My aria of sorrow

I have a confession to make. It’s an admission that pains me, but I can’t find any other way around it: I really hate Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia.

This feels like a grievous personal failure. I’m the guy what registered, darn it. I should love Ecclesia, the most recent installment of the games that inspired our stupid little name for the subgenre. But man, I have tried three different times to get into Ecclesia — before launch, at launch, and this weekend — and all three times I’ve made it about an hour into the game before sadly admitting to myself it’s not actually any fun to play.

It’s maddening, because by all rights it should be fun. Ecclesia is clearly riffing on Simon’s Quest, it’s designed to be less of a cakewalk than its immediate predecessors, and it features a seemingly deep character customization system. Yet I can’t shake the feeling that Konami managed to bungle each and every one of these ostensible successes and turn them into a terrible flaw. The most annoying of these is the increased difficulty level, which was accomplished by simply cranking up the stats of enemies. They hit harder and they take more attacks to put down. They’re not smarter, they don’t have more complicated attacks, they’re not placed more cleverly — quite the contrary, in fact. Enemies are placed in the most annoying places possible, hidden out of sight so that a simple jump to scroll the screen will leave you reeling from a free hit that you couldn’t possibly have known was there. It’s like the developers said, “Well, people always complain about our level design being big, boring boxes; let’s liven things up by making the navigation of these boxes as infuriating as possible.”

It’s hard to believe that this is the work of the same people behind Dawn of Sorrow and Portrait of Ruin, games that — while hardly perfect — at least seemed to have been developed with an understanding of what made them fun. To wit: Exploration, both of cool areas and of cool powers. So far, Ecclesia has made me work for every little bit of progress I’ve made, every ability I’ve acquired, and seems entirely too happy to halt my progress until I master the latest boss pattern to the pixel and microsecond. Having to hit a puny enemy three or four times when it would go down in a single hit in any other entry of the series isn’t fun, it’s tedious. I’ve never played a tedious Castlevania before. Even Legends wasn’t this annoying. And the glyph system is basically a reheated version of the Sorrow games’ soul system, except clumsier and less interesting. And the villagers are boring. And the graphics are pretty but ultimately look pretty dull and fit together awkwardly.

I really do want to like Ecclesia, but it seems to be resisting my efforts at every step. Castlevania should be challenging, but it shouldn’t be a chore. I criticized Portrait of Ruin for its pacing; the characters were so nimble that they breezed through the levels, forcing the designers to copy and paste more ground for them to cover rather than sculpting fewer, more interesting environments. “If only the game moved a bit slower,” I lamented. Ecclesia is apparently some sort of horrible monkey’s paw designed to remind me I should be careful of what I wish for. Well, lesson learned. I’ll never ask for anything of Castlevania again. I’m still wary of Lords of Shadow and its outsourced approach to the franchise, but if Ecclesia is all the old team has to show for a decade of work with the series, maybe it’s for the best we get some fresh blood.

I’ll keep plugging away at the game in my free time on the off chance there’s a point at which I break through the crap barrier and discover the wondrous masterpiece everyone else keeps talking about. And who knows; Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth has shown that it’s possible to redeem even the most mundane entries in the series. Maybe 20 years from now, we’ll all be downloading Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia ReBirth and loving it, too.

74 thoughts on “My aria of sorrow

  1. This is exactly how I feel about Ecclesia. By all rights everything should have been great, but it just wasn’t. I did eventually finish the game, and things do even out a little bit towards the end, but it never really shakes that feeling of frustration and tedium.

  2. I sold mine off too. I gave it a good run, but I got tired of needing to know which weapon was right for each monster. We’ll always have Dawn of Sorrow!

  3. I’m with you 100% on this game. Castlevania is my second favorite series ever, as I’ve loved every 2D entry in the series (minus Simon’s Quest, naturally). So it really left me wondering what was wrong with me when, on more than one occasion, I couldn’t even go an hour in Ecclesia without wanting to shut it off. It’s nice to know some others shared the same affliction.

  4. I’m with everyone else, it seems – I don’t think I ever got much farther than the prison island at the beginning of the game. Life is too short to let a game shove a red-hot poker up your Frankenstein-smashing ass when there’s so many other games to play.

  5. I thought OoE brought some decent level/boss design back into the series. It wasn’t all long corridors punctuated by tiny sloped hills littered with one hit kill enemies like some of the previous entries (I’m looking at you, PoR). The bosses had more of a patterned design unlike the ones from PoR where it seemed like I just had to go in and trade licks with the monster for 45 seconds. I dunno, the game does make some trade-offs though. It’s not as satisfying finishing out several tiny maps compared to one huge one. That classic metroidvania element got scaled back some; I thought the game really found a happy medium between metroidvania and classic level based Castlevanias.

