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DS  header logo

Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia

For: DS

Here comes the bride

Product: Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia | Developer: Konami | Publisher: Konami | Format: DS | Genre: Action, Adventure, Platform | Players: 1-2 | Networking: wireless (network) | Version: US
Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia DS, thumbnail 1

Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia marks the long-running Castlevania series' first female protagonist. Leading lady Shanoa marries into a franchise with lofty expectations, but she's more than the dutiful bride. Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue – she's packing it all.

From classic elements to fresh ideas, her adventure runs the gamut from nostalgic to new. Though not everything inherited here is lovely, as much of what Order of Ecclesia offers feels more borrowed than inventive. Her stoic personality adds a touch of blue – not that the depressingly dark story needed any help with shading. And that's what all the action is for: to cut through the shadows and deliver a game that feels just different enough and yet satisfyingly the same old Castlevania.

As the anointed member of the Order of Ecclesia, Shanoa is tasked with the destruction of Dracula. The sect has empowered her with glyphs to defeat the Lord of Darkness and his minions. These magical weapons range from short swords and daggers to more powerful axes and hammers called at will with taps of the X and Y buttons. Additionally, Shanoa can wield a third glyph tied to the R button for non-combat abilities.

These powers are lusted after by fellow Order member Albius, whose jealousy moves him to betray the sect. Seizing the Dracula-dispatching glyph Dominus for himself, Albius leaves the Order and sets in motion his own enigmatic plan. Your first task is to track down Albius and recapture the glyph so as to confront Dracula.

Hunting Albius requires trekking through a dozen or so different locations ranging from a stormy channel to a demon-infested lighthouse to misty mountainside. Order of Ecclesia gains an immense variety from these environments, although it comes at a cost. Gone are the labyrinthine levels of previous installments, replaced by smaller maps. The sprawling designs of Dracula's domain are out and swapped for shorter, handheld-friendly locales.

Since the puzzling quality of exploration has been extracted, the game amps up the action and introduces a bevy of side quests. The optional quests do much to add value, asking of you basic errands such as collecting items to more interesting tasks like photographing enemies. They're simple to be sure, but mix things up just enough.

The glyph system encourages you to get out there and take it to Dracula's baddies, using your myriad arsenal to exploit specific weaknesses. Order of Ecclesia does a phenomenal job of instilling enemies with distinct characteristics that force you to vary your tactics. You cannot stick to one glyph through the course of the game; instead, you must experiment with glyphs to figure out how to best defeat tougher foes.

Of course, this makes the game awfully difficult. Boss battles, in particular, are excessively tough. More an exercise in trial and error than testing your tactical combat mettle, bosses often prompt a close of the DS to avoid throwing it across the room. There are very specific ways of beating this bad guys and until you discover those means, you're destined to die – repeatedly.

Oddly enough, common enemies never prove to be so problematic. The ability to wield two glyphs, which equates to having two weapons equipped at the same time, makes it easy to mow down simple foes. You do have to mind your glyphs, as the differences among enemies require you to adapt accordingly.

Variety really is the key word when describing Order of Ecclesia. The single-player story is peppered with it thanks to more than enough enemies, environments, and glyphs. The package as a whole, which includes a head-to-head race mode and shop accessible via Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, affords hours of play. It's a superficial sort of variety, however, given that the fundamental gameplay remains inexorably classic. Underneath the veil this is Castlevania through and through.

Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia
Reviewer photo
Tracy Erickson | 31 October 2008
A marriage of new variety with classic action yields a worthwhile union
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