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Genre: 2D Platformer
Release date: Available now
Review by: James Dolbeare
I sometimes wonder if my favorite games would seem as great now if I played them for the first time today. Are the elements we loved in the classics now tired and cliché? For instance, in the age of 3D graphics, epic plotlines and high-quality voice acting, would Castlevania: Symphony of the Night still capture my interest so effectively that I could hardly pull myself away to go about my daily life? After playing Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, I can emphatically say yes. The game smacks of everything great about the Castlevania series, with a few new tricks added to keep things interesting.
Ecclesia is set shortly after Symphony of the Night, and involves neither the Belmont clan nor our favorite backwards vampire, Alucard. Instead, players take control of Shanoa, a member of a secret society devoted to destroying Dracula once and for all. Shanoa has the unique ability to absorb and command glyphs, magical weapons she conjures from thin air. The Order has created a glyph called Dominus that they believe to be capable of defeating Dracula, and Shanoa has been chosen as its host. When Albus, a young colleague of Shanoa’s, discovers this, he becomes enraged and steals the Dominus. Shanoa is then sent to recover it.
Unlike some other Castlevania titles, you don’t spend all your time in one castle, trying to find ways to open up new areas of the map. Instead, you have access to several more linear levels. Once you make your way through a level, you’re taken to a map screen where you can revisit areas you’ve already seen, or you can move to a new unlocked area. Of course, you’ll have to return to several areas of the map, but this new interface provides interesting side quests and keeps you from having to backtrack through entire levels, as in some previous titles.
The glyph system isn’t all that different from the old melee style of combat, but it has its own idiosyncrasies. In the menu, players can set one glyph to each hand and one auxiliary glyph that typically isn’t so much a weapon as it is some kind of magic ability or battle aid. When Shanoa uses a glyph, it uses up a portion of her MP, which gradually replenishes over time.
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