  6. Parish, spend more time with the game. That difficulty level is only really felt near the start of the game. After that, it becomes much easier.

  7. The difficulty of the levels goes down as you get farther, but the bosses still remain pretty tough. The bosses here are probably the best of the recent Castlevanias, but they also take way too many hits to kill, which I think is a result of them trying to make the game more difficult and not doing it in a particularly good manner.

  8. I’m not a paradigm of a gamer by any stretch of the imagination. I have no qualms with Ninja Gaiden (The new one anyway) outside of cheap difficulty, but I can barely beat the first boss of Devil May Cry 3 and still haven’t beaten Mega Man 9. That said, OoE was the perfect difficulty level for me after breezing through Dawn and Portrait. I had no real problems with Order at all, honestly. I don’t have much to say on the glyph system… I hardly remember it other then saving my butt a few times, but generally I don’t pay the secondary mehanics any mind in Castlevania.

    On a completely unrelated note, your website is saying that I am logged in as Rey. Being that I have never met Rey before in my life, and I’m fairly certain he lives many, many miles away from me, I feel like this must be an error of some sort. It may need looking into.

  9. … huh. A bit of a shame to read you haven’t found it enjoyable, Parish; I mean, I know opinions differ, but I really think pretty highly of Ecclesia. I’m also kinda surprised at how many people here say they weren’t able to enjoy it, either.

    For me — well, I’ve written this elsewhere already, but I had the exact opposite opinion about the combat: I felt here that they finally got it quite right, even if it wasn’t perfect. Battles could no longer be won by running right up to enemies and flailing the attack buttons, as in the previous games; I had to be mindful of surrounding attacks and enemy movement patterns, too, especially when there were loads of enemies on screen. I found myself using ducks, slides, and backslides with far more frequency in this entry than in other open-world Castlevanias, and it really felt like the evasive maneuvers had far more purpose here.

    If I reached enemies far before I was at an ideal level to fight them, much like with Etrian Odyssey’s F.O.E.s, I learned that I needed to make a mad dash for the next room or section. If it was instead a boss from which I couldn’t escape — well, I had my fair share of deaths and a fair amount of item consumption, but it did seem to me more about learning strategies than about just staying out the damage as much as possible. [Some of those strategies would involve learning which types of weapon glyps caused more damage to certain enemies than others — like thinner swords would cause more damage than hammers to certain enemies — which I’m not the biggest fan of, but I oddly didn’t mind it as much here.]

    And if things ever got overwhelming — much like with Etrian Odyssey’s Warp Wires, I was simply one Magical Ticket away from town, and I could buy more tickets at shops. Combining this with a separate roguelike mentality of playing only a little bit at a time & seeing how far I could get each time, I didn’t mind losing my map progress — especially with maybe a few more items and experience that might make the next time just a little bit easier. [It wasn’t roguelike-levels of failure that I experienced — but I suppose I learned from ’em when to throw in the towel for a certain run.]

    Here’s the thing about all this, though: it wasn’t at a midpoint in the game when I started feeling the gameplay worked; it was pretty much right from the beginning of the game that I felt really satisfied with it. So I don’t know what’s going on here; maybe it’s just a situation like with certain Treasure games where, once a player gets a handle of all the movements available, everything clicks? I’m really not certain.

  10. Really!? You think its hard? Well to each their own i guess. I only had trouble with like the 1st 3 dungeons and that was it. The game became a cake walk after that. I think the strategy is that, even though it looks like a metroidvania game plays like a metroidvania game etc, you cant rush through it like one. Thats the biggest thing I noticed about it when I first started playing, I had to take my time through the various overworlds and dungeons I had to have patientce. In the other ones it was run run run kill kill kill get to boss, kill disappointing boss and repeat till reaching dracula. With OoE I felt like the games pacing was much better as a result of the increased enemy strength. One thing that plauged me though was when i found out from a friend that you could get medals from bosses you killed with out getting hit once during the fight. After that I went ahead and restarted my save file vowing I would not kill a boss unless I got a medal for it. As you can imagine the crab boss took very long :P. DAMN YOU PSUEDO ACHIEVEMENT SYSTEM!!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. I hate to say something like this, but stick with Ecclesia long enough to finish it and unlock the “secret” second character you can do a playthrough with. The game becomes monumental fun, although completely different from what pretty much the entire universe considers a “Castlevania experience.”

    And yes, the levels are often boring and suffer from the worst design aspects of both the recent games and Simon’s Quest, but the bosses are all great. In particular I loved the giant enemy crab.

