So, I don't think I have to tell you where the review is located, so just go to the LINK and enjoy.
Come this Monday, Strong Bad's CGFAP, Episode 3: Baddest of the Bands will be released, and you can expect a review perhaps that very Monday. I got the game early and am about half-way through it, so if I finish and aren't too busy, I may very well write it tomorrow night, so if that's the case, it may be posted at 12pm, although I think I have to wait until Pacific time....so yeah, no promises.
UPDATE (3/22/10) VFH Classic is dead:
Konami recently released their third Castlevania DS game, Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia. With two other stellar games under their belts, can Ecclesia live up to the series, or should it be put in the ground with Dracula?
In Order of Ecclesia, you play as Shanoa, a girl whose role it is to embody the Dominus glyph, the ultimate weapon against Dracula, or so says Barlowe, an old leader of Ecclesia. Before you obtain and use the Dominus, your brother Albus barges in, angry because it was he who was promised the task of using the Dominus, and so he steals it for his own purposes and starts to capture villagers. It is now your goal to recover the Dominus and restore peace to the countryside, while uncovering a hidden agenda.
Shanoa, with a spider friend, taking on quite the enemy. This guy is a boss actually, and he's only got a few moves up his sleeve. You got it.
Once you go through the initial stage, you wind up at a village, which acts as a safe house and hub of the game. The village contains a few houses and store-like areas, but when you first arrive, they are all empty, except for one man, who tells you that the villagers have been captured and that he thinks he knows where somebody might be, which opens up a new level. When you exit the village, you will be presented a map with icons to locations you can instantly travel to, making travel very easy.
Because Shanoa has been taught in the art of glyphs, that is how she chooses to attack. She does not carry any physical weapons, but instead, uses these magical glyphs to destroy the forces of evil. Even though this is magic, it still comes in the forms of weapons, such as swords, knives, lances, scythes, and other such implements of death. There are also many other glyphs that aren’t simply melee weapons, and instead use a magical approach, such as sending out orbs, flames, icicles, etc. No matter what the device though, you will always use magic for every attack, which can get annoying. Luckily, magic is automatically refilled rather quickly, but it gets irritating during boss battles or a swarm of enemies when you have to back off and wait for your magic to refill.
You can map a glyph to the X and Y buttons, and then you can map a special glyph to the R button. These glyphs either summon a helper creature or are for special moves or abilities, such as increasing your strength or defense or allow you to use magnetic blocks or sprout wings. There is also a special union move, that is performed by holding up on the d-pad and then pressing either X or Y. This move depends on what glyphs you have mapped, so it is important to experiment with a variety of glyphs and combinations to find both a good union move and just a good combination that will compliment your play style. With well over 50 glyphs, you’ll have plenty of options to choose from, so if you like to get up close and personal, you can pick some swords or other melee weapon, or if you like to keep your distance, you can select some ranged attacks, like arrows or magical spells. Also, once you find a certain item, you can create 3 sets of glyphs, which you can switch between by holding A, and then pressing L or R, which is very convenient.
Absorbing that glyph. Some enemies actually use glyphs directly, which is the case here, so if you absorb it in time, they won't get to use it, and you'll get a new glyph. Quite handy.
These glyphs can be obtained in a variety of ways, but for the most part, they can be collected from defeated enemies. Like in previous Castlevania games, sometimes, enemies will drop items when conquered, and glyphs are the same. Most enemies will drop a specific glyph, although the percentage in which they will actually drop it can be very minuscule, so if you want all of the glyphs or the most powerful ones, you’ll have to go enter a room, defeat the enemy, exit the room, and then enter it again, in hopes that the 100th time you destroy him he will drop the glyph. Some glyphs are hidden in statues, while others are simply floating around, and in any case, to get it, you simply need to hold up on the d-pad for Shanoa to absorb it. However, you must be careful when you do this, because it takes a few seconds to fully absorb the glyph and while you are doing this, you are vulnerable to attack, so make sure you clear a room first.
Aside from this form of attack, using the glyphs, everything else from previous DS Castlevania games is mostly intact. The relative level design is the same, with a map on the top screen and hidden rooms, and most of the enemies are familiar. The graphical style is the same, with sprites running around and good animation and effects. Also, the features and elements used are the same, with save rooms, warp points, boss rooms, and items and accessories.
