Castlevania is a classic series known to almost all gamers young and old, and no-one cracks a whip like those brave and bold Belmonts. But how does Castlevania: Order of Eccles Cakes Ecclesia fare when it drops both the Belmonts and the whips?
In place of the legendary Belmont family, the player takes control of Shanoa, a member of a group put in place to fight the evil of Dracula. For fans of the classics, at least that element remains unchanged.
Previous DS installments have set the structure for this game in the variety of attacks and your method of using and obtaining them. You are able to equip two glyphs, one to each of your attack buttons, these come in a range such as rapier, sword or lance for the melee attacks; alternatively there are magic attacks such as lightning, ice or fire. The game comes complete with dozens of these glyphs, obtainable from killing enemies or extracting mid-fight, and as such generate a wide variety of gameplay options catering to the player’s tastes.
These all drain your mana, so spamming attacks is out of the equation. On top of that you can combine those glyphs to create a special attack dealing substantially more damage, the possible number of combinations able to be made would require some form of scribbling numbers down on a pad that would make my head swim. The controls are tight, and the combat is fluid, granting addictive gameplay even against the toughest of enemies, and in this game the enemies are as tough as they come.
The combat, specifically on the bosses, gets consistently more challenging as the game progresses; bordering on the downright sadistic as you approach the game’s conclusion and confront the big bad bitey one himself. Gameplay, however, tends to get a bit tedious, and the occasional patch of (be prepared to gasp) grinding can occasionally become necessary, both to beef your stats up and to give yourself the money to afford health replenishing food.
My problem with the method of obtaining cash (in the first half of the game, at least) is that the main source is from destroyable candles and the such scattered through the levels, however, these are also the source for hearts to fill up your special meter, and you will only receive money if your special meter is full, rendering special attacks useless if you are trying to gather cash.
Previous titles have adopted a traditional anime look, however, the art takes a slight twist in this game leaving towards a more detailed style. This is done competently enough that it does not detract from previous games, but is not an area large enough to warrant a change in any overall opinion of the game. Whilst not a substantial gripe, it is a petty annoyance I have with many RPGs, as you progress through the game you pick up various items to equip, such as different armours, yet not a single one affects what your character model looks like, so whether you choose a pretty dress or a battle hardened chest plate, your avatar will remain the same.
At times it can feel a step back from the previous titles on the DS, specifically on the use of the console’s functionality. Gone is any use of the touchscreen, which whilst it may not be essential to implement in every game, feels somewhat of a let down that a game can be made specifically and exclusively for the DS would choose to ignore what is essentially the largest selling point to the platform. However, credit is due to the presentation, with the top screen being used to display information about the enemies you are attacking or a map of the area constantly providing all the information you need without having to detract from the game by hopping into menus.
The game features an enjoyable soundtrack, and effective sound effects for the attacks immersing you in the world, however, I found the lack of any voice acting caused the spell of immersion to break, leaving me wanting more, which perhaps is down to limitations to the system itself and not really indicative of the game’s faults. However, the fact the main character goes through the tired cliche of amnesia is not something that can be forgiven due to platform limitations, and just comes across as lazy writing.
Castlevania has some interesting features keeping it entertaining, such as the villagers you find and rescue out among the world create a thriving community with quests, health and items to buy leaving exploration as something worthwhile for more than just seeing 100% complete next to each area.
The game remains largely fun to play, but repetition and lack of innovation may cause any but the hardcore and fans of the series to give this game a miss.
Beautiful graphics and good use of the dual screens.
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Unfortunately repetitive and lacking in innovation causes this fun game to become tiresome.
Great music and sound effects combine to create a vastly enjoyable atmosphere.
Decent length of game, beefed out by the cliched use of grinding will see this clogging your DS for a long time to come.
Enjoyable romp through the world of demons, devils and Dracula.