Hello, Castlevania fans. I wasn't able to play all the Castlevania games before the 10/22/08 release date of Order of Ecclesia (turns out I was pronouncing it wrong) so we will take a look at the first new Castlevania game in about 2 years.
This game is meant to be a standalone entry in the CV series, and it takes place in the 19th century in the official timeline. Also, it seems that there are no more Belmonts around to combat Dracula; so various organizations had come in to take up the mantle, because the evil of Dracula is still very much around, just sniffing in anticipation of the resurrection of the Dark Lord. His evil powers are influencing the Transylvanian countryside, or Romania, or wherever in Europe this CV entry actually takes place. Everything looks different from previous games, so you have to wonder where this game really takes place, in the minds of the creators, that's where, and you shouldn't mind.
The primary outlay of this game is different, it almost follows a mission type structure, with smaller areas to explore. This is not just one giant castle to explore as in previous Vanias. Things may change later on though.
When it comes to graphics, a lot of them are recycled once again from previous Castlevania games, this has been going since Symphony of the Night. Now, I spent a while thinking about this, I'm not sure if is a good or bad thing. To a longtime fan, it really feels like an homage to the two greatest games in the series, Dracula X:Rondo of Blood and SOTN, as many of the enemies, like spear knights, originally appeared in that game. Now as Capcom fans would know best, it is not enough to just take the sprites with a proverbial pair of scissors and then paste them into a new game (remember how Darkstalkers' Morrigan hasn't received a change since 1994?) These enemies should really have something added to them, new walking animations, new attacks, anything. The PSP Rondo of Blood remake is an ideal example.
Even with this, the 2D graphics of Order of Ecclesia still have plenty to offer. 2D will always be better at showing big giant weapons, the 3D perspective just doesn't work for this. This game has them in spades with the new weapon crash system, and giant hammers and swords look as neat as ever.
The music by Michiru Yamane (from SOTN) very much feels like Castlevania music, with the traditional wind type pieces, hard rock when needed, and always plenty of variety. Yamane is now the defacto composer of CV games, and her versatility shows why. May she continue to release such moving works.
When it comes to challenge, veterans of the Castleroid or Metroidvania style of CV games may be in for a rude awakening. This game is TOUGH, with bosses that hit hard and can kill you in 3 or so hits often. Even basic enemies are a challenge. This is due to MP being used to power weapon attacks, you can't rely on overpowered magic attacks any longer. I was surprised at this, as it feels like a hearkening back to traditional CV game. A neat combination and fun for older fans of the series!
In all, gamers will be glad to see that Castlevania continues to recognize the need to innovate. The new glyph system and new game plus add replay value, pushing you to collect some of the harder to find weapons. Boss Rush Mode and an alternate character are included as usual. This game will appeal to fans of Castlevania as well as action/adventure gamers. Enjoy!