Crispy Gamer

Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia

It was no surprise that Castlevania mastermind Koji Igarashi was working on yet another 2-D Castlevania adventure, and at Konami's recent Gamers' Night in San Francisco, the fruits of his team's labors were unveiled. His third title for the Nintendo DS will keep to its roots of monster slaying and platforming, yet Igarashi-san has made quite a few changes and additions to the Castlevania formula.

One of the major differences for Order of Ecclesia is that the hero of the game will actually be a heroine: For the first time in the series, players will have a female lead character, named Shanoa. While the Belmont family has been slaying Dracula and his followers for centuries, during the time period this game takes place, the Belmonts have mysteriously disappeared. Dracula is still a threat, however, and many organizations have formed to take on the bloodthirsty madman. Many groups have failed in downing Drac, but only one succeeded -- the Order of Ecclesia.

Shanoa, a member of the Order of Ecclesia, uses a new attack mechanic called the Glyph System to dispatch adversaries. As Shanoa traverses levels, she'll encounter symbols or glyphs that she can absorb. These glyphs will either be found in the environment or on enemies, and after absorbing them she can equip them to round out her arsenal of her attacks.

Glyphs are assigned to Y, X, and R. Y and X represent Shanoa's right and left arm, and R is for her back. Players can assign the same glyph to both arms, which will double the speed of a specific glyph attacks by alternating button presses, while combining button presses of a duplicated glyph will unleash a special attack. As Shanoa fires off these glyph attacks, a magic meter will drain, as glyph attacks such as a sword strike or bow-and-arrow shot aren't physical weapons, but elements comprised of magic. The magic meter will refill itself as long as glyph attacks aren't being used, forcing the player to strategically time the use of glyph attacks. Combining the effects of different glyphs will allow for quite a bit of variety of combat. One of the unique glyphs that Igarashi demonstrated emitted a magnetic field around Shanoa, which will attract Shanoa's body towards certain metallic points. Pulling down on the d-pad and letting go of the R button at the right time slingshots Shinoa into higher points in a stage.

Much like in Portrait of Ruin, the map screen will appear on the top screen, and the action and inventory will appear on the bottom screen. However, in Order of Ecclesia, there will also be an overworld map, and players will be able to visit different locations by exploring the vast world map as places open up. The game still has many macabre castles to explore, but environments will range from water-based levels, devilish cathedrals, oceans, forests and villages throughout the game's 20-plus levels.

One thing that definitely won't change about the series is the numerous boss encounters, and we're looking forward to see what old classic enemies return and the new bosses that await us. While unfortunately we didn't get a chance to play the game ourselves, we did get a peek into some of the bosses that players can expect. We witnessed a strange caterpillar-like beast with a human head on it, a gigantic crab, and a towering Frankenstein.

Order of Ecclesia will support the Nintendo Wi-Fi connection with the return of the shop mode, and players can buy and sell items they uncover in their quests. There will be competitive head-to-head play over Wi-Fi. There are talks of some sort of Wii connectivity, though whether or not there will be something cooking with the rumored Wii Castlevania title is still unknown. We're betting we learn something about this at either E3 or the Games Convention in Leipzig.

Even though we knew it was coming, we can't help but be ecstatic about Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, for as many iterations this series has seen, it's nice to see Iga and team can still keep innovating in the 2-D space. From the new illustrative art style to the fresh new glyph system, and a new, seemingly non-Belmont heroine, Dracula may be waiting in the wings, but we're ready to take him on yet another time.

This preview was based on a publisher-driven demo of the game.