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Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia (DS) artwork

Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia (DS) review

"Bro, do you even glyph?"

All eras must end, even in gaming. Canons run their course, concepts overstay their welcome, companies lose their edges and franchises dry up. When eras fizzle out, the best we can hope for is a proper sendoff and not a rushed, forgettable product as a means to say goodbye.

...which brings me to the "Metroidvania" era of Castlevania.

The concept had run its course sometime around 2005. I knew it was bound to happen, and I accepted it. I only hoped that Konami wouldn't muck up the concept's swan song and provide me with another reason to doubt their credibility. Thankfully, in terms of fond farewells, the developer delivered. Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia is a fitting conclusion to the franchise's Metroid-like structure.

Unfortunately, it didn't seem like a fair sendoff at first, as I found plenty to bellyache about when I began the adventure. For instance, I didn't like that conventional weaponry and spells had vanished in this installment. Instead, Order of Ecclesia introduced a new system involving glyphs. By absorbing magical symbols, I gained access to a plethora of phantasmal weapons and magical abilities, and even special combinations of weaponry and magic that led to devastating attacks. Although this sounded neat, I wasn't very receptive towards it. I am unfortunately prone to slipping into codger mode sometimes and resisting change in my favorite brands. I decided early on to dislike the glyph system because it was new, and my illogical attitude prevented me from truly enjoying this product.

My complaints didn't cease with the glyph system, either. I bemoaned the game's overly simple structure, its usage of multiple stages rather than a complete world and the fact that the adventure didn't kick off in Dracula's castle. I didn't particularly dig the prospect of exploring various regions that lay outside of the fortress. I grimaced at the notion of visiting a town, harking back to Simon's Quest--a game I've come to dislike over the years. Most of all, I whined that the game wasn't "Castlevania enough." Deep down, though, I knew that Order was quality material, yet I maintained the erroneous belief that its biggest flaw was that it bore the Castlevania moniker.

It took a second playthrough and a slight attitude adjustment to realize what I had been missing in this installment all along. Determined to give a more accurate critique, I decided to shed the "if it ain't broke..." mentality and stop focusing overmuch on the game's brand. After achieving that, I came to appreciate the fantastic content this installment has to offer.

I grew to enjoy the glyph system and the awesome attacks that came with it. I loved hacking away at anthropomorphic spiders with a giant scythe or bludgeoning cave trolls with a ghostly hammer. Most of all, I dug how the game excised all of the unimportant weapons showcased in previous "Metroidvania" titles. I mean, really, why hide an inferior blade or an obsolete set of armor in a late-game room? In this adventure, you only find one short sword, and that's the short sword glyph. You don't amass a heap of useless cutlery, which makes the discovery of a new weapon glyph all the more meaningful.

When I wasn't ascending treacherous mountain paths or diving into predator-infested waters, I was rescuing imprisoned villagers. With each citizen saved, I gained access to helpful side quests that offered excellent goodies, including powerful armor and accessories. True, these quests were of the 'fetch' variety, and that led to painful sessions of item farming, but the rewards were well worth the tedium.

Most of all, though, this title was home to a slew of fantastic boss battles. Although I was a disappointed to see few classic monsters reappear, the game's new lineup of rogues more than made up for the absence of nostalgic villains. The giant bat took a bench this time around, replaced by Arthroverta: a tremendous demonic isopod with a humanoid face jutting from its carapace. Fighting this sucker was tricky, and he was only the first boss. The room it inhabited was dreadfully tiny, which made the creature's roll attack difficult to avoid. Later on, I entered a cave filled with loose sand. Dwelling beneath the grainy surface was a vicious sand fish called Gravedorcus. Not only did this brute pack a painful bite, but it also exuded a horrible toxin that weakened my character.

My favorite battle, though was against a titanic centaur called Eligor. Yep, you read that correctly; I actually thought Death wasn't the coolest boss on offer. Though Order showcases a challenging scuffle against Death, it pales in comparison to running along Eligor's armored back, experimenting with the creature's frame in an effort to find a weak point. Frequently, his bladed tail stung me, or his his immense sword crushed me, or his mighty hooves shattered every bone in my body. After a long fight and a lot of crystal shattering, I eventually emerge victorious, less my supply of healing goods.

Now I'm not saying this is a perfect Castlevania title. My biggest complaint with the game remains the lack of exploration. Yes, the levels are fairly complex. Yes, there are a few regions that branch and keep the experience clear of total linearity Still, the stages are nowhere near as convoluted as they were before, and the exploration value is below that of previous outings. Heck, you don't even arrive at Dracula's castle until the campaign's climax, and even then it's structurally less impressive than most of its earlier iterations.

It's kind of a shame that the era had to end with Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, because we'll probably never have another title like it. The game reinvented the franchise's systems and created a satisfying arrangement of ideas that I'm sure Konami will never revisit. I really would love to see a follow up, especially if such a game featured more fleshed out stages and a firmer emphasis on exploration. Perhaps one day the planets will align and someone at Konami will dream the notion up, and revive "Metroidvania" like a phoenix.

...and perhaps one day I'll be a millionaire...

Project Horror 2019

Bonus Content


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (October 20, 2019)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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