Saving and dying are still very annoying. You can only save in a save room, so you must constantly be aware of where you are and how much health you have. (Well, you can create a suspend save file, so nevermind)Also, when you die, you are sent back to the title screen, without being given an option to continue. While it only takes a few seconds to get back to your file and into the game, when you are going against a boss, it’s going to take numerous tries until you learn their attack pattern, so it gets old having to keep going back and forth through the menus.
You also have a variety of equipment at your disposal, like usual. You have headgear, clothes, shoes, and two accessories, which are always rings I believe. These items can either be found in treasure chests which are scattered throughout the levels, or purchased from the single store in the village. However, in order to get an item available in the store, you generally have to help a villager. Every villager you rescue will return to the village and offer you some service. There is a bakery, a medicine man, blacksmith, textile lady who makes dresses, etc. These people are very thankful that you saved them, however, they need supplies or have other requests of you, so they assign tasks for you. Generally, these require you to go out and pick up certain items, most of which can be taken off of dead enemies, but others are in treasure chests. Once you get the items, you can go back to the village and hand them to the person and they will either give you the item directly, or put it up for sale at the shop. All together, there are a vast assortment of accessories and items you can collect and use to build up a fierce warrior. Some items boost certain attributes, and some grant special abilities, but come at a price.
A villager, frozen. Just absorb that glyph and set her free. She'll thank you, and run off back to the village. Hurray.
The main game will last the average gamer around 7-9 hours, with considerable more time put in if you are trying to collect every item and glyph in the game. There are around 17 areas to explore, however about half of those are short little routes to the main level. Each level is rather lengthy and consists of a boss or two, however, the final level, Dracula’s Castle, is a beast. This level is huge, consisting of a variety of areas and 4 bosses.
The bosses, overall, don’t seem to be as creative as past Castlevania bosses, although each is very unique and presents a new challenge and pattern to learn. After playing around with a boss for a few rounds, you’ll pick up on their attack pattern and their tells, so you’ll be able to figure out a good strategy to take them out. You can’t expect to jump in your first time and just start swinging, or you’ll get destroyed, but once you figure out how they move and attack, they’ll go down after awhile if you just stick to your strategy of attacking and dodging.
Even after you beat the game for the first time, there is still plenty to do. For starters, before you beat the game, you can play through the practice mode, which is a set of 3 courses, littered with an assortment of enemies and you are scored on the time it takes and how much HP you have left by the end. You can also go onto the Wi-Fi and either shop at your friends’ stores and trade items, or partake in some friendly competition with a Race. However, once you do beat the single player story, you unlock 4 new modes: Hard Mode, Albus Mode, Boss Rush Mode, and Sound Mode. Hard Mode is simply a harder difficulty, while Sound Mode is just a sound room where you can listen to both music and sound effects. Boss Rush Mode is a standard in Castlevania games, and it pits you against all of the game’s bosses, one after the other. It is split up into two sets to make things a little easier, but it is still very challenging and fun to see how quickly you can take down those baddies. And like other Castlevania games, there are always extra characters to play through the game as, and Order of Ecclesia is no different, as you can play the game again as Shanoa’s brother, Albus. The story and levels are all the same, but Albus plays very differently. He can’t use glyphs or any items at all, so you have all of your abilities from the start, and they mirror the same moves as were displayed in the boss fight versus him. The moves are pretty extensive, and all really cool, focusing on his gun. You’ve got a standard bullet shot, which works like a machine gun if you just hold the button down, a “vertical shot”, and some other really cool shots, as well as a jumping kick and some jumping abilities. So overall, while the game is the same in Albus Mode, it allows for a new experience.
One of my favorite glyphs, this lightening does multiple damage to multiple enemies and automatically seeks them out. Oh yeah, it's on.
Overall, Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia is another great addition to the series. The gameplay is getting a little bit old on the DS, as there aren’t any true advancements, but if you are a fan of the series, then you will welcome any new iterations, with the new levels, bosses, characters, and storyline. Ecclesia brings everything you would expect in a Castlevania game, but it doesn’t do anything very new. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Posted in collaboration with GamersPlatform