  12. I didn’t find the bosses hard at all (except that damned crab). The game even expects you to beat the bosses without getting hit if you want the medals, so they can’t be as hard as people make them out to be.
    I managed to beat every boss without getting hit (except the crab) on my first run. I only found the first few hours of the game to be the hardest.

  13. Anonymous, the game isn’t hard, it’s just tiresome. Being forced to pound on a low-level skeleton that should go down in a hit creates boredom rather than challenge, despite what the designers seemed to think. The enemies hit hard and Shanoa barely hits at all, but since the enemies are all as stupid as they’ve ever been it just means you have to do the same crap as in every other recent Castlevania, but with a lot more repetition.

    I’m surprised to see how many people share my opinion of the game. I’d had the impression that it was universally acclaimed and that I was committing major heresy.

  14. My brain wants to agree, but my gut doesn’t. I’m probably just more tolerant than I should be, but Ecclesia was a lot of fun for me. Before it came out I wanted it to have a difficulty selection so I could play on hard from the start (rather than unlockable) but what I got was a game with no normal or easy mode.

    Seemed to me like the enemies are placed to force us to deal with them. In the other ones I just hopped over them or killed them in one hit. The “hop and slash” technique that got me through SotN and the Sorrows doesn’t work so well here. I needed to make use of the combo system, weaknesses, resistances, Glyph Unions and that backdash that has never been useful before but I found completely essential in this one. The combat was more involving, which was nice. Hopping up or dropping down and running into an enemy is a problem I’ve had in all the other Castlevanias too (though I guess you do take a lot more damage here.)

  15. The first hour isn’t really representative of any of the handheld Metroidvanias. Circle of Moon starts growing more interesting with the card system and advanced abilities. Dissonance seems kind of cool but then tapers off into horrible. Aria doesn’t really show its depth until several hours into the game. Dawn seems like a ho-hum sequel to it until growing into its own. The two player gimmick of Portrait seems completely useless in the beginning, and then actually gets some use later in the game, from player customization instead of level design.

    Ecclesia hits you hard in the beginning, you can’t really do anything, there doesn’t seem to be any point to equipping two glyphs as weapons, some of the most annoying and difficult bosses are in the beginning, and the exploration seems to be completely gone. But it does get better. The faults don’t go away, and it didn’t end up as the ultimate successor to Symphony/Aria/Dawn, but I really don’t see it aging as badly as Dissonance or becoming as irrelevant as Portrait. Perhaps it will be a stepping stone to a more finely tuned iteration of the same basic ideas, or maybe the next game will go a completely different way, but as it is, it’s not a bad game for the team to keep a break from that style of design and possibly built upon with more time on their hands.

  16. Maybe you should try using different weapons against different kinds of enemies. Try maces on skeletons, for example.

  17. “The most annoying of these is the increased difficulty level, which was accomplished by simply cranking up the stats of enemies.” I had the same issue with the “hard-type” version of FF4 (at least, the remake on the PS1).

  18. Yeah, if you use the properties of weapons and take advantage of enemy weaknesses properly they will go down in one hit. Complaining about how the skeletons take too long to kill when you don’t take advantage of the ways you have to kill them is silly. It takes awhile to kill skeletons in SotN too, if you just try to punch them to death. Does this mean SotN is horribly, unfairly hard? (Hint: no.)

  19. In response to MarsDragon — in other players’ defenses, I don’t remember it being readily apparent that different types of weapons would cause more damage to enemies than others: you’d think that a slower hammer would be a powerful weapon against all enemies, until you start attacking the same enemy with a thinner sword and seeing that it does more damage per strike, on top of being quicker — perhaps in saying that an enemy is strong against blunt attacks but can still have its defense penetrated. And then it switches for other enemies; a sword might not penetrate a second enemy quite as well, but a hammer smash can cause massive damage.

    Once I found that out, enemies generally didn’t take as long to down; the eventual glyph switching system only made things quicker. It might seem tedious from what I’ve written here — but, interestingly, I didn’t mind it much in this game. I’m not certain why, since I’m not normally a fan of those kinds of necessary switches. Was it in the distribution of enemy types?

    Of course, I’m writing purely from memory. There could’ve been official references included with the game that mentioned all this, or not. I would need to check.

  20. Hey, I restarted OoE today by sheer coincidence. I was wondering why I stopped playing the first time until I reached the Lighthouse.

    Frikkin’ crab.

  21. I am surprised to hear you are not a fan, even if I think your complaints are valid. The game is hard precisely because (as you point out) the enemies are too strong, especially late in the game when you encounter regular enemies who deal boss-like damage with incredible speed.

