Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia Review
In many ways, this new 2D riff on Castlevania delivers everything a Belmont fan could want. On the other hand, it's yet another iteration of Symphony of the Night's decade-old design, and the brutally difficult boss battles leave little room for casual players to jump on the Castlevania train.
On this latest quest to stop Dracula from engulfing the world in eternal evil, players guide a young heroine through a series of standalone stages, similarly to the structure of Portrait of Ruin. The leveling, skill progression, fighting, and exploration are exactly as you'd expect, with two exceptions: protagonist Shanoa's unique fighting style, and the occasional punishing boss battle.
Rather than wielding weapons in the traditional fashion, Shanoa summons power from glyphs that she absorbs throughout her quest. Every swing of a sword, cascade of lightning, or explosion of holy wrath consumes magic points. However, her MP bar replenishes quickly when not attacking, so the depletion mechanic only comes into play when utilizing attacks that would be drastically overpowered in any other Castlevania title. It's a brilliant and well-balanced approach; the explosion of options creates much-needed variety in the combat without diluting the crucial tension of the fast-paced gameplay.
This wonderful balancing does not extend to the boss battles. Many are unreasonably difficult -- and we're talking the kind of fun-destroying frustration that most developers gave up on after the 16-bit years, not newfangled ''grind a few levels until you can power through'' cheese. You must memorize and flawlessly execute intricate dodge patterns and counterattacks, in some cases for upwards of five minutes straight to chew through the enemy's inordinately massive health pool. Some hardcore gamers may enjoy the ritual masochism of repeated deaths, but several of Order of Ecclesia's bosses cross well over the line from ''enjoyably challenging'' to ''unbearably frustrating.''
The game's greatness makes suffering through a few poorly designed bosses worth it for hardcore Castlevania fans and 2D action experts. But unlike many other titles in the franchise, I can't recommend this much beyond this limited demographic.