We agree these are as much aesthetic experiences as anything, and so, my friends…
It’s time to talk about Order of Ecclesia.
As soon as you pick up this box you know it’s gonna be good.
Oh yeah, buddy.
Have a look at the character art! I really love the style they went for here. Not the same as Kojima’s, but beautiful in different ways (certainly an improvement over Portrait and Dawn, in this forum poster’s opinion…). Look at the texture of the outfits, the shadows on faces, the muted yet distinct colors. The hair is great. And it translates to the game nicely!
And the sprites look great, and the animation, ooooh.
The opening cinematic is a lightly animated compilation of character promo art, and I love it. Also a nice preview of the music to come…
Speaking of music, this one has a different texture compared to previous DSVanias. Dawn of Sorrow has more of those '80s drums, and what seemed to me a lot of mellow woodwind instrument tunes.
Ecclesia still has some of those drums of course, but overall the sense of orchestration is different. There’s more focus on strings, guitars, keyboards; just a variety of instruments I like more. There are some more flute/woodwind-heavy tracks but they’ve got enough of that thick bass in there to make it feel balanced.
Structurally the game is somewhere between Dawn of Sorrow and Portrait of Ruin—the first half of Ecclesia takes you through a variety of forests, mountains, and oceans on the journey to Dracula’s castle, kind of like the smaller levels found in Portrait’s portraits (though not as high-concept as say a foray into an Egyptian tomb).
The second half of the game is Dracula’s castle, which is certainly smaller than previous game-length castles, but I don’t think it disappoints! It feels pretty huge to me. And the castle music takes it to the next level:
An Empty Tome:
Tower of Dolls—originally from the X68000 Akumajou Dracula, but this remix is probably my favorite Casltevania track:
The bosses in Ecclesia are tough! Not quite in the same way as Portrait’s, where you might get killed in two hits (early game)—whatever the difference is I enjoyed Ecclesia’s difficulty tuning a bit more. Of course it might just be that certain glyph combinations make later, possibly unfair bosses a joke.
I enjoy Ecclesia’s glyphs, which replace the weapon system from Symphony and Aria/Dawn: in the latter, there are ten thousand different weapons, of which you can only equip one at a time (in Aria/Dawn you can switch between two weapon sets at the press of a button). In Ecclesia, you equip glyphs, which are each distinct—instead of having twenty different straight swords and katanas and claymores etc. as in Symphony/Aria/Dawn, there is one straight sword-type glyph and one rapier-type glyph—cutting back on the sheer number of weapons to keep in mind when deciding how to deal with enemies. Glyphs are not just close quarters physical weapons—they are spells too, and ranged weapons. You assign one glyph to each hand (X and Y buttons) and alternate pressing the two buttons when attacking, allowing for either rapid-fire use of a given attack (if the same glyph is equipped to both hands) or strategic alternation between two different attacks (enemies are vulnerable to different damage types). AND you can customize and switch between three separate glyph sets!
The menu sound effects!
At the end of the day it’s still an IGAvania, which is to say not an exceptionally deep game, but it’s well put together and has little nooks and crannies and secrets that I like to dig into. It looks and sounds nice and is a DS game which means it’s 2x cooler than a game on any other console.