Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia
Another battle with Dracula means another superb 2D adventure from Konami, full of monsters, impressive graphics and phenomenal audio effects.
Not satisfied with just Dawn of Sorrow and Portrait of Ruin, Koji Igarashi and his team at Konami are hard at work on the third handheld Castlevania adventure for Nintendo DS, due out later this year. Order of Ecclesia follows a similar format to previous adventure games in the long-running series, requiring you to track down items necessary to defeat the nefarious Count Dracula. However, there's a few subtle differences that make this Order stand out from its predecessors.
First off, there's not a single Belmont to be found. The events in Ecclesia actually take place long after the era of the Belmont family. Their legacy may have vanished, but Count Dracula's continues to thrive, with beasts roaming the countryside and the bloodsucker back to reign more terror amongst the land. Fed up with the vampire's dominance, a group of humans form the Order of Ecclesia, a group dedicated to shutting down his army once and for all. Can they do it? Well, they certainly have a dedicated leader.
Her name (yes, it's a female) is Shanoa, and she's embraced the power of the Glyph in order to get the job done. By obtaining this new ability, Shanoa opens up the gameplay scope for Order of Ecclesia quite brilliantly. Utilizing this new technique, you'll be able to experience over one hundred different combinations of battle tactics, from large swords to magic spells, as you do battle with Count Dracula. That mixes up the replay value tremendously, letting you roam through his enormous castle (and outside of it) while thinking up new ways to disspell his minions. There are over twenty explorable areas in all, including outdoor environments with the sunrise posing no threat to the supernatural demons.
Like previous Castlevania games before it, Castle of Ecclesia uses a superb 2-D art style that really brings out the best in the Nintendo DS. Characters are smoothly animated, bosses show a great amount of detail as they attempt to pound you into the ground and the backdrops look stunning, especially the multi-layered ones. It really draws you into the world of Castlevania, maybe even a little better than Portrait of Ruin does. The sound consists of great background music and voice samples, although some are clearly better than others at this point in development.
Best of all, Order of Ecclesia features replay value galore. Along with a main adventure that will take several hours to complete, the game also includes multiple endings to seek out, so you can play the game more than once. There are also several hidden items throughout the castle, as well as a two-player mode where you can hook up with someone via Wi-Fi and take on the armies of the night with a buddy. There's no word yet if the game will include the same Boss Rush mode as previous Castlevania games, but it'd be great to see.
We're dying to play Order of Ecclesia. It has that classic Castlevania vibe to it while throwing in new gameplay elements and stage design that could make this the best handheld adventure in the series to date. Be sure to check back for the review when the game hits shelves later this year.