Friday, 19 October 2012

Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia Review (DS)


Another year and another Castlevania title manages to find its way onto the Nintendo DS. Any other series being chucked out at such a rate would no doubt bring a feeling of dread, but each new Castlevania release can almost always be guaranteed to be of a high standard.

Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia puts players in control of a young woman named Shenoa. She has been charged to retrieve three parts of a super powerful Glyph. These are the new weapons of choice and our heroine can gain new powers by absorbing any left behind by fallen monsters, and work in much the same way as Soma Cruz's ability to use souls. Any combination of Glyphs can be combined to create even more powerful attacks and it all works very well.

The plot is of an excellent standard and has far more twists and turns than we have become accustomed to from the series. The presentation is also absolutely top class with beautiful backgrounds, characters and a stunning intro sequence. The music, as you might expect, is of exceptional quality.

So far so good but Order of Ecclesia has a real shock in store. The first hour is really poor and feels like a lifetime. The structure moves even further away from the idea of having one big castle and lets players explore a world of individual areas. The first environments you come to, are beyond dull and it's a real struggle to keep the enthusiasm to play through them.

Easily the worst of these is a forest area which just goes from left to right and repeats the same three enemies and graphics over and over again. We are all for a return to the side scrolling days of old, but please don't just create a small section and then cut and paste it to make a level. Things do improve massively though and we really urge players to fight their way through to the lighthouse area. Once you beat the boss here everything steps up in pace and the level design is immeasurably better.

Whilst hacking your way around the land, you will need to keep an eye out for local villagers who have been kidnapped. Releasing the villagers is vital as they are shop keepers who sell you different things. The game is difficult enough without having to get through it without armour or healing potions. Difficulty is another thing that players will need to keep in mind. Aside from Circle of the Moon on the GBA this is easily the most will-crushingly difficult Castlevania game on any handheld. Bosses take an age to go down and regular monsters can take you out if you aren't paying attention. This is most noticeable at the start of the game and does level off a bit as you get better weapons.

Retro 101 is not scared of saying that we consider ourselves to be big Castelvania fans, but we really struggled to get through the opening parts of this. It's a shame as once it's cleared the game world and level design improves so much. However, it can't be ignored that the first section of the game feels like it takes a lifetime to get through. This isn't helped by the fact you don't have decent weapons or villagers to sell you items.

Criticisms aside, Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia develops into an excellent game. The new combat system works well and the plot is close to a series high. There is also some imagination with the bosses and we really like the continued move towards self contained areas rather than just having one huge castle. The fact you get a bit of both here means it should keep everyone happy.

What it really comes down to is how much of a fan you consider yourself to be. The game is difficult and frustrating to begin with and anyone new to the series may well be put off. Persevere though (and we really would suggest you do), and this is up there with the best in the series.

8/10

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