    Part of me wonders if Ecclesia isn’t the final argument for an end to save points. Of all the DS Castlevanias, none have frustrated me as much as this one. One wrong move can equal death at the hands of a random foe, and that means an hour of progress can be lost.

    I still enjoy Ecclesia because it took so many chances after the so-safe-its-disappointing Portrait of Ruin, but it’s telling that this is the first DS Castlevania that I never bothered to finish.

  22. Well, I have finished with 100% and couldn’t disagree more with you. Sure, the Crab boss was hell, but Castlevania 2D games are what they are and you either like them or you don’t.

  23. Normally I agree with most of what you write, but in this case… not so much. I enjoyed Order of Ecclesia tremendously. It’s certainly not a perfect game, but neither was Symphony (although it’s still my 2nd favorite game of all time).

    The beginning is probably the worst part of it. It’s tough, and that crab is evil. Of course, I’m still routinely playing old NES-style stuff, and am used to the difficulty that accompanies such fights, so it didn’t bother me as much. My brother hated it for a while, as well, until he got further in. It gets really good then. The other flaw I can think of is the villager fetch quests. I didn’t think that was a good idea, at least not as a requirement.

    Don’t give up on it completely. It gets better.

  24. I replayed OoE in the last month and I so enjoyed it, that I picked up PoR again for a power-through. While PoR is still fun, I have to say that it lacks the overall polish in its combat when compared to OoE. I felt that OoE better utilized actual enemy weaknesses and that your equipment selection makes a real difference. And heavens, OoE is far less a grind for abilities (only some enemies have them–and they’re usually obvious) than it was for DoS (every enemy AND multiple souls for skills improvement). And finally, there was a bunch of new enemy sprites! Well… except the ubiquitous medusa heads…

    Get through the first hour or two. I get the feeling that Shanoa is deliberately made to be ridiculously weak by necessity of the plot. Really makes you careful about exploring. You still get to that powered state to be plowing through scrub critters, soon enough.

    The true gem of the game is in its boss battles. The game really makes you attuned to enemy weaknesses–and the bosses go down with less hassle with the correct load-out. But even then, they’re not exactly EASY, often w/ multi-phase patterns of attack. In DoS and PoE, I felt I could mindlessly trade blows with the biggest stick on hand. In OoE mistakes are costly, but the bosses were finally respectable and conquering them (esp flawlessly) gets you a fantastic buzz of accomplishment.

  25. I think Parish hasn’t truly sunk enough time into the game to go past those starting ‘annoyances’. Yes, you need to use different weapons for different enemies this time around. Pretty soon you’ll be able to swap between 3 paired set of weapons and enemies will not be hard or annoying anymore. I always liked to have a set of Hammer and axe, a sword and scythe and a magical based set.

    Ecclesia was a much better game than Portrait of Ruin ever was.

  26. Knowing the weaknesses of each enemy is tantamount to this game, and makes the enemy stat display on the upper screen extra useful to boot. This was the first Metroidvania to really test my reflexes, as I couldn’t go in there mindlessly swinging away at the enemy. I only wish there was a bit more variety as far as the weapon glyphs went.

  27. Now see, this is what IGA was talking about shortly before this game was released when he said he didn’t think the audience was ready for a female vampire hunter. You see, by virtue of being female, she’s inherently so weak and helpless that she must exert tremendous effort to accomplish what a real Belmont can do with one or two casual flicks of a whip.

    You’re sexist, Parish, but I agree with you too.

  28. I recall it being challenging, but not frustratingly so. It does seem to be a game that will ask you to retreat and try again though.

  29. I don’t quite share the same sentiments regarding the difficulty, but that’s largely due to exploiting those tickets and that I admittedly enjoy a masochistic difficulty curb that hates my face. It takes getting used to, but it gets better as you go on. One of my favorite areas is unlockable via an exit in a certain area and is basically an enemy-less obstacle course. I’d at least recommend trying that if you get that far.

    I do agree that the glyphs suck compared to Soma’s arsenal, though they do make me put more consideration into how I attack.

  30. He didn’t say anything about that, lol.

    As an aside, Dawn of Sorrow deserves better than to be lumped alongside Portrait of Ruin. It can only be faulted for too much collecting if you wanted a perfect file, and the glyph stylus thing. Aside from those things, it was about as ideal a series Metroidvania could be.

  31. I think the points is… learn to use the switch ability in game, is a great feature… you can switch to a couple of weapon combination in a breeze, to deal with any “hard” skeleton you cant kill in a single hit…

    thats the beauty of the game actually

  32. I don’t have much to add, but I quit playing shortly after the crab. This is the only Metroidvania CV that I haven’t finished.

