With only tidbits of information scurrying around the Internet. Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia was among the top titles I've been waiting to get my hands on this year. After the crowds died down a bit, I made my way over to Konami's couches to sit down and see how one of the most anticipated action RPGs of the year was shaping up just weeks before release.
My hands-on time with the game started at the very beginning of the adventure, where protagonist Shanoa is betrayed by her jealous, once-friend Albus. After more backstory and dialog, I was finally set free and allowed to absorb my very first glyph: Confodere, a rapier. After equipping the glyph to both X and Y, I was able to rapidly attack the onslaught of skeletons and souls and carefully make my way through the end of the tutorial stage. It was then that I found out that Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia progresses in a stage-by-stage manner, rather than just exploring a giant castle.
"As a person who has played and beat the majority of Castlevania titles out there, I can honestly say that Order of Ecclesia looks to be another phenomenal addition to the series."
As you might have guessed, Ecclesia's Glyphs function as a sort of collectible weapon/ability combo. They work similarly to the Souls obtained in Castlevania: Aria/Dawn of Sorrow, but can be equipped to X, Y, or R to create combos. You'll find them scattered about the castle and occasionally dropped from enemies, and absorb them by holding up on the D-pad for a few seconds when they pop on screen.
In addition to the weapon glyphs, certain "support" glyphs could be found scattered across the castle. In my short playthrough, I only found one support glyph, "Magnes," which allowed me to toss myself throughout the air like a ragdoll (or perhaps Mario in Super Mario Galaxy) to other magnets and reach otherwise inaccessible areas. It helped me make my way to the first big boss: a giant, violent worm. After making short work of him thanks to my magnet and rapier skills, another story sequence unfolded and a new area popped up for me to explore.
Ecclesia's controls were similar to the other two DS Castlevania games, but the progression felt a little more along the lines of Portrait of Ruin thanks to its episodic map system (instead of a larger, Dawn of Sorrow-esque castle to explore). I found a few glyphs on enemies while exploring throughout the second area, and was told that, in true Castlevania form, there were lots of secrets areas to uncover throughout the game as well.
If there's one thing to be said for Order of Ecclesia, it's that it is an absolutely beautiful game. The Castlevania team has had tons of experience with the hardware over the years, and their 2D prowess is simply second to none. From the character portraits that pop up during dialog, to the actual sprites displayed on screen during your adventure, no other handheld Castlevania has looked as crisp and clear as Ecclesia does.
On top of the solid game that I played for an hour, Order of Ecclesia offers a Wi-Fi trading mode, a boss rush mode, and possibly some other goodies that weren't discussed at the event. As a person who has played and beat the majority of Castlevania titles out there, I can honestly say that Order of Ecclesia looks to be another phenomenal addition to the series. Whether it ousts Dawn of Sorrow as my personal DS favorite remains to be seen, but anyone who remotely considers themselves to be a Castlevania fan owes it to themselves to pick it up come October 21. In the meantime, enjoy the new screens.