at her own will. There are glyphs that are weapons and others that support you by letting you do things such as connect to magnets and fling yourself or walk through specific walls. It's pretty simple stuff, but there are a variety. The weapon glyphs in particular you'll find yourself switching between constantly as different enemies are weak to different glyphs. You can also attack with both weapons. One is assigned to the Y button and the other to the X. Along those lines you can also combine two weapon glyphs to perform crush attacks that will cost you hearts, but can reap absurd amounts of damage.
You'll also be rescuing villagers, most of whom will help you in some way if you bring them specific items. One is willing to make dresses for you, another is willing to create weapons and armor, another makes various potions for you. It all works out.
If there's one thing Order of Ecclesia has in common with Portrait of Ruin it is that they are both fairly challenging. The bosses can be especially brutal. They eventually fall into predictable patterns but they hit for large amounts of damage. One has to go through Order of Ecclesia precisely the first time through. You're bound to die mostly because of the tough boss fights. The good news is that there are plenty of items you can buy that will heal you and give you a fighting chance.
Of all the handheld titles, Order of Ecclesia is definitely the biggest. The game essentially has one major plot point that surfaces after a time that makes the game twice as long as most of the other handheld titles. It can take at least ten hours to play through Ecclesia and that's not including bonus modes such as Boss Rush mode or playing through a separate campaign. There are also a couple of bonus areas that you can venture to.
Production wise, Order of Ecclesia is the best looking of the DS games. This is mostly because it uses a lot of effects rather well. Seeing tidal waves in the background is amazing. Some of the animations can look a little clunky, though (in particular, the final boss has terrible animations) but it's technically impressive. The game also doesn't bother to make use of the touch screen. While that may sound bad for a DS game, it's a thankful improvement seeing as how Dawn of Sorrow's seals felt like a gimmick rather than anything else. Likewise, Order of Ecclesia also ditches the character swapping gimmick of Portrait of Ruin. This makes Order of Ecclesia probably one of the better DS titles. Unfortunately it isn't as charming as some of Dawn of Sorrow's better moments, mostly because the game hardly does anything to make you want to love Shanoa. She's a fine character, but she most certainly is not one you'll find yourself getting attached to yet. She can, at least, pull off several attacks. Order of Ecclesia is better than Portrait of Ruin but might not be enough to best Dawn of Sorrow.
The soundtrack is also very memorable as well, with tunes that are simple enough to hum and others that can get stuck in your head. There are some voices here as well, but a lot of them are apt to be annoying and become background noise. It's mostly just bosses taunting you or yelling as they attack.
Order of Ecclesia is a fun game because it manages to be so much fun to play. It's a great outing that's fun, challenging and a marvel to look at. If you're a Castlevania veteran then this is a must own title.
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Sean A. Rhodes (Sean_Rhodes)
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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Following the success of Dawn of Sorrow and Portrait of Ruin, the legendary Castlevania series is back on the Nintendo DS. This time you play as a member of the Ecclesia, an organization that has sworn to defeat the evil forces of Dracula. Use the brand new Glyph attack system which has more than 100 different combinations to battle Dracula and his minions throughout 20 explorable areas. Take part in side quests and collect items to power up your character in the next great Castlevania game produced by Koji Igarashi.