  33. It’s funny, because the bit where you complain about Ecclesia’s difficulty echoes my own thoughts about the allegedly piss-easy Dawn of Sorrow. Nearly every screen on that game was a hard inch for me, and the malarkey with seal-tracing bosses led me to spike my DS onto the pillow more than once. So even though I haven’t played Ecclesia, I can relate to the frustration.

  34. I generally enjoyed the game and completed it. It WAS hard, but mostly just in the boss fight sections. I also found a good grinding spot which helped quite a bit too.

    It was way harder than Circle of the Moon, except Circle is still horrible because its more unfairly difficult while most of the time in Order I felt like IT WAS MY OWN FAULT FOR DYING.

    If I used more healing items, and played smarter I would do better instead of being molly coddled.

    There is challenging (Raiden 1-2), then there is ABUSIVE (Checkpoint based Gradius games, Dodonpachi bullet hell SHMUPS).

    Order was challenging but never abusive. I always felt I could do better and the more I got back into the old style of gaming where you HAD to pay attention to attack patterns and the like, the better it was. It brought a little of the old C64 and NES days back where I could complete a Ninja Gaiden.

    Course I have also played and completed every Metroidvania Castlevania game so I am primed to the gameplay anyhow.

    You play a game enough you get good at it. Its why I generally breeze through the Advance Wars series yet most people complain its too hard. It IS too hard. I have just put so much time into the games and “get” its rules and mechanics that its not too rough for me.

    I think we see a similar deal in Fighting games. Some guys freakin FRAME COUNT and its more like a Chess match where the first one to make a mistake or not see an opening they left is the one who will probably lose. (And the rest of us just happily smash buttons and at best know how to do a super move or two every third time we attempt it.)

    I think that’s the thing with Order. Its HARD, but its in general made for veteran Castlevania players as opposed to everyone.

    Though to be honest an easy mode with lower damage and HP foes would have been welcome.

    Games should let players play them on THEIR terms, not the game designers.

    I mean, I am trying to beat every Raiden on Easy difficulty, though with default lives and no continues. It is NOT easy. Its gonna take months of casual play to do so. But its FUN, I continually see myself improving and gaining in SHMUPping skills, and I chose to do it that way. I could easily set lives to 5-9 and go for lots of continues if I wanted to and be done with Raiden Project and Raiden 3 in a day, another day for Raiden Fighters Aces, and maybe a half gaming day for 4.

    And that’s really what videogames need to do. Let the PLAYERS decide what’s fair for them. The elitists will still do their speedruns or Resident Evil PS1 with only a Knife, but the casuals should be able to have fun too!

  35. It’s the same stuff we’ve been playing for years, only with a different structure (condensed levels instead of retreading through a castle). It really wasn’t much different at all.

    Consequently, I can’t get enough of these games. And I also love the old Castlevania style, so it’s a win win for me.

  36. I got so fed up with Ecclesia that I just sold it, and it always felt like some terrible failure for me, too. Thanks for making me feel way better!

  37. It’s been a long time since I played Ecclesia, but I seem to remember it getting the best of me for the first hour or so. After the giant enemy crab, I started flying and really enjoyed myself. I also think the graphics are pretty: at the very least, it finally broke out of the SoTN/Rondo of Blood mould and gave us some new sprites for a change.

  38. “Haha, I think the consistent message thus far is to get beyond the 1-2 hour mark.”

    If you can even stand that much. It’s bad design to try and scare the audience away, then draw in later. How is that time even measured? Shouldn’t it be in areas? Someone could spend hours trying to get past certain bosses, then trying to grind to get any sort of damage boost when they keep failing.

    I have an hour and a half on my save, and I have not defeated the giant skeleton. I will not, either. The giant Skeleton has 800 hp, and I’m doing 17 damage with macir, 80 with the fusion. That means that after taking a combined 240 out with macir’s fusion, I need to hit the thing 33 more times. It, however, need only hit me four. The game has a hard mode, after completion, so I have to wonder why there isn’t an easy mode. Since the enemies aren’t particularly intelligent, the only thing that they would have to do is drop hp down to reasonable levels.

    Been months since I quit trying to enjoy the game. If it’s a major effort to enjoy myself, with only the word of someone else to go on that it might be more fun later, then I have better things to do with my time. There are plenty of games that I haven’t gotten to, that I’m sure will be fun right out of the gate; that’s just good design.

  39. re: Ryonin

    Well, 33x more hits isn’t so bad since Shanoa can string together a bunch of hits really quickly. She also regens her mp very fast, too… Also, ducking, back-dashing, and the magnes glyphs are all required to evade him. Quite doable. Sure, it takes a few tries… But it does require you to become comfortable with moving her.

    If we’re going to take the argument to other games… Contra bosses takes plenty more than 33 hits–and you croak if the boss hits you once. (and you spawn w/ a pea-shooter)

    It’s also possible to clear out drac in your first run-through in less than 15 sec. if you know how to run the weaknesses, too. But I wouldn’t recommend that if you want the full experience.

    There’s a bunch of games where the tutorial segments take up easily the entire first 15%+ of the game. I’d happily take 1-2 hours of introduction to mechanics by mastery vs. constrained NPC jabber and hand-holding. FFXII, for instance, took hours and hours to get out of Rabinastre and even more to get the gambit mechanics in full swing, just as an example…

  40. I don’t like the names of the Glyphs, I understand it adds character, but I hate having to know Latin to know what a glyph does without scrolling through each one.

  41. 33 isn’t bad if you can string those hits. If I try to get more than one in, it has time to smack me. ” A few” doesn’t describe the number of tries. I spend less time fighting the cursed thing than I do the game over, game load, town, and level selection screens.

    I had fun in Rabanastre. They did a generally great job of making it feel less like a tutorial since there was actual game and story. A better example would be Black&White’s tutorial. And I would still take that over bashing my head against a wall with “mastery” written on it. I think it’s better for a game to ease the player into things.

  42. I feel like the series has become a little /too/ inspired by SOTN. i think it’s time to go back to its action/platforming roots a bit. doesn’t mean the metroidvania format has to go, just make the games fun again

  43. Uh, I may have missed some relevant comments skimming past the 20 troll posts there, but anyway…

    Everyone knows from my GS review that I like this game. But I’ll admit the balance is not so good in the first hour or two before you’ve collected enough glyphs to give you free reign in your options for tackling enemies. In the end, I think that’s what this game is about… you can *make* the enemies more fun by finding new ways to take them on. That may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I quite enjoyed it. It’s just a shame it takes a while to ramp up to where the systems really have enough meat to dig into properly, which turns a lot of people off before they get to the good parts.

    (And yeah, I realize “having to slog through the beginning to get to the good parts” is not good game design. Like I said, I’ll freely admit that the opening parts could use work. They’re perfectly doable with judicious use of town-return scrolls, but they are, in all senses of the word, a grind.)

  44. Are you serious?
    Ecclesia is everything I missed in all the past GBA and DS incarnations of Castlevania! First of all, finally a DECENT challenge, rather than a game you just stroll through. There’s plenty of exploration, skills to learn and tons of variation, not only in locales (FINALLY we get more than just the castle – the fact that the entire castle is actually in the game too is just an inverted-castle-type surprise that totally beats even the original SOTN incarnation) but enemies and bosses as well, and with tons of replay value.

    I think this is the best game in the series since SOTN and COTM, the latter of which is surprisingly underrated because people were expecting a SOTN-style game, which it is NOT.

  45. Jeremy, I think your frustration with the game is speaking louder than it should. Maybe you were expecting to like it but were surprised that you actually don’t. Don’t confuse difficulty for bad game design. Ecclessia makes you use your inventory very carefully. After all, I know you did like Ettrian Odyssey quite a bit and there’s nothing but endless backtracking and repeated battles for 80 hours. Rethink your approach to Ecclessia.

  46. Looks like a case of the Emperors New Clothes. I like the title O of E. Less emo goth sounding than the previous entries. Hey, you guys think a Megaman X style metroidvania would work? I just really like the dash and wall-jump mechanics of the series.

  47. This sounds like nothing more than the little brother who throws the controller at the TV screen crying “This game is too hard (for me), so it sucks!” I can only imagine the writer’s opinion of the pre-Metroidvania era.

    Order of Ecclesia was an answer to all the fans who got tired of the same old shtick that Koji Igarashi has been throwing in our faces for almost 15 years. It taught us that we’d better learn how to properly platform, or we’ll pay for it. Can’t figure out a boss’ attack pattern? It’s gonna hurt. Can’t dodge Medusa heads? Learn how to, or put down the game and pick up the latest level-grinding RPG. The staff said before release, “You will die a lot”. If that’s not something you’re willing to deal with, then this is not the game for you.

  48. The bosses is actually very easy, especially last boss where you could just use those 2 of the special seal/soul thing to kill dracula in like 4-5 seconds. Ofc you can make the game a challenge. Also the reason the game is so hard is that every mob is actually strong and weak against special stuff. Where in DoS and PoR, you could use whatever weapon you had to do incredible damage, in this game you can hit the same mob for 10 or 100 damage depending on what seals your wearing (or whatever they are named). But I liked DoS better cuz’ of the one big world you were in and the weapons and souls you could collect. I felt more immersed to get all souls.

  49. The “DURR HURR THIS AUTHOR MUST HATE ALL HARD GAMES BECAUSE HE IS A RETARDED BABY” comments are not as insightful as their posters may think, but they do offer insight. Mostly they once again go to show that good classic game design has become such a rarity that people will slurp up any crap and call it haute cuisine, just as long as it lets them brag about their epeen to Internet strangers.

  50. The writer actively enjoys all those dungeon hacks Atlus keeps releasing for the DS, so I am pretty sure he isn’t afraid of hard and/or punishing games. Also, I am pretty sure he has wrote extensively about the older Castlevanias. He was just saying being hit by off-screen enemies sucks, and it sucks to ramp up difficulty by bumping up enemy stats, instead of giving them clever attack patterns.

  51. Oh, Suto, knock it off with your “reading comprehension” and your “taking time to understand the context.” Show-off.

    And Moses, while this thread has mostly been civil, there have been several posts to the effect of “lol u r baby.” Which are annoying, because, well, they’re annoying. And seriously, I’m not criticizing fans of this game and apologize if it came off that way. I just have no patience for people who stand up for lazy design because it’s the manly thing to do. But now I see a bunch of those comments are gone, so I guess they belonged to that idiot spammer I had to IP ban after his 20-post tirade.

    I’ve seen mention a few times now of a Vagrant Story-style weapon affinity system, which is interesting, because the game never saw fit to mention it to me at all. If I’d known that seemingly crappy hammer glyph I snagged was good against skeletons, I’d have used it. But the first few enemies I used it against gave every indication that it’s considerably weaker than the sword I’d grabbed from a skeleton knight, so I had no reason to continue using it. I guess I’ll give the game one more chance armed with this knowledge, but even so — the frustrations I’ve had with this game have really heightened my awareness of how long in the tooth Castlevania has become. Portrait of Ruin was a borderline case for me, and Eccelsia so far has been full-tilt boredom.

  52. god WTF?

    for me this game is better than symphony of the night… cant believe you ‘re critizicing a game when you’ve just played it an hour or so… too bad

  53. Parish, I gotta say, I completely agree with you. I don’t know exactly what spark the game is lacking, but I’ve completed every Castlevania since Circle, and for this one, I got all the way to Dracula himself, then I just set it down and walked away.(admittedly, partially fearing the difficulty) That was a year ago, and I still haven’t picked it up. It feels kind of weird to have not beat it, but…yeah.

  54. Aria of Sorrow marked my saturation with this particular species of Castlevania. It’s not that the game entirely repeats the previous few entries, but I can only whip/slash/magical slash the same skeleton and walking plant sprites and whatnot so many times.

    I will say that I felt the boss design to be challenging in a good way, and probably would have had patience with some of the cheapness if the game felt fresher on the whole. For the record I played as far as the werewolf boss (for lack of a better description).

  55. I certainly agree that it doesn’t help in a discussion when other repliers act as if you’ve insulted them to their very core by disliking this game. I mean, sure, like with any creative work, passions can run high at a consumer level, but it’s not worth fuming over if, before the opinion piece showed up, the replier already went through and enjoyed the game. It only makes less sense to fume if the title is most likely out of print and won’t see much in the way of future sales. In any case, no matter how widely read the critic, the writing piece won’t affect whether or not the replier already formed a positive opinion of the game.

    I do have to say though: it’s not really a matter of a false sense of pride or accomplishment why I like this game; it’s just that I had a heck of a lot of fun with it. There may have been faults I might’ve been willing to overlook (which is why I’m more inclined now to play though the game a second time, normal New Game on Hard mode) — but as a whole, I thought the game was an excellent package.

    And, much in the same way you & others helped a bunch of readers to understand how to enjoy Shiren (which I seriously appreciate, believe me), I just thought I’d give my two cents into how I was able to enjoy Order of Ecclesia. Again, not like it’ll affect sales at this point, and you already have the game anyway — but, you know, no harm in seeing if we can help salvage how you feel about your purchase, no?

    Oh, and to Jason Moses (before the reply disappeared), on the limited availability of restorative items — if ever you come across the item needed to have the chef make Killer Fish BBQ, it’ll help you greatly in having a steady supply of good heal items. Of course, it might’ve just been luck that I came about a piece of fish through regular play, though.

  56. … and whoa, it seems like a fair amount of discussion occurred since Moses’ post. Shoot, some things in the my reply might seem irrelevant, then.

  57. There’s a pretty damn good review of the game over on Action Button (written by Ario Barzan and not a certain Tim Rogers fellow) that I feel sums up the game quite nicely. Some of it echoes what Parish has said here, yet he also expounds on why this particular entry in the series is much better than previous Igarashi installments.

    Don’t know if I’m allowed to link on this page, but here goes:

  58. The thing is that this time they made the enemies in general immune to every other type of physical damage, so you have to equip yourself accordingly.

  59. You know, there must have been something “off” with the game because I bought it at launch and as soon as I made it to the crab I just went back to chrono trigger … a game I had played many times before. Portrait of Ruin might well have been dull in it’s design philosophy (reminded me of playing megaman x5 or x6, where they kind of phone it in) but somehow it still worked and I played through the whole thing. It’s been over a year now and I never did put Order of Ecclesia back into my DS. I’d convinced myself that it was awesome because everyone else seemed to love the hell out of it (online atleast, a personal friend of mine thought it was crap) but the unfortunate reality of it is that I was forcing myself to play what little of it I did.

    It says something about a game when merely thinking of “going back to it” reminds you instantly of what made you stop playing and then you don’t even bother.

  60. hey! thanks for linking my review, cody! (please also consider reading my super metroid article! ;__;) i’m a bit less enthusiastic now about this game than that write-up might indicate, but i still stand by most of the basic sentiments expressed. i am kind of surprised that anyone here has encountered significant stress over ecclesia. i think i died twice the first time i fought the crab. it’s interesting when you find that there’s been struggle experienced by others of which you share almost no part in. curious as to where, and how, parish keeps getting hung up, almost to the point where i’d pay a small sum of money to have a youtube upload of him playing the game (creepy). if anything, i’d assume that the thing holding anyone back from initially liking the game is the couple of starter areas — not on account of their “difficulty,” but their terribly boring level design.

  61. While I do like OoE better than I liked PoR (I found PoR’s room/area design to be very poor), it’s pretty clear that things have gone downhill since Dawn of Sorrow, which I absolutely loved.

  62. I’m interested that people find the game to be difficult, to be frank. Maybe when placed against recent Metroidvania games, but certainly not when compared to Circle of the Moon, SotN, or ANY older Castlevania game.

    The biggest weakness is the cut and paste level design. It lacks soul visually and schematically. The gameplay is fun enough that I didn’t mind running through re-skinned areas, though.

    It’s funny: I can’t peel myself away from the portable Castlevania games for days at a time until I complete them 100%, yet they all seem to blend together. I can’t really point out anything particularly spectacular or different about the many entries other than the protagonist. I think it’s time for a Metroidvania game to get the royal treatment ala Symphony, and not through Digital Distribution.

  63. Huh. Never thought about OOE that way after reading the article. Based on past play experience, I thought Portrait of Ruin was the one full of cut-and-paste level design. Still, the boss battles in OOE were tough in a good way.

  64. (Double-post? I hope not.)
    Gawd, Jeremy, can you reach the 2nd segment and go on about it at length? I like every entry in the series, although I don’t adore my favorites as much as some cling to Rondo Of Blood or Symphony Of The Night. With that in mind, I don’t even recognize any of your criticisms, so I’m not sure we’re even on common ground.

    I hold this to be the pinnacle of the Castlevania series, and it’s my 6th favorite game ever (I think I play a lot of rare, idiosyncratic stuff, too). It has my favorite environments, my favorite level design, my favorite protagonist and story, a favorite boss or 2, and deflects nearly every criticism leveled at the handheld Castlevanias (unjustly, I think). The gameplay applies Circle Of The Moon’s difficulty to Bloodlines’ combat and Rondo Of Blood’s environments with a dash of Simon’s Quest’s RPG elements. With few exceptions (couldn’t it have the BEST soundtrack instead of a merely enthralling one?), this is the archetypal Castlevania.

    Could you at least get to the beginning of part 2 and write a lengthy essay about it? Right now, I’m not certain how on-target your criticisms are.

  65. I post on Neogaf… which .. meh. Anyhow, their topic title for OOE, was “best metrovania evar or some sh*t like that”.. so I happily imported and I absolutely hated it. Not so much for the difficulty but the changes to the mechanics completely borked the game. grinding souls for useless items/things etc . The game lost every aspect with regards to its core gameplay that made the other DS metrovanias fun. The soul collections meant something. Yes it was difficult. But mostly, it was un-fun. I finished the other MV games in a 1-2-3 days. Took me a month before I decided.. I’m going to wrap this thing up so I don’t have it sitting over me. Not fun. Not fun. Not fun.

  66. forgot to add: the unfeeling protagonist and lack of empathical/interesting NPCs makes this game a dud in the story department as well. Why would I care when she doesn’t.

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